Tuesday, July 6, 2010

great post on animating secondary characters

from David Martinez, from Animation Mentor

some highlights:

Some directors have completely mastered the use of extras or background characters in their movies. I think of Robert Altman films like Nashville, or Stanley Kubrick's epic masterpiece Barry Lyndon, or Laurence of Arabia. These are examples of films with hundreds of extras performing in a way that enforces the narrative but never dominates or overshadows the principal characters unless otherwise intended (as we saw with Hitchcock).

From an animation standpoint, background characters can often provide the animator with an enormous amount of creative freedom. Most often, background characters won’t be as rigidly directed as the principal characters. This means that the animator can experiment in many different ways. Quite often, early motion tests, either for rig development or as a means to understand the way the character moves and expresses itself, will find their way into the backgrounds of a scene. Because so little direction is often put into background performances, animators may go straight ahead in the creation process, animating as loose and creatively as possible. Background animation opens the animator up to the whole gambit of possible actions that character might perform in the scene. Going back to our crowded stadium example, you could animate a little girl eating a hotdog and the wiener pops out the back of the bun and lands on her dress. Or maybe you'll need to animate 10 different ways characters might clap their hands. Whatever the scene might be, background animation can be super detailed, refined, and creative.


Virgil said...

yeah, ok, I agree, but is there a studio out there who can actually afford to spend a lot of time on background characters' animation? My point is that you normally don't have time to detail background characters. but yeah, you can be more relaxed about them, and that allows creativity to pop out. Isn't it silly though... shouldn't main characters be more inspiring and more likely to support creativity?... (your post seems like wanting to reply "no", and I'd definitely agree with that :P )

jeff said...

ha. thanks for the reply Virgil.

I think this is one of those non-right answer questions.

I've certainly had plenty of jobs with high level of footage/wk where it became a tough choice in which secondary characters become distracting or can help lead the eye.

I think a lot of game studios opt to dump mocap onto the background characters as a timesaver. I think a lot of the big studios do a great job with secondary characters.