Unit 13/14 Project Proposal

Candidate

Name

Richard Thomas
Candidate Number 20096820
Pathway UAL Extended Diploma Level 3 – Games Development
Project Title How does an animal’s anatomy influence its movements?
Section 1: Rationale (approx. 150 words)
I am interested in exploring the movements and the anatomy of animals. There will be a large emphasis on researching how these factors influence each other. I will consider how the body structures of various different animal types can influence their movements. I was drawn to this topic due to my previous work with animation, I loved witnessing the change from a static model into something which looks alive. I believe this topic of research to be important as knowing how to develop convincing, realistic movement is vital to any form of animation. By researching this area I hope to expand my knowledge of a large variety of topics relevant to my specialist area. Examples of these include the basic principles of animation, as well as more advanced techniques animators use to creating convincing natural movements of characters. Developing this type of realistic character movement is vital for making games which effectively engage an audience.
Section 2: Project Concept (approx. 200 words)
 

In order to familiarise myself with this area I will conduct a variety of primary and secondary research. The primary research includes collecting photographs and videos of animals, to do this I will ask people I know who have pets if I can capture photographs and videos of these animals. I will also conduct similar primary research by visiting Zoos and similar establishments. By observing real animals in person I will be able to properly analyse their forms and their movements. This will allow me to better understand the intricacies of these areas, enabling me to develop work grounded in reality. This project was initially inspired by famous animators such as Walt Disney who capture natural, flowing movements in their animations. I will conduct secondary research by reading articles and books about animation techniques. I will experiment by sketching animal movements based on my findings and I will develop 3D models in a similar vein. By the end of the project I hope to create a 3D model, preferably animated, based on the research I conduct. The target audience of this work will simply be people who like animals as they would be the most likely to appreciate this style of work. For my work I will require a camera, drawing tools and a computer capable of developing 3D models.

 

Section 3: Evaluation (approx. 150 words)
The main aims of my work will be studying the forms and movements of animals, my evaluation of my work will be based on this. My work must involve researching animals with similar body structures. I will have to record photos and videos which I can use as reference for my work. Based on this material I will sketch the animals and analyse the details of their movements. For my project to be meaningful I must analyse my findings, using secondary research to back up my conclusions. Near the end of the project I will be developing a 3D product, this work must be strongly tied to my previous research. When evaluating the project as a whole I will be considering how meaningful my findings were, I will also discuss the skills I have developed throughout the project, finally I will evaluate how what I learned during the project ties to an industry job role.

 

Proposed Research Sources and Bibliography (Harvard Format)                
William, R. (2001) The Animator’s Survival Kit. Publisher: Faber & Faber.

Whitaker, H. (1981) Timing for Animation. Publisher: Taylor & Francis.

Newton, P. (2016) Animation for Beginners: How to Animate a Four-Legged Animal Walking. Available at: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-animate-a-four-legged-animal-walking–cms-26789 (Accessed: 18/03/2017).

Miller, C. (2016) Animation for Beginners: How to Animating Four-Legged Beasts. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/169673/animating_fourlegged_beasts.php?print=1 (Accessed: 18/03/2017).

Project Action Plan and Timetable
Week Date Week

Beginning

Activity / What you are intending to do – including independent study Resources / What you will need to do it – including access to workshops
1 13/03/2017

 

Conduct primary research by photographing and filming animals around Canterbury. A device able to capture images and videos (Smartphone or camera).
2 20/03/2017

 

Continue primary research, develop timeline of my progression on the course. A computer, a device able to capture images and videos (Smartphone or camera).
3 17/04/2017

 

Continue primary research and create drawings based on this research. A device able to capture images and videos (Smartphone or camera), drawing materials.
4 24/04/2017

 

Conduct secondary research about animation and animals. A computer with internet access.
5 01/05/2017

 

Continue secondary research. A computer capable of running 3D software, and with internet access.
6 08/05/2017

 

Experiment and practice with 3D modelling and animation techniques. A computer capable of running 3D software.
7 15/05/2017

 

Practice techniques, begin creating the final product. A computer capable of running 3D software.
8 05/06/2017

 

Continue practical work.

 

A computer capable of running 3D software.
9 12/06/2017

 

Finish practical work.

 

A computer capable of running 3D software.
10 19/06/2017

 

 

Evaluate the project. A computer with internet access.

CHAPTER 1

Introduction

This project portfolio is a report of my Extended Project for my second-year UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Media Games Development. The project is titled “How does an animal’s anatomy influence its movements?”. This project is study of the anatomy and movements of animals, and how these are translated into animation. The main themes are considering the influence of animal body structure on movement patterns and the techniques used by animation studios to replicate this type of movement. In this first chapter I write about myself, what I learned on my course and who my inspirations are for this project. The chapter ends with my research plan which outlines important aspects of my project, such as research questions, processes and why I believe this project to be important.

The Background of my Project

The main reason I chose to do a project focusing on animation is due to my previous animation work, I have created a variety of 3D animations over the past few years and I have always enjoyed the process. Due to this I decided I would like to improve upon my animation skills by learning about natural movement in animation. The topic of animals is in part due to how much I personally like animals, and also because of previous work where I created 3D models of animals. It also connects very well to the theme of natural movement. The premise of my project is that it will be a study of the anatomy of animals, in particular quadrupeds such as Wolves and Foxes, I will be considering how their body structures influence their movements. During this project I will be conducting primary and secondary research, experimenting and creating a final product in 3DS Max. I feel that this project relates strongly to my future career because developing convincing movements is vital to any job pertaining to animation. In this project I will be using similar techniques to those used in the animation industry. The planned outcome of my project is a short 3D animation of an animal, perhaps a walk-cycle or motion based off of a video. The aim is to create a work which appeals to fans of popular animation studios and people who like observing animals.

red-fox-low-poly

This is an example of recent 3D experimentation which led me to this project, I wanted to challenge myself by trying to develop more organic shapes and I enjoyed the experience. For this project I hope to combine aspects of this style of 3D work with animation to create an interesting end product. For the final piece of work I may develop a piece with a similar visual style to this Fox model, though I intend to consider various options when it comes to the appearance of the final model.

Who am I? 

