Animation Assignment
Tug of War
This is a neat assignment that involves two characters.

You are to design two different character types, for example: tall and short, fat and thin, big and little, etc. I've created some different basic body designs if you can't come up with any of your own here.

The two characters should be standing at arms length apart, both holding onto a small object such as a towel, teddy bear, vase, etc.

The idea is to have the two characters pulling on the object, trying to get it away from the other person, but neither one is willing to give up. There should be a minimum of one pull per character with a final recovery at the end. If you want, you can begin the animation with both characters reaching for the same object at the same time and then going into the pulls.

You can have the animation escelate beyond the single pull each and have it resolve any way you want.

Actions Involved
This assignment will require some acting from both characters. After the initial recognition that they both have the same object, one of the characters should have a mental and then physical reaction that they feel this object is their's and they pull on it to attempt to take it from the other person. There should be a quick, short anticipation to the pull action.

The other person, while not the first to react, does not let go of the object. They are jerked forwad and pulled off balance. They must then regain their balance and decide that they are going to retaliate and try to take the object away from the other person instead. The recovery from the initial pull may be blended into the anticipation for the second pull, or you can have the character recover and then anticipate (bigger than the first time) and then pull on the object, causing the other person to fall off balance an then recover.

The resolution can take any form you wish. The pulling can escelate over a series of pulls ending in one character being the victor, or it can dissolve into a wrestling match on the ground, or the larger character can lift the object and smaller character completely off the ground. You could even reverse this by having the smaller character lift the bigger one off the ground (somehow).

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 all the previous assignments, we've been dealing with "pose-to-pose" action or "key animation", which simply means we've been planning out the key extreme poses ahead of time. In many cases it would then require 3 - 5 inbetweens to smooth out the action with a slo-in or slo-out to the key. With this type of an action it will require mostly "straight ahead" animation with a few key poses here and there and some inbetweens added after the fact.

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 is "Straight Ahead" animation?
Simply put, straight ahead animation is where you start with drawing #1 and then you do drawing #2, then #3, 4, 5, 6, and so on throughout the entire scene until you're done. The type of action that your character is doing will determine whether or not you should use straight ahead or pose to pose, or a combination of the two.

The main advantage to using straight ahead animation is that it is very spontaneous and creates a very natural flow to the action you're animating. It's very similar to "improv acting" where you just kind of make it up as you go along.

You should be aware that there are many disadvantages to straight ahead animation as well; you can begin to lose control of the action and it can veer away from where you really want it to go in the scene. You won't know what it looks like until you've finished every single last drawing in the scene. With key animation, you can do a pencil test with just the keys, then play around with the timing, and then do your inbetweens knowing exactly how it's going to turn out. For example, let's say the scene is 10 seconds long. That's 240 frames or 120 drawings on two's. If you do two keys for each second, that's 20 drawings. You do your pencil test to the timing you've blocked out, make adjustments and even if you have to redraw all of them, that's only 20 drawings wasted.

If you straight ahead, you have to do all 120 drawings before you can see what it looks like, that's 6 times as many drawings. That's a lot of work.

This is not to say that with straight ahead animation, you just blindly start drawing and make up each drawing as it comes along, that's kinda dumb. You should still know what the character(s) are going to be doing and act the action out first. At the very least, plan it out in your head.

The real proper thing to do would be the following:

1) Think about what you want the characters 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.

This is a slight variation of pose-to-pose animation but the key point is to plan. Remember the old saying: "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail".

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.

One character will always be the initiator of the action and the other character will have to react

I've kinda already gone through the thought process above in the explaination of what straight ahead animation is.

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.

Another option is to just animate the main moving parts first. Start on drawing #1 by doing the entire characters body. Then on #2, just draw the parts that move, like say, the arm. If the legs don't move, don't draw them yet. You can come back and fill them in later. If they move starting on drawing # 15, then start drawing them then. 2 - 14 will be trace backs of #1.

You can also do this with secondary action and overlapping elements.

The problem here is that you can have the idea in your head of what you want to have happening at the moment you're doing the drawings of the other parts of the body, then when you come back to do the secondary action later, you may have forgotten exactly where and when you wanted it to happen - this is how it can get out of control on you very easily. And again, you won't know if you screwed it up until you finish all the drawings.

Your timing can be determined ahead of time if you act the scene out properly and take notes. There will be slow actions, and fast actions throughout the entire piece as well as lots of secondary actions because the primary character will be pulling on the other character's arm and their upper torso will follow the action a few frames after the primary action has taken place. If it all happens at the same time, it'll look weird, like the other person knew they were going to be pulled forward and moved forward on their own as opposed to being pulled.

Be sure to do your timing at the thumbnail stage.

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. You may 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.

Beginning of class - Week 10, 2nd semester
(3 weeks total)

Assignment is worth 20% of the first semester grade

Animation will be graded in the following areas:
• Strong Posing
• Appropriate, Realistic Timing
• Proper Anticipation, Action, Reactions
• Overlapping Action
• Structural, three dimensional drawing

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 dialogue recorded.

Character Designs are of your own making.

Special Note
I know it sounds like I'm being very negative about straight ahead animation - I'm not really a big fan of it myself. I has it's place, but you need to be very organized and have the scene well planned out if you want it to work out well.

I truly prefer the combination of pose-to-pose and straight ahead - it gives you far more control and less pain after the fact.

So, let's get started!

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