18 February 2011

"Well, It's About Poses !"

Here are some though I had on posing. As always I’ve put them on (digital) paper so that I’m not forgetting them. There is no doubt this is either basic or obvious for a lot of animators!  Also, this is just a mean for me to have a reflection on posing, so that it should not be taken too seriously  :P

Starcraft 2 Cinematic Intro

Why does poses are important?

Well, because poses are what we will ultimately see on screen, it is what the audience will see, so that weak poses will necessarily make not so good animation, simple.

Bearing this in mind, that pose are important because it is what we see, it is now obvious that having strong poses will make strong (good) animation, while weak poses will make not so good animation.

But what is a “strong” (good) pose? Well, a strong pose is good drawing. Therefore, “principles of good drawing” apply (I don’t really know how we should really call these) and need to be bear in mind while we are posing our character. These encompass, for instance: Clear silhouette, nice lines of action, good flow lines and most important of all nailing down strong intention and clear idea within the poses.

“[…] the more experience I got in animating, the more I understood how important one pose can be. It can sell or ruin your entire scene. […]A solid pose can hold the audience's attention and tell them what your character is feeling. A mushy pose will leave the audience uncertain and uninvolved with the story.
Don't fall into the trap of believing that people will understand your animation once it starts moving [they should understand it just by seeing a few poses with clear intentions]”
– Eric Scheur; The Top Five, see also, Every Frame is a Drawing

It should be note that the “strong poses make strong animation” mantra even stays truth with a continuous movement where we would not hold any poses. So that even when everything is always moving as a walk or run, there are still some poses that are representing the most dynamic point of the action and are important, as the contact position in a walk, or the top position in a jump. And that having strong poses in these “always moving moment” are as much essential as in every others animations where poses are held longer.

Click on the Image for the Video

Now, it’s not being said that poses are the only important thing in animation, certainly not.  We also need to hold these poses the right amount of time, to have a good rhythmic, good spacing and arcs and so on… But, if we exclude timing, a lot of these (as arcs for instance) are created by the poses themselves, and how they relate to each other’s. So that animation is not only about still poses but about a series of strong poses that need work together to create a strong story.

A series of strong poses working together to tell a clear, strong story

As we said, poses are important because it’s what we see on screen, so that strong poses will make strong (good) animation. However, in animation we do not see still static poses, but movement create from a series of poses that are working together to tell a story. Therefore, there need to be a logical relationship between each poses, a little bit like a comic book where a series of poses can tell a clear story.

But, what this series of poses should tell? Well firstly, from a general point of view, it should tell the placement and action of our character. That is, where our character is and what he is doing should be clear. And secondly, we should see such thing as our animation principles, contrast (in the poses, angle, spacing…), organic motion (overlapping action, follow-through, arc…), Weight and etcetera.

Now when you think about it, it is really about Blocking out a scene (or the Blocking Stage), where we will describe all of the above within our poses. But to do this, there need to be clarity in this blocking where a series of poses are representing clearly our idea and intention. If there is not, then it means that our poses are not working well together, that they are not representing what you had (or though you had) in your mind.  

So in conclusion, if your animation doesn’t work, it’s because your poses don’t work; either doesn’t work together enough to tell a strong story or are not strong enough as good drawing.

Here’s is a little recap with a graph if you're in the mood  : Just There 

One beginner’s mistake: It doesn’t work so I need to add more poses!

Some months ago, I came to realise that when my animation doesn’t work it is generally because of my pose. As when my poses are not strong enough or are either not conveying my ideas clearly, are not working well together (as we just talked about).

I remember that my Animation Lead once points me out a mistake that starting animator will sometime do. He points me out that beginner animator will sometime add more poses (breakdowns) in their animation trying to fix an animation where poses are already not working well together, as if adding more poses would “solve the problem”. It is a mistake I use to do and still do from time to time, so that when he point me this out, I recognised myself a bit.

It’s as if the animator who realise that his animation doesn’t work, would tell to himself “well, I probably need to add more poses in there since it’s not looking very good”. But obviously the problem is not that the animation need more poses, but that the poses already there are just not working well together and that adding more breakdowns to already weak poses that are probably not working together just won’t solve the problem.

So that suppose you have a short in-game animation to do, with eight poses on your timeline next to each other’s, and that when you space them in time (on the timeline) it look like complete non-sense in term of what you wanted (or thought you wanted !). Then obviously it’s not because you need to add more poses, but because the pose you already have doesn’t tell a story, they are not working together enough.

To a certain extent, this “oh my god it look like crap” feel is normal after you have spaced your keyframes in the timeline, or after you get out of stepped interpolation and goes into spline. For sure, if it looks like complete non-sense, then there’s something wrong with your poses and how they relate to each other’s, but if your poses aren’t working exactly as you intended I think it’s normal to a certain extent, as Keith Point out in one of his blog post :

I think there's a point where you can see what you see in a scene and you can't see anything more until you move on. […] until you go forward you'll never really know what you have on your hands. Scenes are like that sometimes. You do what you can do in blocking and then when you're happy with it- allowing that you've thought it through and have worked it to your satisfaction- you move on. 
-Keith Lango; A question from an APT student....



Herman G said...

Great post. Thanks, that Graph is killer. Good job!

Rajesh Gupta said...

I read your post in my one breathe. What a clear presentation about Strong Poses! I am very happy that I am lucky enough to read your this post. You are really helping Animators to improve their skills by your insight thoughts. Thanks so much!

Krzysztof Boyoko said...

hey Francis,
very informative notes my friend :)

Fr002 said...

Thx Krzysztof, and good luck in your certainly amazing career as an animator !