The best animations are the ones that really have a way of portraying emotion through actions such as gestures, facial expressions e.t.c. I think one of the best ways to do this is by stepping into the shoes of your character and really feeling their emotion.... this has been done many times to achieve realistic references for the animation.
A particular one we looked at was a reference video created for 'Horton hears a Who' in which four versions of the same animation are shown including a live actor compared to the final animation. This video really gave an insight into how important it is to sometimes just jump into the characters shoes.
I couldn't find the Horton hears a Who video but here is another one which shows Andy Serkis acting out Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
I had already tried this technique which you can view under the 11 Second Audio clip Animation and although it was credited as working very well in terms of gestures and emotion, it brought up the issue of the 180 degree rule.
'The 180° rule is a basic guideline in film making that states that two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other. If the camera passes over the imaginary axis connecting the two subjects, it is called crossing the line. The new shot, from the opposite side, is known as a reverse angle.' (Taken from www.wikipedia.org)
My understanding of this rule is that in order to mantain sense when two characters are interacting with one another, they must be kept in the same place in relation to each other otherwise the viewer becomes disorientated. Once this rule can be understood, it can then be broken. 'Crossing the line' can indicate that the same character is possibly talkin to him/herself or that there is an alter ego to the character.
(Again im going to use the example of Gollum) Sorry but I couldn'nt find a better quality video.
This scene with Gollum/Smeagol is a prime example of how the 180 degree rule can be broken to show an alter ego, the scene from The Two Towers where Smeagol tells Gollum to 'GO AWAY!, We don't needs you anymore'. The camera is seen cutting from one side, which is shown as Smeagols side, to the other side which is Gollums.
Aside from the use of cinematography to help with a characters performance, there are other things that we must bear in mind as we try to animate a characters performance. Although the notes will be shown on a different post, you may not be able to read them out of my sketchbook as my handwriting isn't the best in the world so I will also write them up in this post...
Thinking leads to conclusions, emotions lead to actions.
- Acting is reacting. Acting is doing. Every action has a reaction & every reaction has an action.
- The character needs an objective.
- Characters should play an action until something happens to make him/her/it play a different action.
- All actions begin with movement - gestures.
- Empathy - The audience empathises with emotion.
- A scene is a negotiation, conflict is essential. Conflict with others/himself/situation.
This leads us to think on how does a characters actions portray his personality? By thinking on this level and trying to feel out your character, good performance can be achieved.
One of the ways to test an animation with the sound without doing too many frames is to create an animatic. An animatic (depending on how much you want to visually include) is basically a pre-visualisation that is done in the pre-production stage to see how the scene works with the sound. An example we were shown was the animatic of the chase scene from 'The Incredibles'. This level of detail is not expected of us as of yet however this is an excellent example and best way to describe what an animatic is.
I couldnt manage to embed the video but the link is directly to the video. Animatics are a great way to visualise the scene without having to do the CGI only to realise it doesn't work out the way you thought it would, in a way its like a moving storyboard working hand in hand with the audio.