Free 3D training | Disney’s 12 principles of animation: Solid design
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: solid design
Weta Digital’s animation director Steve Lambert continues his series on Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, as he reveals why even 3D artists need to pay attention to making characters feel solid
FOR: Any software | TIME TAKEN: 3 hours | TOPICS COVERED: Solid design | ALSO REQUIRED: Maya (to view scene files)
Download the scene files and animation clips for this training:
Many people have the ability to draw an image with beautiful form and line, but it’s much harder to do this frame after frame in a consistent and appealing manner.
Every frame of an animation should be able to stand by itself as well as in a sequence. It’s surprising how often fixing a single frame can help the flow of motion, and conversely how a bad pose can muddy a sequence.
The principle of solid design is all about lines: the lines that describe the shape and form of an character, and the lines that describe the balance and gesture of a character.
Solid design (also called solid drawing) was originally developed to inform the rendition of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface.
It isn’t necessarily a naturalistic or photoreal rendition, but one that describes a form as having volume and mass rather than being flat. This principle needs to be applied consistently through an entire sequence. If shapes lose their mass, jitter or change perspective, it can completely distract the viewer from the story.
You might think that 3D would have made the principle of solid design obsolete, but the application of line is not limited to a pencil stroke. Line plays a significant part in any object’s form and influences its presentation to the viewer through the screen.
Remember to download the .zip file with the animation clips to see the principle of solid design in action
The first of my videos in the download to demonstrate solid design is a series of poses.
The poses on the left are quite clearly lacking. Solid design in this case calls for the artist to look at the lines through the body, and its balance would have her falling over.
Compare this to the poses on the right, which clearly show her centre of gravity has been shifted. The next two poses are similar, but balance isn’t the only factor: the left-hand poses are quite visually unappealing. You want your poses to have interest and appeal, and this is again where the body lines come in – flowing all the all the way to the fingertips.
An example of poor solid design is something called ‘twinning’, where your character’s poses or actions are symmetrical or twinned in some way. This sort of thing is quite unnatural and can leave your animation feeling stiff.
In the second clip, I’ve shown some examples of twinning in motion. The most obvious example is the arms: both are not only doing the same thing at the same time, but are symmetrical in their pose and form.
In the third clip, I’ve modified the timing and pose for the arm keyframes to fix this. The difference is dramatic, and adds greatly to the appeal of the clip. The other not so obvious (and often overlooked) area is the face, in which symmetry is an immediate flag to a viewer that something is a bit off.
Regardless of how you create animation, your ability to describe weight, form and balance makes a massive impact on your illusion of life.
3D relieves you of the ‘struggle’ to render beautiful drawings for every frame of animation – but it doesn’t let you off the hook in creating interesting, dynamic and readable forms.
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 127 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 Saturday, July 21st, 2012 at 10:00 am under Guides, Tutorials.
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Tags: 3D basics, 3D training, Animation, animation tips, CG principles, Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, exaggeration, free, Maya, Maya tips, solid design, solid drawing, Steve Lambert, Weta Digital