To better understand myself and what kind of a person I am I conducted this introspection task of creating a mind map, the map covers various aspects of myself such as my interests and hobbies. After considering what I have written in this mind map I have thought about how a few aspects of myself tie together, for instance I became a gamer from a very young age because my older brother owned a gaming console and we would compete against each other regularly in our spare time. This interest stayed with me through my life as I would play online with friends, as some of them moved away through my life I would still be able to game with them online as this type of gaming has very few limits in terms of distance, whereas meeting up would take a larger amount of time, effort and preparation. To this day I still play games online with old friends who I have been apart from for years.

who-am-i-mindmap

Another conclusion that I came to is that my interest in animation may be influenced by my interest in Psychology and animals. I have always loved animals and found it interesting to consider how they think and act. I also find some aspects of Psychology fascinating, such as some of the early experiments conducted like the Pavlov’s Dogs (McLeod, 2013) experiments and the Milgram Experiment (McLeod, 2007). I feel that the connection between these two aspects, and the unique sense of ‘life’ that animals emanate ties to how I enjoy creating animations which may give off a similar sense of ‘life’.

What did I learn on my course?

To demonstrate my progression throughout these two years of the course I have created an infographic which outlines what I learned and created during each term. This infographic serves as a timeline to show how I have built upon my skills and how I have arrived at where I am now. It displays the main projects of the course and should show progression and how each term has lead me towards my specialist area which is 3D modelling and animation.

Road To my Extended Project 1.pngRoad To My FMP 2

As can be seen in the infographic above, there is a huge difference in my skillset between now and when I started the course, though my interests have always laid in the same general area. I have not only built upon skills centred on my chosen discipline of 3D animation, I have also developed skills which aid my production or are important when working in the games industry such as the ability to effectively research and the ability to work as part of a team. Outside of the technical skills such as the ability to use 3DS Max and Unreal Engine, I have practiced a variety of interpersonal skills, for instance communication between roles, pitching ideas and responding positively to constructive criticism in a way which helps me to develop my work.

What is my project about?

My project is centred around the creation of natural, realistic movement. By looking at the works of prominent animation studios I hope to learn about the techniques and processes they employed to create effective, convincing motion in their work. My final piece will be heavily based on recordings of real animals which will help me develop realistic work. The end product of my work will be a short animation of an animal in motion, for instance walking and looking around. I aim to create an animation which takes on board what I have learned about industry practices and the skills I have developed throughout this course. My role in the project will primarily be 3D modeller and animator, to create an effective end product I will also include researching and developing concept art as part of my role.

Why my project is important?

I chose to focus on the topic of animation because I want to improve my skills in this area, a large focus of my project is developing natural-looking motion in animation. I believe that it is important for me to learn how to create convincing animation because poor-quality animation can break the illusion of life that the animation should be creating. The project is also important because animation is an area I would like to focus on in the future at University, so improving my skills and informing myself about industry practices can help make my progression into University smoother. Aside from these I also find animation fascinating, particularly the process of infusing something static with the spark of life.

My Research Plan

Table 3- My Research Plan

EXTENDED PROJECT – RESEARCH PLAN No of Words
Interest/Topic/Theme 150
I am interested in exploring the movements and the anatomy of animals. There will be a large emphasis on researching how these factors influence each other. I will consider how the body structures of various different animal types can influence their movements. I will look at media which contains animations of animals, such as games, films or TV shows. I will look at animation techniques used by popular animation studios to replicate natural animal movements. I am interested in working with animation as a primary focus due to my previous work in 3D where I found the process of changing a static model into a moving character a very gratifying experience. Due to this I would like to become more adept at animation and gain a stronger understanding of the fundamental processes as well as techniques which allow me to create more convincing, realistic movements.
Why is it important? – Importance 100
I believe this topic of research to be important as knowing how to develop convincing, realistic movement is vital to any form of animation. By researching this area I hope to expand my knowledge of a large variety of topics relevant to my specialist area. Examples of these include the basic principles of animation, as well as more advanced techniques animators use to creating convincing natural movements of characters such as Rotoscoped animation. Developing this type of realistic character movement is vital for making games which effectively engage an audience.
My research question(s) 100
These are some examples of questions which I will seek to answer during my research:

“What are the techniques involved in creating natural movement in animation?”

“How does body structure impact the way an animal moves?”

“What are the movement habits of quadrupedal creatures?”

“What are the processes involved in developing natural movements in animation?”

Research Design 100
For my project I will be conducting primary and secondary research into the anatomy of animals, the movements of animals and animation techniques used to replicate natural movement. To research the anatomy of creatures I will read literature on the topic and take Photographs of animals in person. To understand animal movements I will record video footage of animals and discuss my findings in writing. To learn more about animation techniques I will research animators and animation techniques used to replicate natural movements in their products. I will apply my research in practical experiments in 3DS Max. The target audience will be people who like animals and fans of animation.
Literature (Proposed Sources – Harvard Format)
William, R. (2001) The Animator’s Survival Kit. Publisher: Faber & Faber.

Whitaker, H. (1981) Timing for Animation. Publisher: Taylor & Francis.

Newton, P. (2016) Animation for Beginners: How to Animate a Four-Legged Animal Walking. Available at: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-animate-a-four-legged-animal-walking–cms-26789 (Accessed: 18/03/2017).

Miller, C. (2016) Animation for Beginners: How to Animating Four-Legged Beasts. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/169673/animating_fourlegged_beasts.php?print=1 (Accessed: 18/03/2017).

My Pitch

The two videos below are the audio of my pitch, during this pitch I presented the concept for my project as well as information such as the inspirations and target audience. The purpose of the pitch was to outline my idea for the project and afterwards discuss which aspects I should change or focus on during development. After presenting I received feedback for my project which will influence the direction of my project. Following my pitch I have been trying to approach the feedback I receive about my work in a different way. Instead of looking at critique as a flaw in the work I am trying to look at it as new perspectives on the work, and new directions that the work can take in the future. By thinking of it this way I am becoming more open-minded about how I can approach my work in the future and what to consider when working. By changing how I react to critique in this way I hope to create work of a higher quality than it otherwise would have been.

Here is the presentation which I used for the pitch, its main purpose was as something to refer to while talking, for instance the slide of animal images was a result of primary research conducted, the slide allowed me to discuss this during my pitch. It also served as a prompt for each topic I wished to cover during my pitch.

1234

Overall I was happy with how the presentation went, I was nervous pitching, however the feedback I received was useful to me and made me consider my options when developing the project. Going forward I will keep in mind the feedback I received, this feedback will affect the type of research I conduct and what the topics of this research are. This, in turn, will influence the final product of my project.

