Free 3D training | Disney’s 12 principles of animation: staging
Master Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation in 3D with Steve Lambert’s regular series of articles on the fundamentals of CG. This week: staging
Previously, Weta Workshop’s animation director Steve Lambert talked about squash and stretch, and anticipation. Now it’s time for principle number three, staging.
FOR: Any software | TIME TAKEN: 3 hours | TOPICS COVERED: Staging | ALSO REQUIRED: Maya (to view scene files)
Download the project and animation files for this training:
Staging really is an all-encompassing topic. Its aspects include composition, lighting, cameras, scene content, action, personality and mood.
Ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: the readability and communication of an idea, regardless of what the medium is.
As director Brad Bird once put it, “Staging is staging, whether it be for animation or live action or computer films or a wedding photo.”
So staging is really everything – the entire image, what it communicates to you, and also the areas within the image that you want to direct attention to.
Download the zipped file and check out the videos to see how checking the animation's silhouette can help you to make clearer actions
It’s impossible to place any aspect of staging as more important than the others: they all work together to form the whole.
However, there are some things that relate more directly to the mechanics that make animation work, and the one I’ll focus on here is the silhouette.
The concept of silhouette originates from some of the very earliest animations, such as Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Images in silhouette animation had to be performed in a way that would not obscure what was going on, or it would become unreadable and confusing.
While these days there are no limits to the colour, form and shape that animation can be created in, the readability of the silhouette still makes for much clearer action.
This includes their relationships to everything else in the scene, so you’ll need to consider the forms in the background of the shot, and ask yourself if they interfere with the action and make it less easy to understand.
When you check the silhouette of your work it will quickly become obvious if your action is coming across well.
If there are important actions that are indiscernible, it’s a sure sign that you need to think about recomposing the shot or modifying the action to suit the current angle better. This all adds to the image in its final form, even if only in subtle ways.
The first example I’ve made illustrates this point. Download the zipped file and take a look at the Staging_01 movie, and see if you can tell what the character is doing.
Now take a look at the rendered form, Staging_02. While you might be able to work out what’s happening, there are certain aspects that are unclear – such as the actions of the right hand. Composing these movements inside the silhouette conceals the actions.
Now compare them with Staging_03 and Staging_04.
Being able to see the pencil extend from the nose helps the joke make sense, and the small movements of the right arm aren’t lost within the form of the body. As the amount of action and complexity in a shot intensifies, this concept of readability becomes increasingly important.
Animation takes a lot of work, so you don’t want to be wasting energy on things that are completely lost on your viewer. Make every detail, frame and scene count towards telling your story.
Next time, we’ll discuss the merits and demerits of the pose-to-pose and straight-ahead approaches to animation.
Coming up online:
- Straight ahead and pose to pose
- Follow through, overlapping action
- Slow in, slow out
- Secondary action
- Solid design
This tutorial uses the ‘Andy’ rig created by John Doublestein for the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Want to learn more about animation?
(This series was first published in issue 117 of 3D World, June 2009.)
About the author
Steve Lambert has been working in the CG industry since 2001. Currently director of animation at Weta Workshop in New Zealand, his recent feature film work includes Prince Caspian and Avatar
on Saturday, May 26th, 2012 at 10:14 am under Technique, Tutorials.
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Tags: animation tips, CG principles, Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, Free 3D training, silhouette, Squash and stretch, staging, Steve Lambert