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If a run is to be convincing, the effect of weight must be considered. Basically, you must always remember that the larger the character, the more weight he has to carry. And the more weight that must be carried, the slower the character must move, and the harder it is for the character to control that weight. The animator, therefore, has far more to consider when drawing a fat man running than a thin man. It is perfectly acceptable for a thin, light character to almost skim across the ground. When it comes to the
ball), but the movement tends to slow considerably as the ball reaches the highest position. At this high point, the ball reestablishes its normal shape—perfectly round—before descending again, and distorting slightly once more, due to the drag caused by its acceleration.
With a much lighter ball—perhaps a ping-pong ball—the action differs.
Notice that the ball moves very fast on the bounce, yet hovers at the top of the bounce. This is because the air tends to hold the light ball up longer, and when it hits, it is easily catapulted upward again, the force of gravity hardly affecting it.
On the other hand, if a heavy ball, such as a cannonball, were to bounce, there would be a very different effect.
Here the force of gravity pulls heavily on the cannonball and little bounce occurs. Instead, the ball quickly comes to rest. And, because the ball is heavy and solid, it does not lose its shape when bouncing. Indeed, it is more likely that the ground will bend before the ball.
All the principles shown for the bouncing ball apply to everything that moves, and they are particularly useful for animating walks and runs.
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When a character is carrying a heavy weight, his whole posture and way of moving change. A man carrying a sack of potatoes, for instance, will stand differently from a man who is empty-handed.
Notice the tremendous lean backward, which is necessary to compensate for the added weight so that the character appears balanced. If the man did not lean back, he would be pulled forward and would fall flat on his face. The general rule is that the more weight there is, the more the body position has to change to compensate for it. If the weight is tremendously heavy, then a bend in the legs may also be necessary to accentuate the illusion of great weight.
Now when the character begins to move, his speed and action are affected. The heavier the weight, the slower the movement will tend to be. In this case, the man will have to walk quite slowly because he has a great deal of extra weight to move and his muscles are not accustomed to the added load. The muscles must work much harder, against added resistance, and as a result will appear more labored in their movement.
When moving weight, it is essential to remember that the greater the weight, the greater the resistance that gravity will apply to that weight. If the man is trying to move the weight, plus his body, up and forward—as at the beginning of a step—then the initial movement will be extremely difficult and slow. When, however, he has the momentum going to move the weight, it will be easier for him to maintain, or increase, the speed. And if he is moving the weight downward, gravity will actually help him and the action will accelerate.
When walking, therefore, the man carrying the sack will start extremely slowly, and only really be able to speed up when he gains momentum. An approximate breakdown of his first step might be as follows (although this will vary, depending on the demands of the action you are attempting):
Note, first, that this walk is extremely slow because a great weight is involved. Second, there tends to be a tremendous slow-out from key number 1, as the man struggles to get the weight moving. There is also a slight slow-in to key number 27 as the man, having gotten the momentum going, must attempt to slow it down to some degree as he prepares to push off on the next step. This is another feature of weight—if the character did not attempt to slow down in this way, the weight would come crashing to the ground under the force of momentum and gravity.
Obviously, many other factors influence the action. For example, is the man big in proportion to the weight, or is he small? Or, whatever his size, is he strong or weak in his ability to handle the weight? Indeed, so many factors occur when dealing with weight in action that it is impossible to offer concrete formulas to cover every eventuality. If, however, the basic principles of weight are understood, they can be applied to a variety of situations.
What will happen to the walk if, for example, the man is carrying the sack under one arm? First, his posture will change considerably. Instead of a backward lean, he will need much more of a sideways lean to compensate for the heavy weight. His free arm is held out, to give added compensation to the extra weight, and his legs have a less symmetrical stance.
The walk, then, will be extremely exaggerated, with a kind of dragging, limping movement—in order for the added side weight to be brought around and forward on every step that the weighted leg takes. Act it out yourself, and you will begin to get the feel of what is needed. If you can feel it, you have a far greater chance of producing it on the screen.
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When moving great weight, remember to use anticipation. If your character is attempting to throw the sack into the back of a truck, then it will be far more convincing if he puts one, or two, little back swings in before he throws the sack forward.
Similarly, if a character is sitting down and has to get up and move forward, a little backward lean of the body will make it more convincing.
Obviously, if the character is fat, old, or weak, this type of anticipation will be pronounced. On the other hand, if the character is quick and nimble, the anticipation does not have to be so strong. Act the movement out before you try to animate it. Or get someone else to act it out and watch him or her a few times before you begin to draw.
Flexibility of the joints is essential to good animation. Stiffness is the hallmark of poor animation technique. The more flexibility that can be put into an animated movement (without the character actually looking like rubber), the more convincing it will be. A favorite phrase of older animators is "successive breaking of joints." Quite simply, this means that, as in overlapping action, not all parts of the action move at the same time; instead, a succession of movements takes place in any action. This is particularly true of the human body.
When contemplating an action, the animator must first ascertain which body part is leading the action and which part is following through. A classic example of this can be seen in the javelin thrower. Experienced
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