Making the characters perform

By CHAITRA SHETTY | 21 December, 2009 - 18:24

"Mastering software is one thing and animating a character is another, its like writing and typing are two different things so is animation and plain motion," says Larry Bafia, VP & Biz Dev, Vancouver Institute Of Media Arts (VanArts) in his session Teaching 3D Animation the Craft of Character Performance.

He added that understanding storytelling is the biggest part. "Its not like Pixar is going to make Finding Nemo so it will hire only those people who can do good fish animation. You need to understand the nuances of animation, train your eyes to see them and be able to ask the essential questions. If the character I am working on has armor one should ask why is the armor there? What is it protecting? Will it let me brush my hair? And so on. Sometimes models move in the pipeline without much consideration to these nuances and the back story of the character."

Larry says one should animate a character from inside out, what happened before and what will happen after it, should also be considered. When you start working in this format you start enjoying the process and actually picking on the story. He adds, "Every character starts with pencil and it's good to do your development and mistakes with pencil as it's a lot easier to fix mistakes with an erazer. Also it's important to understand the parameter that you have to work within."

The principles of weight and gravity are very critical in making any motion look natural. Understand how was the character carrying that weight? Stand up and try posing accordingly. Larry says, "One of the challenges I came across was when working with motion capture, how the interaction works and syncing the facial animation with what is going on with the body. One of the cardinal sins in CG is keeping a character still for 2 to 3 frames, if you do so the character dies, even when he is standing still there is some motion. The hardest thing to do is animating a character doing nothing. Observe people waiting for a bus or in a long queue to understand how the body movements are in such a case. Even if there isn't any movement there is shift of body weight."

"Approach the character with a fresh mind without preconceived notions. Observe the different things around you and make mental library of different kinds of motion. Also being able to interface with people on the tool development side as to what exactly you need is necessary. Sitting with the programmer and getting out what you need is essential. Last thing you want to do is to worry about the tool."

Talking on the academic front he said, "We need experienced professionals, someone who will sit down with you and show where the blind alleys are in production as there is constant change in pipeline. The other challenge is defining the curriculum, some want to be specialist and some generalist. And most of the courses out there are software based."