CHAPTER 2

Literature/Resources Review

Introduction

Animation is a popular, mainstream form of media, due to this I will have a wide pool of resources available to me for researching. Examples of these resources include movies, TV shows and games which can come in the form of either 2D or 3D animation. This chapter will cover the literature and resources I have used when researching animation for my Extended Project, as well as how these have influenced the development of my project. The chapter will begin with my Practitioner’s Report which looks at two influential animators and discusses who they are, the techniques they each used and how the two compare.

 

Practitioners Report

Introduction

In order to expand my knowledge on my specialist area I will be conducting research into animators. I will look at one early practitioner and one contemporary practitioner of animation. By doing this I hope to advance my knowledge of animation techniques and processes, as well as how they were applied to develop popular work. This knowledge will aid me in the future as I work on my Extended Project, which will likely incorporate some form of animation.

Early Practitioner of animation: Walt Disney

The early practitioner of animation I will be researching is Walt Disney, this man had an incomparable impact on the animation industry as a whole, and has made a lasting impact on cartoons and films made to this date. Walt Disney took his first step into the animation industry by getting a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio. Later, during an animation job at an advertising company he began experimenting with animation techniques. He experimented with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation and decided to open his own animation business (Walt Disney Biography, 2015). The video below displays this technique, as well as other processes necessary to the development of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937). Cel Animation can be seen in the video, it is the process of drawing on a transparent sheet which is placed atop the last frame of animation, this allows the artist to move the character an appropriate amount from their previous position. This allows for natural, flowing motions of characters which can be seen in all of Walt Disney’s cartoons.

After the rough drawings of each frame of motion the scenes are checked over to see if they are smoothly animated without any issues. If they are then they move onto the next step and redraw the frames in ink using tracing, and then fill them in with colour. The scenes which the characters are portrayed in are painted in watercolour, following this step the coloured ink cels of the characters are overlaid on the watercolour background and photographed individually until the final scenes are completed. That is a basic overview of how the characters go from simple sketches to fully coloured animations in beautiful scenes.

Disney1.jpg

Following his advertising job, Walt made a deal with a local Kansas City theater to screen his early cartoons. Following huge success Walt was able to acquire his own studio, called Laugh-O-Grams, the same name he used for his early cartoons. A few years later after having begun the Disney Brother’s Studio in Hollywood, Walt made the iconic cartoon Steamboat Willie (Steamboat Willie, 1928), which was notable for being one of the first cartoons to ever incorporate audio and was the first to introduce the iconic character’s Mickey Mouse and Minnie. This was an important step forward for cartoons as a whole due to its incredible popularity which lead to the future cartoons from Disney such as Silly Symphonies in 1929, which featured the characters; Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto (Walt Disney Biography, 2015).

Disney2.jpg

The character design of Mickey Mouse is relatively straightforward, as seen in the drawing above the design starts with a circle for the head with a line to establish perspective and a pear shape for the body. Perspective is also added by the difference in the sizes of the eyes, which are either side of the centre line. The overall design of Mickey Mouse is very rounded, which makes an easy-to-animate and child-friendly character. The colours were initially a simple black and white due to the technological limitations of the time, however even with these limitations the character design is still impactful due to the shading techniques and use of white-space. Advancing on from here we can see a newer iteration of Mickey which incorporates colour, the only colours added are a pale peach tone, yellow and red. The bright tones of red and yellow are contrasting and draw attention to the character, they are also bright colours which will appeal to the young demographic which Mickey is marketed to nowadays.

Disney3.png

Contemporary Practitioner of animation: Mariel Cartwright

The contemporary practitioner of animation I will be researching is Mariel Cartwright, she is a 2D animator who has worked on a wide variety of popular game titles. These titles include Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game (Ubisoft, 2010), Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Wayforward Technologies, 2016) and perhaps most notably Skullgirls (Reverge Labs, 2012) where she worked as the lead animator. She is currently working as lead animator, art director and head of story on the title Indivisible, which was a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Mariel’s journey into the animation industry began when she went to CalArts for character animation, she had initially tried to switch over to 3D toward the end as she thought it would help her get more jobs, however she was fortunate enough to work as a 2D animator over many projects. One such project was Skullgirls, which was an indie project lead by Alex Ahad and Mike Zaimont. As the lead animator Mariel worked with Jonathan Kim, splitting the animation work between them. The two of them made the rough animations of the characters’ movesets and then assigned these roughs to the animation team to have them finished and cleaned up. In the video below Mariel discusses many processes of animation used when developing Skullgirls.

The first point mentioned is how the silhouette of a character is important for how easily a viewer can understand what the character is doing, this is especially fundamental in a fighting game as both players have to be actively, quickly analysing what each character is doing. Having a strong silhouette to differentiate between character motions makes these quick observations far easier and results in a more appealing product. The next point refers to anticipation, the technique of giving a character a moment of windup as they begin their move, this helps make a move appear much more powerful. Richmond (2010) mentions how anticipation helps to “prepare the audience for the coming action” and that it “gives the sense that the character is thinking about what they’re doing”.  Another point discussed it the follow-through of motion, this is essentially any motion which is caused by the main action of the character, Richmond (2010) uses the animation depicted below as a good example of follow-through as the cape trails behind the movement of the character’s arm.

The next animation technique Mariel mentions is the creation of smears, these are the frames which appear on their own as blurred motion, but serve to add to the appearance of quick motion. This ties closely the technique of “breaking the body” which she mentions later, both of these processes can be used to make the overall animation appear smoother and more refined. In the video Animation Bootcamp: Overwatch: How A Hero Is Mei’d (2016) many examples of animation techniques are shown which Mariel also uses when animating, the interesting part about these techniques is that they aren’t applied to 3D animations as often as they are seen in a 2D format. This is because 3D models are typically fixed proportions, so breaking the rig of a model temporarily to add to the impact of a movement would be unconventional.

Another technique mentioned both by this video and Mariel’s presentation is overshoot, this is the technique of adding one or two frames of animation where the character is positioned slightly past where they are about to end up. This adds an impact to a motion as they don’t just abruptly stop, which makes them appear to move more realistically. Mariel applies this technique in Skullgirls, the technique is especially effective here as it is a fighting game, which means many of the motions have enough speed that slightly overshooting will help add a lot of impact.

Skullgirls1.png

When developing characters Mariel states that she uses Photoshop, both to draw the designs and to animate, though she also says “it’s really not made for animating”.  An example of a character from Skullgirls would be Ms. Fortune (pictured above), even at a glance the pose of the character causes it to have a very striking silhouette. The low, forward-leaning stance suggests an aggressive character, with the sharp ears, tail and claws helping to further suggest that the character is threatening. Overall the design is quite dark, continuing the idea that they are a threat. This is contrasted by the lighter tones in their design, such as the white hair, the blue of the eyes and top as well as the yellow bell. These bright aspects of the design contrast the more threatening aspects of the design, this juxtaposition suggests that they are a capable fighter, but may not have a dark or serious personality.

