Animation Assignment #7
Character Laughing
This assignment involves a single character.

You are to design a character of any type that you want.  They must have a face with eyes, nose and mouth (ears are optional).

The assignment is to begin with a waist up shot of the character.  The character can start by facing away from the camera and then turn to a frontal position (3/4 or face on if you want), or they can already be facing towards the camera from the beginning.

The idea is to have the character laughing for 5 seconds.

The laugh can be any type that you want (as you will be recording it yourselves).  It can be a giggle, snickering, belly laugh, guffaw, maniacal, or any other type that you can come up with.  It can start off slow and build in intensity or it can start off big and diminish at the end.  The only stipulation is that it must be sustained for 5 seconds total.

Actions Involved
This assignment will require the character to act appropriately to the laugh recording.  The entire 5 seconds can be of the character from the waist up or you can cut in the middle to a full body view to allow the character to move around a bit.  This action could be the character standing and then doubling over, or they can fall to the ground and roll around with their legs kicking in the air, it's up to you, so long as it fits the sound track.

Principles Involved
The main principle that you will be using here will be the "Seaweed" action. This will require overlapping action as well as secondary action to the movements.

Obviously a sense of gravity will be involved as well as appropriate timing for the actions to read clearly.

On the previous assignment, we dealt with the idea of straight ahead animation.  You can use this approach if you wish or you can work in "pose-to-pose" or "key animation", which is what we were doing on all the assignments before the last one. I'll leave it up to you to decide which will work best for your action that you have planned out.

One of the new things we'll deal with is the idea of using staggers to create the jerking action involved in laughing.

As per usual here are the other principles involved:

• Thumbnailing
• Scene Planning
• Lip Synchronization
• Keys
• Inbetweens
• Timing
• Slo in & Slo out
• Stretch & Squash
• Overlapping Action
• Effects of Gravity
• Weight
• Realistic Timing
• Use of Arcs
• Observation
• Flipping

What are Staggers?
A stagger creates a jerking action along a smooth path of action.  The act of laughing originates in the contraction of the stomach muscles along with the rapid inhale and exhaling of air in a stuttering way.  Right now as you're sitting there reading this just try a simple laugh by saying "Ha ha ha ha ha ha" right now.

The "H" portion of the "Ha" sound requires you to exhale hard while tensing your stomach muscles, and the "A" portion is the part where you open your mouth slightly at the end and your stomach relaxes before the next contraction on the next "H" sound.  Depending on how long each "ha" is, there might be a breath in (thisa might take place after the fifth "Ha" in some cases.

After each "ha" though and the stomach begins it's next contraction the shoulders bob up and down.  The overall path of action might be downwards but there is a slight upwards jerk on each "ha" then a movement down, then back up and then down continuing to the lowest point in the overall path.

The process is really quite simple:

Begin with the drawing of the character at the high point in the "H" position, then draw the first contraction after the "A" of the first "Ha".  This will be a fairly subtle movement.

Next draw the lowest point of the laugh on the final "Ha" in the high "H" position.  You'll need to be sure to plot out the path of action of the overall laugh to make sure it seems plausable.  Now draw the low point of the"A" sound after the final "Ha".  Again, this movement will be fairly subtle.

Next, you Inbetween all the high position drawings (probably with a slow-in and slow-out on either end of the action), then you go back and inbetween all the low position drawings (with the exact same timing chart that you used on the high points).

As an example, if your first high point drawing was #12 and the last high point drawing is #19, you'll have 7 inbetweens using the following timing chart.  These are numbered: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.

The first low point drawing will then be numbered 12a and the last low point drawing will be 19a.  The seven inbetweens will then be numbered: 13a, 14a, 15a, 16a, 17a, and 18a.

Now when you go to shoot them, they'll go in this order: 12, 12a, 13, 13a, 14, 14a, 15, 15a, 16, 16a, 17, 17a, 18, 18a, 19, 19a.  This will create the appropriate up and down jerking action but keep the character on the smooth downward path of action.

If you want the laugh to go up, start with the low positions and then do the high ones.

Of course, you still need to plan the entire scene out the same way you normally would:
1) Think about what you want the character to do.
2) Act the action out yourself. Get someone else to act it with you. Video tape yourself, then watch and study the tape intensely. If you can single frame through it, then do it. (Some people think this is cheating - it's not! It's observation and study.)
3) Draw a series of thumbnail sketches that catch the main points of the action. Write notes and draw arrows to indicate what's moving where. Even indicate timing if you can (this action took 1 second or 24 frames, etc).
4) Pencil test the thumbnails.
5) With the thumbnails posted on your desk, begin your straight ahead animation, knowing that you need to hit the poses that you've thumbnailed throughout the scene (this will keep you from wandering too much).
6) If you veer off the thumbnails but the action still works, then go with it, just don't lose control.

Thought Process
Begin the assignment by acting it out. Obviously you'll need to find someone else to act it out with. If you can, video tape yourself for study later. Try the action a number of different ways.

Analyse what happens step by step.

The other variation on this would be to do a combination of straight ahead and pose-to-pose

Follow the same steps outlined above but after step 4 where you shoot a test of your thumbnails, if you're happy with the action in the pencil test, redraw the thumbnail poses as keys and then go back and straight ahead the inbetweens, aiming to get into the keys. If you end up off a bit, throw out the original keys and use your new one's.

This is an assignment where you really can't separate the character into multiple levels and treat it as limited animation.  I really want you to get the whole character's body involved in this.

Your timing will be completely dictated by the sound track of the character laughing.

Timing Charts
You can easily draw your timing charts on your thumbnail sketches. If you do decide to go "straight ahead" without thumbnailing, then timing charts are a moot point but you still need to hit the accent points according to the soundtrack. You might end up going back and filling in the odd inbetween to slow an action down a bit, but you won't need any timing charts to do that.

Pencil Test
So now you've got all the drawings done, it's time to see if it all payed off. Shoot the pencil test, sit back, and enjoy... or start crying because it didn't turn out the way you hoped.

Hopefully, it just requires some inbetweens to slow some of the actions down a bit.

Most of the inbetweens in straight ahead animation are just fill-in drawings to slow things down a bit or smooth out an action. If you did all your drawings and numbered them sequentially: i.e.: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. and you need to add in some inbetweens, just add an A to the number. So, if you need an inbetween to go between 3 and 4, just call it 3A. If you need two inbetweens, call them 3A and 3B.

Be sure to watch your paths of action and the spacing of the drawings so that you don't cluster things together or create a jerking action.

This is a really short assignment, so you have to get started on it right away.
Beginning of class - Week 12, 2nd semester
(2 weeks total)

Assignment is worth 10% of the Second semester grade

Animation will be graded in the following areas:

Graded Areas:   Grade: Comments:
• Strong Posing

• Appropriate, Realistic Timing
• Proper Anticipation, Action, Reactions
• Overlapping Action
• Structural, three dimensional drawing
Due: Week 14 - April 16th

Date handed in:


The animation must show appropriate squash and stretch, realistic timing, proper slo-in and slo-out, torque, tilt, and twist in the head and shoulders as per in-class lecture demonstration. Character must sync to the laugh track recorded.

Character Designs are of your own making.

Here's an example of a mouse laughing with an upward path of action.

Demo for Winter 2012 animation class

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