Animation is such a brilliant tool. It allows so many things to come to life through the power of motion – including your own logo! When thinking about animation, however, you must abide by the 12 Principles. These include things such as staging, timing, and exaggeration. Utilizing all of these principles allows for animations to stand out as their own medium, with physics impossible during any live-action shoot.
As you keep reading, you will see five examples of animations that include most of these twelve principles, and I will explain why I enjoy these animations so much. After that, you can experience my own logo stinger – a short animation that involves the movement and creation of a logo I created myself in Adobe Illustrator. Before all that, though I want to further our discussion of Liz Blazer’s Animated Storytelling as we learn all about technique.
There are many different interpretations to the word “animation.” When someone says it, what do you think of? Is it 3D computer-generated imagery (CGI)? 2D stop-motion? Short motion graphics? Or even hand-drawn animations? Those are all valid responses and they all fit under the category of animation. According to Liz Blazer, you may need a specific technique in order to pull off the style and aesthetic you want your film to be. Chances are, there is one animation style that you are incredible at. If that’s the case, then try to come up with a story that would express itself best when utilizing that technique of animation.
Aside from animation technique, formatting is also something to consider. Blazer emphasizes that content is being watched everywhere these days, from smartphones and watches to IMAX theaters and 1,500 ft. screens in stadiums and cities. While it is best to optimize your film for screens of all sizes, the best way to go about screen size is to consider your target audience and determine which screen they will most likely be watching your content. From there, you can focus on the creation and the tools you need in order to best express your project’s message.
According to Karin Fong, the director of God of War III, “you need to know what emotion and message you want to convey first. Then make sure your look is answering those questions” (122). Blazer goes into detail about five different types of animation techniques that you should consider. Hand-drawn animation is really good for kids shows (if you’re using cel animation) and can feature emotionally driven stories depending on how you go about making it. 2D stop-motion animation features a camera facing a wall or floor, with flat objects incrementally moving across the field of view every frame. This, according to Blazer, gives the project a “handmade-quality” that can be quite emotional impactful. 3D stop-motion, aka the project I did last week, uses a set to shoot objects moving incrementally as well. This can come off as quite humorous and memorable depending on the material or look of your characters and/or set. 2D CGI is made with a computer software and is primarily used for cartoons or broadcast graphics. 3D CGI is the most complicated of the bunch to learn, but can be the most rewarding because of the possibility to create worlds that look indistinguishable from reality.
Those are a few of the more popular animation techniques used today. There will be times, however, where you identify a technique for your project that you do not know how to do. Since you may not have the time to learn it, you’ll have to either adapt or find a workaround. You can adapt by looking for specific plug-ins for the technique you desire for the animation style you know, and chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for. If that doesn’t work, however, then there are plenty of workarounds to making your animation look good: you can import images and mess with masking edits to make the image move the way an animation would, you can shoot live action footage and import that straight into your animation project for it to be messed with however you like, or you can also find/hire someone to do the work for you. It may either cost you money or a return favor, but sometimes the best strategy is to put your project in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and can make your vision come to life, which is what animation is all about.
This is a part of a series of short animations that Nintendo made as marketing material for the game Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World for the 3DS. Believe it or not, these animations actually inspired my linear stop-motion idea from two weeks ago (which I ultimately did not do). This animation incorporates a few principles, and I would highly recommend watching the whole thing, it’s short enough. I highlighted the shot at the :27 second mark because I feel like the motion made by the blue Yoshi encompasses a variety of animation principles. Spoiler alert: the blue Yoshi lost the race. The principles of staging, slow-in and slow-out and appeal come into play here. This is staged very well because there is only two lanes and the decorations are all on the outside, not taking our attention away at all. When the blue Yoshi straggles behind, we focus on him because he is the only thing moving. His slow pace and fall of defeat demonstrate that the animators really took their time to make his movements have a slow start and a slow finish, thus making the movement more realistic. Lastly, no matter which expression the Yoshi makes, his cute figure and soft-yarn material body makes for a very appealing character to look at.
I am a huge platformer fan, and when I found out that Cuphead was an indie game that would have an art style very similar to 1930s cartoons, I was all for it. This is one of my favorite games I’ve played recently and a lot of the credit has to go to how original the art style, animation, and music is. I timestamped the video at 1:25, which is where the animation of one of the bosses plays, a boxing bullfrog named Ribby. Ribby’s animation follows the anticipation, follow through and exaggeration principles. He spends a full second or two riding up his punch, which lets the viewer (or gamer) know that this is going to be a big punch with a lot of impact. For follow through, Ribby brings his foot down and swings his arms like helicopter blades, which adds emphasis to the expressive nature of animation. This can also connect towards the exaggeration principle, where the grinning teeth, giant gloves and rotating arms while punching give Ribby so much more life as a boss. He is even bobbing back and forth during his idol animation while taunting his gloves, which make him feel more lively even though he’s standing still.
This scene comes from a short film by Pixar called For the Birds. It’s a 3D CGI animation that has comedy written all over it. The one shot I want to look at in particular comes at 2:30, when the giant bird is laying on its head upside down. He flips over, flaps his wings for a second, and gently splits his legs to lie down. This is a combination of pose-to-pose and arcs. This movement is all physics based, which is why I’m including these principles for this shot. The bird needs to get from laying on his head to sitting down on his rear end in one “smooth” movement. He bends his legs back which help propel him upwards, he flaps his arms for a few seconds and then falls back down. It may be a very small arc, but his head moves from the ground and flips upward so it can sit upright when he’s sitting down. While this is not a hand-drawn animation, pose-to-pose can still apply through concept art such as storyboards, and the animators can draw the bird in his various poses, such as on the ground, up in the air, and finally sitting back down again. Having these positions locked means that the animators can have an easier time figuring out how to animate from one position to the next.
