The Power of Acting It Out

A constant frustration in my dealings with students has been their reluctance to get out of their chair to act things out before they animate them. So I thought I'd do a post to try and show just how useful it can be. I've taken a line here that I made up and recorded myself to use as an example, its "Just Recover It".

So what poses are you going to animate with this line, and how are you going to time them. Well if you don't do enough planning then you will probably do the first thing you think off and there is a good chance it will be generic and that over time your acting scenes will become repetitive and predictable.

So why not stand up at your desk and act it out a few times?

  1. LATERAL THINKING - Here I ran through 29 different variations in under 2 minutes, it would take much more time to sketch that many versions, and even longer to pose them in 3D or Flash. Acting it out is by far the most efficient way to explore different possibilities for a scene before you animate, and the exploration of new ideas is the essence of consistent creativity. Sometimes I force myself to run through it over and over quite quickly because it makes me come up with variations I would never conceive if I was sitting down and musing about the scene.

  2. SUBTLE VARIATION - You don't have to come up with a completely different variation every time, once you find one that you think has potential you can start to refine your understanding of the scene. How will you time out the poses? How subtle or extreme will the changes between the poses be? Can you take the same poses and progress them in a different direction? Will it be better if you ad more poses or drop some out? All of these questions can be answered in a matter of minutes if you act the scene out over a few more times.

  3. CERTAINTY - No only will acting the scene make the planning faster, but the physical memory you have from doing what you want your character to do will help you to be more decisive as you animate. You will animate faster, produce more animation, get more practiced and become a better animator.

  4. EXTRA BONUS - I often find when I act a scene out that there will be little elements to the the movement that I would never have thought of otherwise. It might be something small like a little tilt on the head as I move from one pose to the next, or in scene where the character is moving around a lot it might be something big like realising your going to have to move the feet around more (I find this a lot and it helps me to avoid my characters becoming planted like trees which is what I resort back to if I'm not careful).

  5. YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS - If you get into the habit of doing this then over time your self consciousness about it will fade. Soon you will be able to act things out as you talk to other animators about their work or yours. You will be better equipped to communicate your meaning and understanding of the work so you will learn more from these conversations and who knows you may even end up being an animation director one day.
Are you willing to pass on all of these benefits just because you feel a little self conscious? From my perspective ( that of a professional animator) it is those who sit and continue to come up with the same old predictable animations that look like fools.


Ian said...

For those of you whom I've never met, I should point out that I don't sound like that at all. Just in case we were ever to meet, I'll be the one with the squeeky voice :P

Kristi said...

It's a bird, it's a plane... No, it's Action Ian!

Clayton McIntosh said...

One of the studios I worked for DIS-courages this sorta thing (in fact... wouldn't allow it). And it shows.

Ian said...

YIKES! Thats some kinds bizaro world studio from the sounds of it.

Frank said...

Hey Ian, I start all my classes with 1st and 2nd year animators with a drawing ruff, critiquing each other's work, posing exercise.

I would like to report that many more students are up and acting after your guest lecture the other night, and maybe also after reading this post.

One other thing they find out, after getting over the self consciousness, is that getting up and being actively expressive is fun.

Terry said...

You must be KIDDING Clay!?! What a ridiculous studio rule!

Great post I-man.

Y'know, I noticed last week that there are no longer any mirrors in our classrooms. Shameful! I have now sourced some mirrors and will bring them in this week.