Overcoming hurdles for teaching and learning Spacing - Part2

The other thing that makes it hard to teach spacing, is that when animating you have to think about what you intend to do with the spacing at a different time to when you apply it.


Because the spacing (or what you intend to do with the spacing when you get around to it) will potentially have an impact on what you can do with the posing and timing. This creates a chicken and egg scenario, the timing and posing needs to be done before the spacing, but the spacing is needed to inform the decisions you will make about posing and timing.

Experienced animators who have seen their spacing in action many times over form a mental image of what their spacing will be for a scene (not always how it turns out in the end, but an educated guess to use as a starting point) and then often without even realising it they will factor that into the poses they create. But for a student who has not yet seen much of the spacing they have produced in action this can pose a problem, I find that the uncertainty of how spacing will effect the animation can lead to a reluctance to embrace and practice it.

So an example.

Here (above) I have created two poses to start my scene. Its not all of the keys, its the two main storytelling poses, there needs to be anticipation and overshoot keys added in there yet, but before I can make them I really need to think about the spacing a bit. Its set to stepped tangents so you can't see any inbetweens.

So next (above) I have made a piece of animation you would probably never make, just so I can make my point I have applied some spacing to the basic poses. If this wasn't being done just to illustrate a point it would be a complete waste of time, because all the work I did on the pacing here will need to be re done when I add more keys. The animation here is something like what an experienced animator would imagine before adding more key poses.

But you can see I have decided to make him accelerate up into the final pose, there are going to be lots of inbetweens around the start of the scene and not many at all towards the end. In fact at the end of the movement he moves really fast, not because of the timing, but because the inbetweens are spaced out so that he covers the whole second half of the movement between two frames. As it is here we have heaps of time to absorb the movement around the first pose because there are lots of inbetweens close together there, but the end of the movement seems to pop because there are so few inbetweens that we can hardly take in the movement at all.

OK so now we can delete all that spacing (back to stepped tangents for a bit) and get back to the real process, I am happy with the main keys (well maybe not, but its just an example and time is a factor :P) and I have taken some time to imagine the spacing to the best of my ability. You can see I have added and anticipation key where he bends his knees and and overshoot key where he stretches out and then settles back into the final position.

I know there will be lots of time to take in the anticipation pose because it is where he is moving lowly, so the pose probably needs to be towards the believable end of the range I'm shooting for in this movement. Anything strange will stick out because the viewer will have time to study this moment. The overshoot pose on the other hand will be quite different, the spacing will make the movement will be very fast at this point, this is where I can be a little more adventurous, viewers may not be able to study the pose, but I still want it to have impact.

On this still of the overshoot frame you can see that I have stretched out his body and arms a lot (obviously 'a lot' of stretch depends on the style of animation you are doing). Looked at as a still it is a very unusual pose, but when seen in motion you wont be able to see this, because I know what the spacing will be doing at this point in the scene I know this key is more about creating something that you feel than something you see. Knowing what I will do with the spacing informs what I do with the key. it provides a great place to play and be creative, you still have to test your work a lot, I'm not talking about anything so extreme that it breaks the continuity of the animation, but in some cases you would be amazed what you can do.

With some spacing added you can't really see the stretch at all, but hopefully you can feel the impact of the overshoot. If I had more time, I'd refine it further (and go on to add overlap etc etc), what I would be aiming for is the most impact I can get out of the poses without it seeming to pop (loose its continuity).

I remember seeing a key frame of Rafiki in Lion King 2 where he is spinning around with his arms out as he sings and for one frame his hand almost completely fills the shot. Not only is the hand completely blocking the view of the characters face, but the hand is all stretched out. I was a newb inbetweener at the time and remember thinking that it must be a mistake, but when I saw the scene playing later I realised you couldn't even see the frame because the spacing dictated that it was moving very quickly at that point, but you did get a distinct feeling of the hand swooshing past the camera. Its about 2:03 into this video, see if you can spot it :P

There are some really fun examples on this site http://animationsmears.tumblr.com/, BUT don't get the wrong impression. These are extreme cases, its not a chance to go crazy every time you have some fast movement, hopefully you can see from my example above that you can be quite subtle about how you use this too. As with everything in art and animation, its about choosing your moment, creating contrast and being selective. I do think though that when it comes to exercising these kinds of tools, student animators generally tend towards the conservative and I'd love to see students pushing things a bit more, while you are a student is the perfect time to push things and see what you can get away with. Chances to play around can rare once you are in the industry.

Spacing is a key factor in how you block and time out your animation. Its hard to taking into account when you are first learning because you can't necessarily see how it will help. The solution is to produce, but keep an open mind, be adventurous about how you uses spacing. Explore the extremes, find that point where a scene breaks and then come back a bit from there. How much can you push the inbetweens around between two keys and what impact will that have on the keys themselves. I think a good animator knows where the edge is, and isn't afraid to step over it every now and then to see what happens.


michelle said...

Great post! I like the phrase:"impact of the overshoot" and those "unseen movements" in 3D being used like 2D smears, adding impact and volume, and importantly pinning down the spacing to create the right sort of visual impact. Lots to think on and work with! Thanks! I like the cautions about being subtle (where necessary )as well as expressive.

Ian said...

Thanks Michelle :)