This is an animation from a YouTuber that I watch occasionally. He is telling a story of how he was involved in a street race with a celebrity. I like the animation style a lot, and I notice that it follows two principles in particular: staging and solid drawing I am particularly looking at the sequence starting at 3:05. This is staged very well because you can tell immediately that the two cars are racing against each other. You know the surface they are driving on is a road, and you need no other details to know what is going on. The speed of the celebrity car whizzing by Alex waiting by a red light is well-staged in that our eyes know exactly where to look and when to look. We look at Alex’s car that is being held up by an old lady crossing the street, and as soon as the celebrity car passes by, our eyes divert right to that. This is also a good example of solid drawing because Alex really only animates what needs to be drawn. The facial expressions on his character are all the detail we need, and it means less work for the animator while the viewer still understands the story clearly.
You really only need to watch the first ten seconds of this video to see the animation that I am talking about. There are punches and kicks coming from Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (who are silhouetted) as well as Jack-Jack transforming into a beast. This is all 2D digital animation. The principles this follows are timing, anticipation and follow-through. The timing with the punches to the beat of the music along with the transitions from one character to another are superb. The pacing in which they throw the punch is timed pretty well together, too. As mentioned with Ribby in my Cuphead example, the wind-up, hold, and punch along with another hold really emphasizes the strength and the power of each punch the heroes dish out. The “boom” effect that pops on screen after each punch also adds to the illusion of power as well. Anticipation can fall right into that sequence as well, as the wait to throw the punch, as well as Jack-Jack’s build-up to transform into a monster really pays off when the punch or transformation actually happens.
This week, I was able to create a logo stinger for my own self-made logo! I made the logo in Illustrator and animated it using After Effects. Watch the video below and read all about the process it took to make that, and once you’re done comment down below and let me know what you thought of the project!
Despite this only being ten seconds, I went through quite the process in order to make what you just saw. The first thing I did was create the logo in Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to make my own logo, despite my lack of Illustrator knowledge. I knew enough to use the pen tool to create shapes, duplicate the shapes a few times and call it a day. If you cannot see it, I am designing off of my initials: GW. The G is the dark blue section inside the diamond, where the W is the black outlines laid outside the diamond. I’d say there was a total of 16 individual layers for this piece, including cut or hidden layers that are not visible in the final project.
The next thing I did was import my Illustrator file straight into Adobe After Effects. Up until this week, I had no idea that you could actually do this, and I find it so fascinating that After Effects will accept each individual layer from Illustrator as its own layer here. That makes creating these animations so much easier. Now, however, I had to think of how I was going to animate my piece.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve used After Effects intensively, so I decided to start off a little basic with this project and lightly bring back some memories about what is possible in this software. I first started by key framing the position of the left and right “wings” of the logo, having them enter from below the screen and having them land where they belong. Once they cross the bottom of the diamond, I keyframes the opacity on for the bottom V-shaped object. I then made a mask for the top V-shaped object and animated the mask so it rises up the entire object, but then only half of the mask comes back down so the entire object can appear in view. It’s a simple effect, but I think it turns out nice in the edit.
I then messed a bit with the blue cube. I added a glow effect, keyframed some of the properties there (though not noticeable), and keyframed the scale and rotation in order for it to land where it’s supposed to be. Normally, the cube’s edge would be sticking out the edge of the diamond whenever it rotates in its side. I noticed this problem and decided to do something about it. Luckily, track mattes exist and were the key to making this work. I masked a solid layer created a track matte for the cube and applied it to the solid layer, which meant the cube will only be visible within that solid layer. I think it was worth doing in order to make a cleaner animation. I then added a little bounce effect where I quickly keyframed the scale for the top and bottom V-objects as if the cube hit them hard. I then used track mattes again to hide the smaller arrows and keyframe them into place.
The navy blue G was not too complicated, but it was interesting to make. I needed to make two masks for the effect to work: one mask traced out the G so I can make the stroke effect work properly, and the second mask was used to have the blue fill appear in conjunction with the purple lines. I intersected the second mask with the first one so they would both show up but not overlap each other. I then animated the position of the mask controlling the object’s fill frame-by-frame to accurately keep up with the stroke lines. There are a few moments where the stroke lines make a corner and the fill animates oddly, but I decided to leave that alone for now.
Once that was done, I simple animated the scale of the G to hit into the side of the bottom V-object, keyframe the scale again so it looks like it got hit hard, and then have a G pop out from under the entire logo, ready to reveal the rest of my name via animated mask.
The sound effects were a mixture of royalty free music I already had downloaded and some other sound effects I needed to download off of YouTube. I made sure the effects I had said “free download” so I can assure that I was not taking any sound effects without permission. I think the sci-fi sound effects and cinematic music really make the stale animation come to life and give it somewhat of an intimidating yet professional look that I admire.
I do like how this project came out, despite the limited amount of time I had to work on it. The amount of animation and sound effects placed here almost justify the poor quality of the logo itself (at least in my opinion). But overall, I’m really happy I was able to dive back into After Effects again and reteach myself a lot of its capabilities.