Here is an infographic which compares the processes, techniques and materials used by Walt Disney and Mariel Cartwright:

Animator Comparison.png

Evaluation and Reflection

Overall I found this to be a valuable way of practicing research techniques, it also helped me expand my knowledge regarding animation techniques and processes. In particular I found out information about the techniques used by Walt Disney and his co-workers to develop the earliest cartoons. I also researched animation techniques used by Mariel Cartwright, whilst looking into this I also researched their application in other modern games, such as Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment, 2016). Whilst looking at these animation techniques I also considered the visual design of a character that each had developed, looking in particular at how colour and shape convey meaning. The skills I have been researching will be very relevant to my Extended Project, which will involve some form of animation.

The Anatomy of Canines

In order to animate an animal I must first understand how it moves, to understand an animals movements I need to learn about its anatomy. For my project I am going to focus on quadrupeds, in particular canines such as dogs and wolves. To learn about the anatomy of canines I will be looking at two books, the first is titled The Encyclopedia of the Dog (Fogle, 1995), and the second is called Dog Anatomy (Goody, 1997). By reading these I hope to learn specifically about the joint movements and the key muscles involved in canine movement.

There are many distinct features of the anatomy of canines, in regards to their limbs the forelegs are notably different from the rear legs. The forelegs or Wolves, for example, are very sturdy. “The radius and ulna bones are “locked” in position. This inability to rotate the forelimbs gives superb stability when running.” (1995, p.11), this is important for me to consider when modelling and animating as I need to replicate this to develop a realistic project. According to Fogle (1995, p.10) the joints of the rear legs are flexible and provide bursts of power and endurance.

Fogle (1995, p.39) later describes the skeletal structure of canines, mentioning that canine bones are joined together at cartilaginous joints, allowing the limbs to act as shock absorbers. The Hock is a distinctive joint on the lower half of the rear limbs, this joint gives canine rear legs a unique shape and helps with both shock absorption and quick bursts of movement. The rear legs are notably different from humans in that they bend in the opposite direction to the legs of humans. The forelegs of canines aid with stabilisation and are less powerful than the rear legs, the carpus and metacarpus bones give the paws a wrist-like movement, allowing them to rotate their fore paws up and down much more freely than they can rotate their rear paws. This is notable when canines walk as the front paws rotate in a distinct manner between steps.

According to Goody (1997, pp.20-22) “Lacking a collar bone allows the scalpula to have more mobility”, he goes on to say that this can be “thought of as the uppermost component of the limb skeleton”. In other words they are saying that the shoulders of dogs are more flexible than those of humans, which allows the shoulder to act as a continuation of the forelimb rather than a mostly static bone connecting the limbs to the torso. This is important because it allows the forelegs to act as better shock absorbers and propel the animal forward more efficiently. Goody (1997, p.21) writes that the “Humeroulnar articulation is the major ‘stabilizing component’ restricting elbow movement to a single plane – flexation and extension.” in other words this means that the elbow-like joint on the forelimbs keep the legs from rotating freely, which stabilises their movements when running.

Goody (1997, p.22) later discusses the structure of canine paws, they write about the unique shaping of the digits and how they are angled. They mention that in a normal standing position the angles of the digits are quite unique, they write that “The digits are therefore not splayed out flat as many skeletal drawings and museum preparations would have us believe.” (Goody, 1997, p.22). This can be seen in the image above which shows how the skeletal structure of canine digits are at an angle of approximately 90 degrees from the ground rather than flat as we may expect. The skeletal structure isn’t immediately apparent because of the shaping of the paw which cushions the bones from impact with padding.

By researching the anatomy of canines I have familiarised myself with some of their more unique aspects, especially those most related to the movement of their legs. In summary I have learned about how the leg joints move, what makes canine legs different to those of other animals, what impact their unique bone structure has on their movements and how the bone structure of their paws is more complex than might be assumed. Learning about these various topics helps me to understand what makes canine movement unique and what their limbs allow them to do or stop them from doing. These are important to bear in mind when creating a 3D model because I need to strive to develop a realistic replica.

The Animator’s Survival Kit

The Animator’s Survival Kit (Williams, 2001) is a comprehensive guide to the various aspects of animation. By reading this book I hope to familiarise myself with the more intricate techniques and what I should be bearing in mind when I develop animated work. I will begin by looking at more general concepts and then I will move to more specific process which tie closest to my upcoming work.

The first concept discussed in the book is drawing in time, this is the idea that still drawings in sequence with appropriate spacing between them can create the illusion of life. The key to this is the timing of the animation, Williams (2001, p.36) discusses this in the context of an animated ball bouncing from left to right. The image below is a visual example of this concept from the book, the timing is the amount of time between the key actions in the animation, for example the time between bounces of a ball. The spacing is the distance covered by the subject between each still, when moving slowly at the peak of the bounce the ball will have a lot of overlap, but when moving at its fastest near the impact there will be more space between the stills. Timing and spacing are key because they display movement in a way that makes sense to our minds. When seeing animations the timing and spacing affect how we perceive the movements, if the image below was turned into an animation the ball would appear to move slowest at the peak height because there is the smallest spacing between subsequent stills, it would appear to move faster near the impact of the first bounce because the images are further away from each other, giving the illusion that the ball has covered a larger amount of distance in the same amount of time.

Timing and Spacing.png

The next topic covered is the distinction between four different types of stills; extremes, inbetweens, breakdowns and keys (2001, pp.36-39). The two which tie closest together are the extremes and the inbetweens, extremes are the main positions of the subject during actions, such as where an arm starts and ends when a person points. In this example the extremes are the arm before pointing and the arm when it has ended its movement and it is now fully pointing. The inbetweens are the frames between the extremes, so in this example the movement of the arm towards a pointing position would be the inbetweens. Breakdowns are the midpoints between extremes, they are also referred to as the passing position, an example of a breakdown would be the midpoint of an arc of motion, even though it isn’t the start or end of the movement like an extreme it is still important to be aware of, the breakdown shows how the animation should move between the extremes. In a five frame animation of an arc of movement the order would go; extreme, inbetween, breakdown, inbetween, extreme. If there were more frames showing the same movement there would simply be more inbetweens between the extremes and the breakdown. The key drawings are the ones which show what’s happening in a given shot, they display the central actions in a scene. They are less common than extremes which display the start and ends of individual movements.

