Animation tips & tricks

GDC 2018 Tricks of the trade

A little more up to date with this one and the content differs slightly from last time. This time there are more tips on the personal and professional courtesy and skills an animator will need to acquire as well as some more in depth tricks for animation itself.

It clearly shows by the content of the talk that motion capture is a much more essential part of animation when it comes to video games.

One tip that has resurfaced from the previous talk is to use dry erase markers to physically draw on the monitor. This comes from animators that have more of a background in hand drawn animation. It can be used to track arcs, manage timing and maintain gesture. Whilst there is the grease pencil in maya and digital alternatives to this, the immediacy and direct nature of drawing on the monitor may actually be something to take seriously.

Another great tip is to live and breath your character, at least whilst your animating them. You should understand at all times the complexity of the characters inner mind, what are their motivations, their feelings and moods? How does this change their actions? Keeping these things in consideration can massively boost the quality of the animation and the emotional attachment from the audience. It comes back to making the character a believable and living entity, with real emotions, fears and complications. For example, perhaps the character has just been through an emotional experience that has deeply angered them, maybe they have just lost someone, even a punch could become more reckless, hitting harder with less technique through the blind rage. Does the character care about where they are? do they look around the environment and let the view sink in for a stolen moment and a requited breath? Or do they become blind to the world with revenge consuming their peripheral?

Understand the movement you are trying to create, whether that is by finding reference of it online, re-enacting it yourself or persuading a friend to be a guinea pig. Do them all! when you are creating movement, you should know where the weight of the body is being transferred to and from, where the inertia is, where the action would strain a muscle and when an impact will be felt travel through the body. You are the actor when you animate, you should feel it. There is the well-known story of Aaron Blaise returning home with terrible aches in his jaw from his time animating the Beast. In animating the character he would involuntarily clench and jut out his jaw in order to feel the pose of his character. I’m not saying you should terrify co-workers by the sight of you as you animate but feeling and internally understanding the motion you are creating is important.

There is a very good tip I noticed regarding creating animations for attacks in the video, they can have a tendency feel hollow and ineffective when viewed in isolation. One remedy to this is to add a form of mannequin or place holder for an enemy to the clip and have that be the recipient of the attack. This is more so for the development or show reels. This can allow the force of each attack to be more easily demonstrated.

There is a very good tip I noticed regarding creating animations for attacks in the video, they can have a tendency feel hollow and ineffective when viewed in isolation. One remedy to this is to add a form of mannequin or place holder for an enemy to the clip and have that be the recipient of the attack. This is more so for the development or show reels. This can allow the force of each attack to be more easily demonstrated.

The last speaker was technical animator Gwen Frey who works for the independent game studio The Molasses Flood. Although a lot of her tips in repurposing animation loops and simplifying methods are a little out of reach for me at the moment, there are some brilliant things in there.