The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: Character Animation - Part 1
In a walk, there are even more elements to pay attention to in keeping the arcs consistent. The head and torso should be continually moving forward in each frame as well as up and down on an arc (Figure 7.5), and the arms should be swaying back and forth along an arc of their own.
Another very important principle that brings an animated character to life in a very big way is overlapping action, which means that not every part of a character will start or stop on the same frame. Movements should be staggered by a few frames so that all elements of the character overlap with each other for a much more natural appearance. To demonstrate some examples of the difference overlapping action can make in stop-motion animation, let me introduce you to my character, Goth Mime (Figure 7.6). On the accompanying CD, there is a series of short animation movies where Goth Mime goes through various movements both with and without overlap to the action. I have deliberately animated some of these exercises in a very basic, rushed manner for the purpose of comparing them to other variations that are animated with more attention to detail. The versions that are not animated well do not have nearly as much life and natural movement as those that are animated with the principles applied.
The first example is through a simple head turn, from left to right, as if Goth Mime hears something off screen that causes him to turn around. Looking at the movie called Head Turn 1.mov on the CD, you will notice that it feels very stiff. The eyes don’t move at all, and it’s simply the head being turned from left to right, without much of an arc and only a certain degree of easing in and out (Figure 7.7). This was simply done by turning the head frame by frame without putting much thought into it. The end results are functional in achieving the simple motion of a head turning, but there is not much life in it.
Compare this movie to the next one, Head Turn 2.mov, and you will notice that some overlapping action has been added. In this version, the eyes move first, a few frames before the head is moved (Figure 7.8). The results are much more natural and have a better sense of realism. The eyes essentially lead the head into its movement, preparing the audience for the action that takes place. There is also a stronger arc that the eyes and nose move along, which was actually planned out on the monitor to help provide a smooth path of action and ensure a better result to the animation (Figure 7.9).