One of the most relevant topics in this book to my project in particular is about walks, the part discusses the intricacies in a person’s movements when walking. Though my project will be focused on animal movements this will still provide invaluable and I will be able to consider this information in the context of a four-legged creature. To open Williams (2001, PP.102-119) describes walking as the act of falling and catching ourselves over and over, when moving slowly we are more balanced and when walking quickly we are more out of balance. He describes walking as a cycle of step, catch, step, catch on repeat. One important point he makes about walks is that all walks are different, he says “No two people in the world walk the same”. With that in mind there are still many key aspects of walking which are prevalent, for instance when walking people typically bob up and down. This ties to the concept of building and releasing potential energy which also relates to how he earlier described walking as a controlled fall. When our legs pass each other we are at our tallest, at this point we have the most potential energy stored, following this we lean forwards into the walk, speeding up slightly. As we dip down we expend the energy and gravity does the work of moving us more swiftly, this is the point of the walk where the person is lowest and the legs are furthest apart.

A walk cycle can be split into a few parts for the purpose of animation, contact is the name of the part where the forward foot hits the ground, following this is the lowest point which we can call down, then the passing position where the legs pass each other, afterwards comes the up which is the highest position in the cycle and then the contact of the other foot. The image below is an example from the book which displays this cycle in an annotated, visual format.

Walk Cycle.png

At the end of this chapter Williams (2001, P.163) summarises some points about how to add vitality to a walk. Examples include leaning the body during the walk, using straight legs on contact and push off positions, as well as twisting aspects of the body such as the hips and shoulders. Some points about timing include the idea of delaying parts so not everything is working together at the same time, using counteraction to offset the main movement of the limbs and tipping the head or making it go back and forth to add more movement. I chose to focus on these particular points as I feel they can be translated the best into quadrupedal movement. Secondary actions in the animation can do a lot to improve the realism of motion, when developing my final piece I must consider both the technical aspects of the main motion as well as the less central aspects which help add vitality to the movements.

The last chapter I will cover is titled “Animal Action”, it covers the ways different animals move and how this differs to human motion. Williams (2001, pp.327-332) mentions that animal movement is like two sets of human legs, just slightly out of phase. This is important because it means the previous topic of human walks can be translated to suit quadrupedal motion. He mentions that in four-legged movements there are two main extremes due to how the weight must be distributed during a walk, the first is with the pelvis raised and the back legs passing while the chest is lowered with the forward legs just contacting the floor, at this point the head is also lowered alongside the chest. The other extreme is the opposite, the pelvis is down with the back legs contacting the floor, the chest is raises and the front legs are in the pass position, once again the head follows the movement of the chest meaning it is raised as well. During the walk cycle the spine twists side to side following the forwards and backwards motion of the spine. In this section it is also noted that the Muybridge Photos are extremely useful for figuring out the motions of various animals, they are multiple series of photos of the animals from a side view in front of a grid, the photos are taken in sequence to illustrate the most important frames of the movement.

Overall I found this book to be an invaluable resource, it is something I will likely refer back to later in the project. By researching this book I have learned more about the fundamentals of animating a character, as well as the most in depth intricacies of animation and what is important to consider. Related to my project in particular I learned about movement patterns in human walks as well as how these change when it is instead a quadrupedal animal walking. When I work on animating in the future I will bear in mind what I have learned from this book, especially the reference to the Muybridge photos as a resource when animating animals.

The Illusion of Life

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (Thomas and Johnston, 1981) is an expansive book covering a large variety of techniques and processes involved in early animation. When writing about this book I will be focusing on the areas most closely linked to my upcoming practical work, this includes animation techniques, use of colour, and animating animal movement. By researching these I hope to gain more insight about techniques and considerations which I can apply to my 3D animation work.

Colour is an important consideration for any visual medium, for animation it can give the audience a good sense of a character in a very short amount of time. It can have a broad range of effects such as indicating location, personality or even a character’s purpose in the story. In order to explore this subject I will be analysing the chapter which covers the use of color in animation (Thomas and Johnston, 1981, pp.268-274), within this chapter they discuss the importance of colour, stating that “The delineation of any personality almost starts with the color” (1981, p.269), on the same page they write about how each individual character has colours that suit the type of personality they have. When choosing colours for a character the artist must also consider the colours of any other characters as well as the scene itself, certain colours are bad for this such as solid black which has a tendency to “blend into the darker areas of the backgrounds” (1981, p.271). On the same topic of the relation between character colours and background colours, they write that “If the picture is designed to be realistic, bright colours on the character will be a problem” (1981, p.271), this is because the colours of a character limit the options for background colours meaning this must always be a consideration when developing a scene.

The next chapter I will be looking at covers the topic of animal animation, within this chapter the writers discuss what makes an animated animal “real”. “When we say ‘real,’ we mean only what the audience accepts as being real, for obviously a real animal cannot act or emote as broadly as animators require.” (1981, p.332) this is an important consideration for my project, I will need to consider if I intend to aim for realistic movement, perhaps based off of a video of real animal movement, or if I want to create more of a caricature of an animal. The former would be more straightforward, and I believe it would align better with the initial aim of my project. The latter would give me more freedom of options when it comes to developing movement and may give the character more appeal, however it strays a bit from my initial aims. I believe focusing on realistic motion would be more valuable for me to learn at this stage so I will aim to focus on that type of animal movement. Later in the chapter the writers talk about the importance of studying the animal itself rather than just looking at drawings or animations of the creature. They suggest looking at the animals skeletal structure, getting a sense of the animal’s structure and discerning what makes this animal different from other animals (1981, p.332). I have done this type or research previously when I looked in depth at the anatomy of Canines, with a focus on what makes them unique and how their movements are influenced by their unique anatomy.

In the same chapter the writers discuss Rotoscoping as a method which can allow an animator to capture precise movements that might otherwise be too complex to animate (1981 p.339). Rotoscoping is the process of drawing each frame based off of a still image or figure, for instance an animator could take a video of an animal and then redraw each frame to create a very realistic animation. For my project I will try Rotoscoping as a method of animating real animal movements, the relatively long process will also allow me to analyse the intricacies of animal movements, in particular the motions of the limbs and any unique movement patterns. On the following page they discuss body language of animals, in relation to my project the tail and ears will be an important indicator of attitude. They write “Tails can do much to show the mood of an animal. They can give a perky feeling, or show dejection, or affection. They should not rest on the ground without a reason. They must have life too.” (1981, p.340). By bearing in mind the movements of the ears and tail I hope to make the personality of the subject of my animation more apparent.

