3 December 2010

Tools for Weight in Animation (First Pass)

"Weight is one of those things [where] you need little pieces of all the various part of animation to give the illusion of weight” –Keith Lango VTS 09 1:50

Table of Content :

-Use of Poses (first pass)
-Use of Timing
-Use of Spacing
-Use of Overlapping Action
-Use of Changing Shape
-Use of Biomechanics/Physic Concepts
-Others Thoughts

Here are my thought and some articles I had read and found interesting on weight in animation. I divide the whole thing into important animation topics, which topics also happen to be important in the visual presentation of weight. 

All of this certainly isn’t a recipe to get good weight in animation, but should seem more as a toolbox that can be used to show weight or to identify why there isn’t. 

Weight can be observed from the first Disney movies to the last Pixar ones. Because as soon as we have good slow-out, slow-in and overlapping action for instance, there is necessarily weight. But for the purpose of this article, lets first take a look at a compilation of different animations I found and where all the points mentioned below are obvious.


Use of Poses

In this section I won’t try to (re)explain things, but will point directly toward resources after a few words and images. 

1. It may seem obvious to those who can draw, but for those who can’t (like me :P) this article by Keith Lango is probably one of the most interesting I’ve read about the importance of good posing and weight :

“See how much better that is? [Second drawing compare to the first one] It has a sense of internal weight. The body feels organic, alive. You can sense the right arm and shoulder holding up the body weight. The chest is rotated a bit on its Y (up) axis to build some inner tension in the body. [...] The shoulders, ribs and hips are all showing the effect of gravity [...]”

2. As you may know, Keith Lango had done quite a lot of video tutorial (with his Video Tutorial Service). Within these he is talking about weight in posing in his VTS two and three. And because he is such a gentlemen, his first two VTS are free to watch on Youtube, as for the third one (which also interest us) it can be buy here for a few buck.

3. Then Richard Williams have some interesting pages on weight and pressure (as touching a desk, pressing on a desk) in his Animator’s Survival Kit at page 262-263. So don’t hesitate to take a look at them.

4. Now here is an interesting quote and idea from Wayne Gilbert:

For those who don’t know him, Wayne Gilbert has written this book and is a mentor at Animation Mentor

“Weight is described through the visual presentation of opposing forces. That’s it. Stop here or continue reading for accompanying babble and random thoughts.”

What he’s saying above is in relation to the third law of Newton postulating this: “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. 

What it means is that if you push on the ground or the wall, the wall or ground pushes on you with an equal and opposite force. Therefore, if an object weights one hundred kilo and that your character would like to make it moves. Then the pose of the character will need to represent the application of an opposite force greater than the friction force exert on the ground by the one hundred kilos object (which is pretty big). So in other words, he must appear to force quite a lot!

"Weight is described through the visual presentation of opposing forces."

5. And last but not least, if a character seem off balance within a pose, (Center of Gravity not over his base of support), we would have the impression that he's defying gravity, that he floats into the air and thus that he is having no weight/mass (unless he is in dynamic balance, see tutorial).

On the subject of balance, here’s an interesting site about physic in animation by Alejandro Garcia. In the tutorial section I suggest you to check the Physic of Balance tutorial at page fifteen where's talking on the relationship between the Centre of Gravity and Weight.

In the same vein, here is a little montage of two tutorials I found to relate well to each others. The poses are from Richard William's Animated DVD Disk 9 and the two little texts from the Alejandro Garcia tutorial cite above.

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