Like walks, runs have their own personalities, depending on the requirements of the scene, the psychological state of the character, and even on the texture of the surface on which the character is running. Consider, for instance, the difference in running styles for a sprint and a marathon. The sprinter uses short, sharp, explosive movements—caring little for preserving stamina. The marathon runner, however, sacrifices speed for economy and runs in a far more relaxed, economic, upright style.
Where the figure is running is another consideration. If the figure is running downhill, he will lean back slightly and open his arms more, to help brake his speed. If he is running uphill, however, he will lean forward and drive his arms harder, to give him the added impetus to get up the hill.
It all depends on what the running figure has to contend with. With any run, however, the contact foot drives the character up and forward far more than is necessary on any walk. Therefore, the key position has to be dynamic. In other words, the driving-off position must have thrust and direction. Consider these two drawings as an example of a sprinter's action.
Obviously drawing B is more dynamic. It is stronger, has direction, and shows that the character really knows where he is going. The first is weak and uncoordinated; it looks more like a stumbling, exhausted marathon runner at the end of a race than a purposeful, explosive sprinter. The way the key positions in a run are drawn says everything about the type of run.
Look at drawing B again. It's worth noting that in a run—unlike a walk—the body weight is way ahead, out of balance with the contact foot. This communicates that the character either has to get the other foot beneath him fast or he will fall flat on his face. Here, then, is another secret of a good run—constantly avoiding a fall by rushing the feet through beneath the body weight. Generally, the faster the run, the greater the lean.
The next key position in the run is the equivalent of the stride position in the walk. In a run, however, this is the point where there is no contact with
the ground. The drive from the contact foot causes the body to rise, while the free leg is moving through quickly to contact the ground. The stride position in a run may therefore appear like this:
The third key position is the contact position. The contact leg is now bent to cushion the weight of the body coming down again, and therefore there is a slight sinking of the whole body. The far arm is already driving through, anticipating the left leg swinging through for the next step.
If these key positions for a fast run are put into a run cycle, they look like this:
Since a run is fast, it will always look best inbetweened on ones—particularly if it is a run cycle matched to a panning background. Indeed, it is almost a rule that all runs should be shot on ones.
Newton's third law of motion states that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Anticipation, for the animator, represents this law in operation. When animating any major action in a scene, it is always necessary to anticipate the action before initiating it. If a character is going to run off-screen-left from a standing start, it is first necessary to give him a short movement to screen-right to anticipate it.
This is often seen in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons, where the main character sees another character and speeds off after him. You always see a static pose (1), followed by a wind-up anticipation (2), and then a fast scurry, or run (3), out of shot. Actually, if the anticipation is convincing enough, you can dispense with the run stage altogether and just pop the character off the picture. This effect can be further enhanced if objects in the background are sucked out of shot in the wake of the off-screen character. But remember that the anticipation must be convincing to the audience. For the anticipation to be effective in this case, the character must keep his eyes set in exactly the direction in which he intends to run. If he does not do this, the audience will not know what he has in mind before he disappears.
A perfect example of anticipation in action is a sprinter at the starting blocks. Note that as he is in the set position, and the gun goes off, he moves back slightly before moving forward on "go."
Anticipation will work for any action, not just a run. If a character looks up, he should momentarily look down first. If he jumps, there should be a little squash before he takes off. If he talks, there should be a little anticipation in the face or head before he begins.
Copy the standing-figure key provided and animate him into a run off to screen-left (his right)—remembering all the principles of anticipation. Then, walk the character in from screen-right (his left) and have him stop (using the key position provided), look around, pause, and then run off again.
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