Measure Your Poses Energy

I'm obsessed with posing, so much so that sometimes I find it hard to muster enthusiasm for any animation or illustration I might have to do that doesn't have characters in it. But often I see student animation where the students focus on depicting the action has become a distraction from getting in some great poses.

I suspect that what happens is the student start to think in a linear fashion, or just follows one pose on from the next. Thinking things like, "well now the character needs to lean over in this direction, and the hand needs to move over there so it can touch that, then the foot needs to go there and so on." There is even probably thinking along the lines of, "I think that would look better if the hips twist this way, or I'll move that hand over there so it read clearer," and so on. But this is no substitute for taking time out to consider the overall pose at a specific moment.

Good planning with lots of lateral thinking, thumbnailing and acting it out is a good start. But then I think people get lost in the process and the poses worked out while planning can become a vague memory or feeling in the back of your mind while animating. So I thought I would try to introduce a new word into your animating vocabulary, its something that I find useful for staying true to my original vision for a scene.

Its simply ENERGY.

I like to boil down my vision for a moment in a scene to a description of the energy in the pose. Is it a high energy moment? Is it the highest or lowest energy point or do i need to hold something back for another point in the scene? Is it positive or negative energy? What direction is that energy moving? Is the energy directed out at someone or something, or focused inwards?

Then when I start to work on the pose (no matter what the medium) I start to hunt for that energy level in that moment. I will work a pose over and over (what was that Frank mentioned in the coments from the previous post about animation being "sculpture"), always thinking back to that simple, easy to remember idea about how the energy will work in that pose. I know that I will also have to make the pose work in with the movement too, but always try to remind myself that I can't sacrifice the energy level to achieve that.

With me there is almost always not enough energy in my first stab at a pose, my natural tendency is towards a stiffer less energetic pose than what I initially visualized. So the question, "How can I get more out of this pose?" is a constant companion for me. It might be worth thinking objectively about your work in general and how you want it to improve it, keeping the energy of your poses (and consequently animation) in mind may be a good way of nudging you work in that direction.


Alonso said...

Interesting post.

Makes me think of straight ahead vs pose to pose. How pose to pose has strong poses that read clearly but can feel stiff, or floaty between. And straight ahead can have great organic flow through but no strong poses to grab onto. And the common compromise is to thumbnail out the strong poses you want to hit, and even figure out where the timing says they should land, and then putting those aside and straight aheading the shot trying to pass through those poses on the way.

Also reminds me of the term "Golden Pose" which I first learned from Jason Ryan. The idea being that this is the pose/s that sums up the story points of this shot. This is the pose you want the audience to remember or picture when thinking about this shot. So make it as strong as you can artistically and emotionally. These are the poses you should spend the most time on building because they are the most important. And then you've put all this time into making a strong pose, try to milk it. Try to settle into it and act within it.

The way I think about it is I try and have 1 golden pose per beat/emotion/objective/idea. And since you only want to show 2 ideas or so per shot, you only need 2 golden poses. 1 pose=1 idea. Fewer ideas = more clear the ideas are understood.

Also sometimes called "tent pole" poses, because the whole show hangs from them.

Of course you'll need to work out your key/extreme/contact (whichever term you use) poses, to work out what physically needs to happen for the scene. But the Golden poses are the most important because they describe what story points are happening for the scene.

Examples, Tex Avery zips between golden poses, but when he's in the golden he lets it sit and sink in. That TMNT trailer every time they're in the air they're milking poses.

Jason Ryan's a master, he makes really strong poses, but then he smoothly comes into and out of them, with lots of overlap and variation of timing, so you read the pose clearly, but it feels totally natural (and totally not blunt like Avery's) kind of late, maybe I better stop rambling and go to bed, see if I need to kill this wandering comment tommorrow.

in conclusion: listen to Ian :)

Ian said...

Ha ha thanks Alonso.

You have unwittingly stumbled into another area there that I have been thinking about quite a bit of late.

The role os Process or Method in teaching animation. I'm gappling with doubts about how it fits in. I'm wondering if a clever teacher might be better off directing students towards goals and ideas that will inevitably involve the exploration of techniques and tools. Letting the student find the her/his own method.

My journey as an animator and blogger has exposed me to so many different ways of working, and they all have their pro's and con's.

Does that take longer? Is it harder to measure progress? Hmmmmm thinking thinking thinking, but not much concluding :P

Terry said...

You are a tortured soul I-man! Fortunately for me, I've never been the kind of guy who thinks too much...

Great posts, Ian and Alonso.

I was a comic book geek long before I was an animation geek, and when I pose I must confess that I draw on my fave comic book artists more than I'm comfortable with. Classic comic artists like Jim Steranko and especially Jack Kirby drew characters with an amzing sense of energy and urgency. They popped off the page. Worth looking at, in light of this thread. Here a good gallery of Kirby art...