Free 3D training | Disney’s 12 principles of animation: exaggeration
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: exaggeration
Weta Digital’s animation director Steve Lambert continues his series on Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, as he explains why exaggeration doesn’t mean just going over the top with your actions.
FOR: Any software | TIME TAKEN: 3 hours | TOPICS COVERED: Exaggeration | ALSO REQUIRED: Maya (to view scene files)
Download the scene files and animation clips for this training:
Exaggeration is undoubtedly and without exception the most essential principle you will ever, ever learn.
In broad terms, exaggeration is less a tool in itself than the degree to which you apply all the other principles of animation: the amount of squash and stretch you use, the length of your holds, the curviness of your arcs, the distance of your follow-through and the shape of your poses.
I’ve seen people describe exaggeration as ‘pushing everything to extremes’, but this is a far from accurate picture.
Exaggeration isn’t a black-and-white concept: it can be the most subtle of enhancements or the most overstated distortion. I’ve also seen guides instructing you not to use it everywhere, but that’s like telling Ren and Stimpy to take a chill pill.
It’s all about enhancing the essence of your idea or action. If your idea or action is wild and extreme, knock yourself out – push everything to its limits. This is where your judgment and the principle of appeal (which we’ll cover in two weeks) comes into play. The guiding principle is that you should at least be able to comprehend what’s going on.
You could also think of exaggeration as a caricature of an action.
If you look at any good caricature illustration (say the work of Roberto Parada or Daniel Adel), the recognition of the personality is usually instantaneous.
Even when the artist makes extreme distortions to the face, the elements that make the person unique are intact enough or enhanced enough to make an identification. With animation, this is much the same concept – enhancing the important aspects that help communicate the idea or action.
One reason for all this (other than the fun of hyperbole) is that animation tends to need this emphasis to convey subtleties that don’t carry through very well otherwise.
Even if you religiously follow reference footage, you can be left with a performance that is lacking.
The Disney animators found out early on that even tracing action directly from film – creating a perfect capture of real motion – resulted in a stiff and unappealing animation. (This is partly why I have a strong aversion to motion capture as a technique in animated productions.)
Download the zip file containing scene files and animation clips to see this principle in action
In the examples on the download, I’ve started out with a plain vanilla walk cycle and taken it through several iterations of exaggeration.
Even as you get to the last clip (where I’ve taken things as far as I’d want to go without losing the controls in Z-depth!), the wild motions are still recognisable as a walk.
Exaggeration is the most creative aspect of animation
If I were to use the illustration example again, think of all the other principles as your toolbox of pens, pencils, knowledge and observation.
Exaggeration is the amount of stylisation and flair that you use to place your pen strokes – or, in the case of animation, your key frames.
Disney’s 12 principles of animation
Coming up online:
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 126 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 Friday, July 13th, 2012 at 4:47 pm under Guides, Tutorials.
You can subscribe to comments.
You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.
Tags: 3D basics, 3D training, Animation, animation tips, CG principles, Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, exaggeration, free, Maya, Maya tips, Steve Lambert, Weta Digital