The topic of four-legged movement is one which pertains to the core of my project, in the chapter focusing on walk cycles the writers dedicate a section to four-legged movement. The writers discuss their experience studying animal movements and trying to understand them in order to recreate them in animation, they say that when analysing the movements they found that “There was actually more stretch and squash than we could use” (1981, p.354), mostly seen in the upper and lower parts of the legs, in the haunches and in the toes. What this means is that the most exaggerated part of a four-legged animal’s movement tends to be in the legs, this is most noticeable when the leg squashes as the animal puts weight on it and then stretches as they put the leg forward for the next step. One point they wrote about four-legged movement which I had not particularly considered before is the idea that the way an animal walks varies depending on circumstance, animals speed up, slow down, vary their leg pattern and their movements depend on their purpose (1981, p.354). What this means is that I need to consider the circumstance of my animation, even if it is something as simple as a straightforward walk on flat terrain, I should still consider the impact this has on the walk. Here is a video which displays the 12 principles of animation in a visual format.

 

 

Overall I learned a great deal from the parts of this book I focused on, I learned about how colour can define a character, and how the surroundings and other characters must always be a consideration when deciding on a colour palette. When researching animal animations I considered whether I should focus on realistic movement or exaggerated movement, I decided that developing a realistic product would be more beneficial to me at my level of skill as I would learn more by trying to adhere to real-life motions. The same chapter also gave me some insight about methods for learning about the anatomy of animals. Following this I learned that Rotoscoping proved to be a valuable process of animation when it came to the movements of animals with complex features. I also looked into how animals display their attitudes, the ears and tail can give a strong sense of mood by themselves so I must not neglect them when animating. When reading about four-legged movements I learned that the main areas of an animal which stretch and squash are the legs, particularly when taking steps and placing weight on them. Finally I learned that I should consider the circumstance of the movements, everything from the terrain to the animal’s intent can affect the way the walk looks. All in all this task has proven to be a good source of considerations when working, most of this was focused on realism as well as conveying the animal’s personality and mood.

How to Become a Video Game Artist

Having previously researched animation techniques in the context of 2D animation, I will now research in the context of 3D animation. To do this I will be looking at the book How to Become a Video Game Artist (Kennedy, S. 2013), by reading this book I hope to expand my knowledge of animation techniques with a focus on processes which are unique to 3D animation. I will also continue to look at ways to develop natural-looking animations, with an emphasis on bodily movement.

Kennedy (2013, p.93) states that procedural animation is a somewhat automated animation, the animator might set outside forces acting upon an object, such as wind affecting a flag, the program will automatically calculate a realistic movement based upon the situation. This can also be applied to a controllable player character, perhaps the character has a tail which is affected by the movement of the rest of the character’s body, this can be automated by the program to generate natural movement. In the context of my project I could apply procedural animation in the form of fur on a model of an animal. The fur’s movement would be automatically generated and it would add secondary motion to the character which adds a sense of realism to the movement.

To develop interesting animations there are several principles of animation which should be considered. Kennedy (2013, p.95) writes that these can be broken down into two categories; the principles for creating realistic motion and the principles for creating appeal. My main focus will be on the principles which apply to creating realistic movement, as this is a large focus of my project, these principles apply to “the simplest and most restrictive animations, like cyclic walks and runs” (2013, p.95). This applies very well to my intentions starting this project as I have started with the idea of creating a walk cycle for an animal. The other type of principles pertain more to making a character’s movements more appealing, although this will not be my main focus I will also see what I can apply to my project from this.

First I will look at the principles which aid in creating realistic movement, the first principle mentioned is Squash and Stretch, this is the effect of something quite literally squashing and stretching during its movements. An example would be a bouncing ball hitting the floor, when the ball impacts the floor it compresses down, it then stretches as it expands and rebounds. This idea can be applied to more complex forms than just a ball though, as a human leaps their body will stretch out, as they land their body compresses down into a more compact pose. The next principle is anticipation, this is what a character does just before their main action, for instance a person bringing their fist back before a punch. Kennedy (2013, p.96) writes that “anticipation clues the audience in as to what is about to happen. The bigger the anticipation, the bigger the audience’s expectations of the forthcoming action.”. At the opposite end of an animation is follow-through, this is the concept that after an action the body does not stop moving instantaneously. To look more realistic a character must appear that it adheres to the laws of Physics which can be displayed by the character slowing their movements rather than instantaneously stopping.

 

On the topic of delayed secondary action Kennedy (2013, p.97) states that “During any action, not all body parts will move at the same rate, and they certainly won’t finish at the same time.”. This is good for me to consider when working on my project as their will be various aspects of the creature moving, such as the fur, tail, ears and the limbs. The differently timed movements of these parts can help to make the movement appear more realistic. Arcs of motion are the next principle I will cover, these are essentially the lines of motion during an action, movements of limbs have flowing arcs of motion as they move through the same pattern. Arcs of motion can help movements to look less robotic by making the motion smoother and less stilted. Slow in and slow out is the next principle covered, Kennedy (2013, p.98) writes that “Natural motion has acceleration and deceleration – every move begins and end slower than the pace of the action in the middle.”, in order to develop natural movements they need to appear to have some weight to them, which slow in and slow out helps with. Balance is the last principle, it covers the idea that during an animation the character will need to balance themselves to appear realistic, this may come in the form of arms swinging forward alongside the opposite side leg to counter-balance the movement, or if a character were throwing a ball the throwing arm would go backwards and the other arm would move forward to balance the body.

Those were all of the principles which contribute to developing a realistic, natural animation, however there are still more principles which aid in creating appeal. The timing of an action can inform the audience about a character, maybe the character is large and slow, or small and fast. Weight ties closely to timing, “Objects and characters that are more heavy move more slowly than light ones, unless they are falling.”, this can be communicated by adding more frames when heavier objects are moved. Exaggeration is a principle which moves the character away from realism, but allows for them to be more expressive. Exaggerated movements must still be realistic to an extent to convince the audience, but if done right it can make a character much more appealing. Solid drawing is the principle which suggests that each pose must be readable, the stills of any animation should make it obvious what the character is doing. Appeal is the final principle, this is simply the concept that a good idea for an action can make it interesting, and an interesting action is much more appealing than an ordinary action.

