Principles of traditional animation applied to 3D computer animation

As the title of this post reveals, I’m going to present a paper about principles of animation that should be applied to 3D computer animation and that are useful in the design of 3D interfaces. The paper was written by John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and can be downloaded through the ACM website.

John Lasseter gives an historic overview over the the 11 principles of traditional animation defined by the Walt Dísney Studio and then gives an explanation of each one of the principles, relating them to the field of 3D computer animation. Next is a summary on some of the principles presented in the paper:

Squash and StretchDefining the rigidity and mass of an object by distorting its shape during an action
This is the most important principle and says that when an object is moved the movement emphasizes any rigidity in the object. The squash position represents when an object is flattened by an external force or when the object is constricted by its own power. The stretched position will show the same form in a much extended condition.  One important rule about squash and stretch is that the volume of the object has to remain constant during the movement or else the object would look as it had shrink or grown during the process. This principle defines the rigidity of the material that compose the object, i.e. depending on the level of stretch and squash the object would look as is made of different materials.

TimingSpacing actions to define the weight and size of objects and the personality of characters
It represents the speed of an action, giving meaning to the movement and defining how well the idea behind the action will read to an audience. It also reflects the weight and size of the object, as well emotional meaning. It’s important when defining the timing of a scene, to make sure that the audience is capable of reading and understanding the meaning of it as fast as is being shown. Another aspect related to timing is the weight of the objects. A heavy object will have a slower acceleration and deceleration than a light object, and will take a bigger force to change is motion. Timing can also give a feeling of size and scale to an object, by making a huge object with enormous mass to move slowly and a   small object with a small mass to move quickly. Last but not least, timing can show the emotional state of the object by varying the speed of his movements, indicating whether the character is lethargic, excited, nervous or relaxed.

AnticipationThe preparation for an action
Anticipation is used to catch the audience’s eye and to prepare them for what the next movement will be before it happens. The amount of anticipation used considerably affects the speed of the action which follows it. If the audience expects something to happen, then it can be much faster without losing them. This principle is also used to direct the attention of the audience to the right part of the screen and at the right moment, preventing the audience from missing some vital action. Anticipation can also emphasize heavy weight, as for a character picking up an object that is very heavy. An exaggerated anticipation, like bending way down before picking up the object, helps the momentum of the character to lift the heavy weight.

StagingPresenting an idea so that it is unmistakably clear
Staging is the presentation of an idea so it is completely and unmistakably clear, whether it’s an action, a personality, an expression or a mood. To stage an idea clearly, the audience’s eye must be led to exactly where it needs to be at the right moment, so that they will not miss the idea. That is accomplished trough staging, anticipation and timing. One important aspect, when staging an action, is that only one idea should be seen by the audience at a time. Due to that the object of interest should contrast from the rest of the scene, preventing the user of overlooking the idea being transmitted when there is a lot of action happening at once.

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