New appreciation for animation

I’ve always loved animation. It’s been one of those things I’ve never really grown out of. I still watch animated films and TV shows without needing my kids around as an excuse.

When I was a kid, I used to try my hand at making animation using Star Wars figures and a camcorder, but the lack of single-frame functionality meant the results were very jerky and I could never get a real grasp of timing.

It’s always been something I’ve wanted to pick up and try. Last week I found Wick Editor, a free web-based animation app which has all the basic functionality needed to practice and learn the fundamentals of animation.

With the help of Alex Grigg’s amazing YouTube channel, I began by putting together a simple clip of a dot moving around. It’s very basic but displays some of the base concepts needed to start making believable movement. Easing in and out, smearing to give the impression of fast movement etc

I decided to jump the gun slightly and had a go at a commonly encouraged beginner exercise to animate a flour sack. The movement can be basically anything; make it walk, try to demonstrate an emotion, something that communicates how a character might feel or move without the aid of other visual features like eyes and eyebrows. I figured a walking cycle is too advanced so decided to deal with movement on just a single axis:

The first clip I just went straight into freehand with no guidance, just flipping between frames. I’m pleased with some of the results, the movement of the little flap things and the dust help sell the movement but there’s not much exaggeration in the squashing and stretching. I decided to try another test starting with just basic shapes as a guide. The exaggerated poses work more but I think there’s a bit less personality.

This is an experiment I’ll be trying over and over again until I feel like I’m grasping the key concepts and making movements which look both visually appealing and believable.

I already knew animation was hard, I’ve never thought otherwise but just doing these simple exercises has brought to light things I’d not really considered or perhaps taken for granted. Things like maintaining a consistent shape, it seems like a small thing until you try it and you realise how exacting you need to be.

I’ll post more soon as I put more tests together.