Overall learning about how these principles of animation can be applied to my work will help me greatly in the future, knowing how each principle of animation gives a different effect will help me chose how to focus when animating. In particular understanding which principles make movements appear more realistic and which aid in increasing appeal is important as I will be focusing on the former. Knowing more about procedural animation and how this can help create more secondary action is also important, as my project may involve procedural animation in the form of fur.

Drawing Basics and Video Game Art

In order to develop effective visual work I need to learn about the meaning behind key elements such as shape and colour. To research this I will read Drawing Basics and Video Game Art (Solarski, C, 2012) and analyse my findings. After gaining a more solid understanding of the formal elements I will then discuss how I can apply these in my work. By understanding the connotations of visual aspects such as shapes and colours I will be able to to incorporate them into my work to evoke certain moods or feelings, which will in turn make my work more impactful.

I will start by looking at the meanings of different shapes and how this can be applied to design. Solarski (2012) writes that there is a common theme of “rounded versus angular elements” in visual design, for instance many designs incorporate some combination of circular shapes, square shapes and triangular shapes, with each having its own different meanings. Circular shapes tend to have connotations of positivity and safety, when made part of a character’s design they can mean the character is energetic and non-threatening. Square shapes tend to represent “strength and stability” (2012, p.180), these can in turn make the design evoke feelings of safety. When used in character designs they can make the character appear solid and stable. Triangular designs tend to be aggressive and threatening, sometimes also representing speed. Angular designs are typically used to convey that characters are an enemy of some sort or simply that they are dangerous or fast.

According to Solarski (2012, p.224) “Color can communicate emotions in a very primal way.”. Colours can be broken down into several categories, for instance red, blue and yellow are primary colours, and green, orange and purple are their respective complementary colours. This is significant because of the effect of using complimentary colours in design, when an image contrasts its background then it is far more impactful. This can be used to attract the viewer’s eye to important areas of an image. Colours can also be categorised as warm or cold, warm colours include red and yellow, whereas cold colours include blues and greens. The colours can also be put on a scale from light to dark, by applying colours with this in mind an image can evoke certain emotions. The left image below show a character in an area filled with warm, light colours. To contrast this the right image is the character in an area filled with dark, cold colours which are considered complimentary colours to the character’s colour palette. This means that the character stands out from their surroundings far more.

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Solarski (2012, p.162) writes that “The value key is the proportion of lights to darks in an image.”, in real life we generally see a mixture of lighter and darker values, however media such as games and films can manipulate this in order to create unique effects. A high-key scene full of light colours has strong connotations of positivity, to further this dark object can be made more prominent by most of an image appearing light due to the contrast. Soft-lighting and shadowless environments are common in children’s games because they create a “soft and surreal feeling” (Solarski, 2012, p.162). This does have the drawback that a missing shadows can make the image lack depth. In order to create more tension and a more ominous feeling a scene can feature low-key lighting, with colours towards the darker end of the value scale.

The position of the camera with regards to a character can have an effect on how the audience connects with both the character and the environment. In gaming the way a scene is framed is often dynamic, but the camera is still used as a way of influencing how the player feels about a scene. According to Solarski (2012, p.146) action can be framed in a close-up, medium or long shot. Close-ups of a character can be used to help viewer’s establish “an intimate connection with the subjects on-screen.” (Solarski, 2012, p.147), whereas shots which are further away from the subject will put more of an emphasis on the environment. For my project I could apply a relatively close camera to help establish a connection with the animal, as the surrounding environment is not a focus of my project.

By researching these topics I have learned about some of the core ways I can achieve certain emotional effects purely by visuals alone. The shape of objects bring with them strong connotations, if I wish to have my model convey certain themes then I will have to utilise shape theory during development. Colour is also an important factor of my project, I must consider the connotations of various colours as well as how I could apply effects such as contrast. On a similar note, I will likely use a high key of light as I wish to develop positive work without connotations of threat or danger, if I wish for my design to be appealing and non-threatening then I could make use of warm, light colours with soft shadows. The last topic I covered was how a scene is framed, I would most likely use a close-to medium shot as the character is the main draw to my work, not the environment.

 

Stylised Visuals in Gaming

 

Following on from my research into visual design I will now research games which incorporate stylised visuals in order to see how I could apply this to my work. The aim of this task is to see what makes the styles of these games unique and impactful, I will also consider how this could benefit my project. Based off of my findings here I will experiment with visual styles in a future research task.

 

The first game I will look at is The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker (Nintendo EAD, 2002), this game is iconic for its visual style and is one of the most popular games which incorporates this type of style. The style I am referring to is called Cel shading, this visual style is designed to make characters and environments which look more like cartoons or comics. When using this style the subjects appear less photorealistic, however this does come with several benefits; for one the style is very timeless, as graphical quality in games improved there is a shifting standard for what is truly photorealistic and designs can be held back by insufficient technology. This contrasts to the less realistic cel shaded designs which don’t aim to push the limits of the available technology. Another benefit of this type of style is that it makes the subject much more appealing, the light tones and large blocks of colour make the scene appear more impactful. This is especially effective with younger audiences who are much less interested in gritty photorealism.

 

 

 

The next game I will be looking at is Borderlands (Gearbox Software, 2009) this game uses a similar visual style to the previous game, but takes it a slightly different direction, choosing not to use as many bright colours and instead aiming for more of a drawn look. The reason for this is the difference is audience, The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker (2002) aims to appeal to a wide audience which includes young children, meaning they want to incorporate brighter and softer colours. Borderlands (2009) has guns and violence, so doesn’t aim for a young audience and leans towards a slightly more realistic, but still stylised appearance. Borderlands (2009) creates its drawn look by applying outlines to the characters, objects and environments, this is something worth considering for my project because this type of drawn style would appeal to fans of traditional animation, and this group is a part of my target audience.

The final game I will be looking at here is Okami (Clover Studios, 2006), this game takes the previous style of adding outlines to the world to the next level, the developers aimed to create a world which has an ink brush style, resulting in visuals which look like a painting when displayed as a still image. A large part of the reasoning behind this style is because the style relates to the cultures displayed within the game, that being said the end result of the work is unique, colourful and impactful which makes it a visual style worth considering for my project. Okami (2006) combines the effects from the previous two games mentioned by utilising both bright colours and impactful outlines, because of this I will experiment with similar visual styles to see if I can create a similar effect in the future.

