Search form

Using actor's performances to animate

7 posts / 0 new
Last post
Using actor's performances to animate

I've seen that professional character animators will often adopt gestures and expressions from the voice actors, and apply them to their characters. Using this same principle: is it OK for demoreel purposes to take an actor's scene from a movie, and animate your character following the actor's performance? Obviously, it would be better to create a completely new character with his/her own story and animate their emotions from scratch. I want to animate a character for my demo reel, but I'm getting stuck on coming up with a storyline etc and just want to get into the learning curve of animating a character. Here's another example: what if I created a chicken and got her to act out a line of Shakespeare- borrowing the gestures from a screen actor?

Another point along a similar line: Say I wanted to animate a cat character and I video taped a real one jumping in the air. Am I cheating if I bring the mov up on my screen and copy the timing into my animation- ie "OK, at 2.5 secs, his leg is here and his head is angled like this..."

what is cheating?

what you are suggestion is getting close to rotoscoping
and if its your point to get a very realistic cat jump... its at least the easiest way

ask yourself if thats what you want

i find the great thing about animation that you can invent your own way of making a cat jump.
in such way that an audience will perfectley accept it, even if in reality it a cat would never jump like that.

relying to much on video reference, although it can look great has a danger of making your work less creative

Peter Wassink - Digital 2D Animator

I would say both are helpful in learning but the cat scenario is original. You would have gone to the trouble of seting up the live cat for reference.

You could learn by copying an actor's performance but chances are those familiar with it will say you just copied it and who is this guy trying to pass thiss off as original animation.

There are two ideas: look at the original performance once. put it away and try to do it or take the voice track and interpret as they do in the 10 second club.
This idea was from feature films in casting actors. They'd take a sound bite from a film or record and animate to it. Eric Goldberg animated Genie to a Robin Williams comedy bite and that's how he was chosen to do Genie's voice. ANd I saw Pixar's first test with a prototype Woody using Tom Hanks from Turner And Hooch. Needless to say that poerformance was much more entertaining and exaggeratted if they had traced Hanks.

Nothing wrong with copying per se but people are less impressed and it is better as a learning tool and if it is qualified as such.

i agree. if you want to use a soundbite, do so in a new and exciting way rather than copying the actor - it'd be more fun to watch. choose one that allows you to get some really strong poses into the performance.


I don't think using video reference is cheating at all. However I would stay away from using established movie clips and animating to them. People do that so much on demo reels that I suspect its a turn off for most people watching them. When you should do is film yourself doing a made up monologue or a friend of yours and use the video reference from THAT to make your animation.

Frankly I dont think there's anything wrong with rotoscoping 3d animation either, as long as you modify the product to exaggerate and clarify the action.

But I'm not a professional yet. :)


I'll echo most of the other's sentiments here. Stay away from rotoscoping. Not sure if someone already covered this, but, Rotoscoping is directly animating over video footage. While reference, is looking at video footage, or pictures, only for key things, like a hand position. But you do your own drawing.

Some things are really hard to draw and using reference is fine, but if you rotoscope your animation you won't learn very much. Forget about it being frowned upon in a demo reel, do it for yourself to get better and don't rotoscope.

Like others said, take a good piece of dialogue from a film, and just listen to the dialogue, and don't look at the video of it.

Good luck Keen

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

I don't personally like rotoscoping. But yeah, I take inspiration from movies, actors and others: Heres a classic example

Scoot isn't Marlon Brando but I definitely took the inspiration from the film although I haven't seen it for decades, but it left a lasting impression. Lot's of things leave impressions and we can't innoculate ourselves to that experience, it carries over. Hopefully I made Brando's portrayal my own.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.