Free 3D training | Disney’s 12 principles of animation: secondary motion
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: secondary animation
This week Weta Digital’s animation director Steve Lambert explains how to apply the classic principle of secondary motion to your animation. (To find previous topics scroll to the bottom of this post.)
FOR: Any software | TIME TAKEN: 4 hours | TOPICS COVERED: Secondary animation| ALSO REQUIRED: Maya (to view scene files)
Download the project and animation files for this training:
Secondary animation (sometimes known as ‘secondary motion’) is all about adding depth and substance to your work.
This is where your attention to detail and observation of the world around you really shows.
Secondary animation is where your work reveals your idiosyncrasies – the details that separate interesting from dull, and delightful from mediocre.
Secondary motion doesn’t need to be obvious: it can be extremely subtle, building layer upon layer to enrich the main action.
However, the minute these additions become focal or distracting to the viewer, they either become part of the primary action or muddy and confusing.
You can break secondary animation into two rough groups. The first is made up of motion derived from primary actions. This means your usual suspects of loose hair, clothing, skin and so on, but also any other object that is being driven by another force.
When a basketball hits the backboard, for example, the rim vibrates, the net shakes and the backboard rocks. These motions are secondary to the primary action of the basketball’s bounce and add emphasis and realism to the shot.
The second group consists of performances or actions that are secondary to the main idea of the shot. Say you have a baby squealing and reaching up for a hug. Adding in toes or fingers wiggling is additive (secondary) to the main idea that the baby wants a hug. Even the face can become secondary if the body language conveys the point in an unsupported way.
Download the three example videos showing differing approaches to secondary motion
In the example included in the download, I’ve shown three differing approaches to secondary motion across three clips.
In the first clip, the character is reading a noteworthy publication of the first degree. This is the primary action: the character is absorbed in reading and turns the page.
The second pass is where I add some more depth to what is happening. How do you make watching someone reading more interesting? It’s about adding the subtleties, the little quirks that make an individual. First, I add obvious details such as flexibility to the magazine and its pages, making it respond to her movements. Then I add some movement to her ponytail, so that it’s not a solid lump sticking out the back of her skull. Then I add some subtle facial animation, just enough of it to show her captivation in her magazine.
The third pass adds one more important layer: having her lock of hair hang down and then be brushed back. It helps reinforce the absorption in her reading and adds a level of cuteness to her character. You can see how a detail like this might carry over to any other scene she would be in.
You could argue that this is really part of the primary action, but the addition of it doesn’t change the focus of the shot – it’s just a peripheral action. Remember, the best secondary actions work best when they seem completely natural.
To see the examples of these animation principles in action download the fundamentals_secondary.zip
Next week we’ll show you how to achieve presicion in your animations using the seventh classic principle: timing.
Coming up online:
- Solid design
Secondary animation tutorial
Antony Ward shows you how to automate the movement of a character’s clothing in this in-depth rigging tutorial for Maya.
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 article was first published in issue 122 of 3D World)
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 Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 3:34 pm under Guides, Tutorials.
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