Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Arcs and Paths of Action in Animation

Path of Action
Animators always need to keep an eye on the Path of Action in their animation. Paths of Animation, also known as Arcs, are one of the original 12 Principles of Animation identified by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone in their classic work "The Illusion of Life".

A moving object should follow a smooth flowing arc, with no sudden abrupt changes of direction.

Bouncing Ball
Bouncing Ball - illustrates the Path of Action 
This is why animators always start with a bouncing ball.  The bouncing ball illustrates a number of principles (timing, spacing) including the path of action of the ball. If the Path of Action isn't smooth and flowing, the ball bounce will look and feel wrong.

Cartoon Physics
Arcs and Paths of Action are an expression of physics, or Cartoon Physics, as applied to animation.  If this sounds a lot like Newton's First Law - that of Inertia, you'd be right.  As animators we must be aware of the laws of physics - even if we break them or bend them from time to time. 

Learn the Rules - Then Break Them
Wile E Coyote has to travel along a Path of Action, but that doesn't mean he can't stop in mid-air if it makes the animation funnier.  As with all the rules of animation, the important thing is to learn what the rules are, and then break them.  But when we break them we should do so deliberately, and not by mistake. 

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