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(2) 2d Character animation

Disclaimer: Art isn’t a science: there are no definite proofs, there is no “correct” methodology, there are no facts. That’s not to say there aren’t cool ideas for you to explore. I don’t claim to be the best animator, I’m just showing you what works for me.

OK, so we want to start animating a character. One of the most important things about characters are the faces. It can really throw off a perfectly good animation when you see the face deform into something you can’t even recognize. What we want is consistency, but how do we get that? Well I can think of three ways : Make face guidelines, generate a 3d animation and rotoscope it, or get a clip from real life and rotoscope that. I’m just going to focus on the first one for reasons I’ll explain later.

You should start with a rough sketch, I like using simple shapes, but a lot of pros just go straight into outlines of the major forms.

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OK, we got a very basic construction of a head (eyes, mouth, neck, etc). Now to keep our parts of the head consistent relative to eachother, we can add another guideline to help us (I used a triangle).

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Now I made up some hairstyle and eyes on the first frame. Then I applied it on the other 3 keyframes and added inbetween frames to make it smoother.

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You see how the eyes and mouth are within a certain boundary. This is really helpful to get it looking believable. Keeping the ratio is critical to make your character’s face consistent. Now remove the guidelines and you get a half-decent animation.

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You can expand your animation to do whatever.

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You can do all this relatively fast if you feel comfortable with drawing your characters. 

You can also use 3d. The problem with 3d though is that it takes alot of time to get assets made, rigged, and animated. By then you might as well render it and keep it 3d. I should say, a lot of modern day 2d animations do use at least some 3d. I’ve noticed it a lot with backgrounds and that’s understandable since you don’t want to redraw every single frame as the camera pans. 

As for rotoscoping, I think it’s a bit vacuous. Most of my favorite animations are done with exaggerated movements of different body parts to accentuate emotions (e.g. mouth getting bigger when angry or surprised). This problem applies to 3d as well, but if you’re skilled enough (and have enough time) you can make great animations that have this exaggerated element.

*This works for other “styles” that are more realistic.

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The thing to keep in mind, is that the skull is a complex shape, and it follows that the face is also a complex shape. Having simple shapes still helps because those complex shapes fit inside simple shapes.

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Hope this helps, and thanks again for your support.


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