To summarise; I looked at games which have unique and impactful visual styles, by doing this I considered which aspects would be most appropriate for my project and how these visuals would appeal to my target audience. My audience would include a wide range of ages, meaning that brighter colours will help the project to appeal to those of a younger age. By incorporating some kind of outline effect in my work I will be able to develop visuals which are reminiscent of traditional animations, this also applies to my target audience which includes fans of animation. Moving forward from here I will experiment with similar styles to see how I can apply what I have learnt here in a practical format.

 

How are animals portrayed in gaming?

 

In order to develop an animation which accurately depicts an animal in motion I must look at both real animals and animals in media. As I am developing an animation which would be for a game I will primarily focus on how animals are portrayed in gaming. The three games I will be looking at are Tokyo Jungle (Crispy’s, 2012), Okami (Clover Studios, 2006) and The Last Guardian (Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2016). By looking at these games I hope to gain insight into how the animals move and I hope to be able to apply this knowledge to my final animation.

The first game I will be looking at is Tokyo Jungle (2012), for the most part the animals are depicted in a relatively realistic fashion. Most of the animations are true to the real world animals, such as the walks and the idles, the game moves away from a realistic depiction of the animals during combat where the movements are exaggerated and paired with bright particle effects. The use of exaggerated movements and bright particle effects contrasts with the otherwise realistic, gloomy atmosphere. I feel that this helps to emphasise how strange and unique the premise of the game is. For my animation I could exaggerate movements and accompany them with bright effects, but I feel that by developing animation more grounded in reality I might learn more about the process as a whole.

 

 

The second game I will be looking at is Okami (2006), this game has an extremely unique style, forgoing realism in exchange for a style which looks like a moving painting. This is another game where the playable character has a mixture of realistic and exaggerated movements. Similarly to before the game accompanies the exaggerated movements with bright particle effects. One of the things I find interesting in this game is how the game conveys the main character’s personality without any dialogue from them, it is displayed purely through body language and action. When working on my animation I will consider how I could possibly convey a sense of the subject’s character without audio.

 

 

The final game I will be looking at here is The Last Guardian (2016), something that I immediately noticed about Trico’s movements is that they carry a large amount of weight. This is in part because of the size of the creature, but I feel that the motions appear more realistic because of the way the creature very obviously adheres to the laws of physics when moving. This makes the creature feel much more real as it appears to have weight, Trico’s body doesn’t instantly start or stop moving which helps to immerse the audience, the existence of this creature becomes more realistic as it obeys the laws of our world.

 

 

To summarise; each of these games represents animals in different ways, and I can learn about how to portray animals differently from each. Tokyo Jungle (2012) mostly sticks to realism, but uses exaggerated movements and particle effects to add to the action of the game, I would probably avoid using these types of effects as I am aiming to create realistic animation rather than exaggerated animation. I found the way Okami (2006) conveyed the character of Amaterasu interesting, their body language and movements help to show the audience what the creature is feeling and thinking. The Last Guardian (2016) creates realistic movement by adding weight to the movements of Trico, this helps immerse the audience as it becomes more believable that the character could exist. I could incorporate body language and movements which convey weight in order to display personality and create a sense of realism in my work.

 

 

CONCLUSION

Who/what was my inspiration? Contextualisation of my study

My project has been heavily influenced by animation studios such as Disney, and game studios such as Reverge Labs. Their depictions of characters and creatures lead me to look into the topic of animating animals. I decided that I would like to animate a quadruped, so I did extensive research into animation techniques, both 3D and 2D, I also researched anatomy as this is crucial for animating any living creature. Okami (Clover Studios, 2006) is a game which had a large impact on the direction of this project, the visuals are extremely impactful and unique, so I would like to create a project which evokes a similar response. I find Amaterasu’s bright, stylised visual style very appealing, leading me to experiment with developing 3D work in a similar style. To develop my project I will require a camera to record animal movements, and a computer which is capable of running programs for developing both 2D and 3D work.

 

CHAPTER 3

Research Design

Introduction

In this chapter I will discuss the various research methods I will undertake during this project, I will also consider what I can learn from the different methods. When researching I will be attempting to answer certain research questions which are covered later in the chapter. By answering these questions I hope to gain a more solid understanding of my specialist area of animation in preparation for the creation of my final piece.

Research Questions

During my extended project I will be conducting research on the topics animal anatomy, movements and animation techniques. My aim in researching these topics is to gain a better understanding of how to recreate realistic movements in a virtual format. The final piece of work will be a product of my research; an animated animal with natural movements. When researching these topics I will focus on several specific questions which I first outlined in my research plan earlier in this document. These are questions which I will be aiming to answer when I conduct my research:

“What are the techniques involved in creating natural movement in animation?”

To answer this I will research existing animations and the animation techniques they used, by answering this I hope to take on board some knowledge of animation techniques which I can employ when developing the final animation.

“How does body structure impact the way an animal moves?”

When researching this I hope to understand aspects of body structure such as the movement of joints for particular animals so I don’t create an unrealistic body structure in my final work.

“What are the movement habits of quadrupedal creatures?”

By researching this I hope to find out the quirks of movements of certain quadrupeds, for instance the order of leg movement, and how the head moves when walking.

“What are the processes involved in developing natural movements in animation?”

By answering this question I hope to learn what processes professional animators use when developing natural movements in animation, an example for this could be Rotoscoping.

Research Design Evolution

 

 

In order to develop my project in a meaningful way I have conducted various primary research tasks. When researching I have two main aims, the first is to gather resources such as photos and videos of animals, these will help me as I can ground my project more in reality and study my findings. The other main aim is to improve my relevant skills, I will be conducting experiments in various formats to develop my practical skills and learn about new techniques which can help me to develop my final piece of work. By completing these primary research tasks I hope to be able to develop a higher quality end product which is based off of real world animals.

 

Canterbury Research Outing

For my project I am interested in researching the body structures of animals, the poses they adopt, and how they move around. In order to properly understand these features it is extremely important to look at real-life animals. To do this I walked around Canterbury as part of a group, we observed any animals we could in the city and took photos and videos of them. By doing this I could gain resources to reference in the future when working on the practical elements of my project. The animals we observed were dogs, goats and birds.

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This slideshow contains several images of animals which were Photographed during our group primary research. We had a large focus on quadrupeds, but we also collected images of birds to observe different body structures and movement patterns. When observing the body structure of various types of dogs and goats we can see that the hind legs are thicker than the front legs as the limbs approach the torso. We can also observe that the limbs have different joints to humans, giving them a unique movement style. Due to the quadrupedal form, these animals are mostly quite low-set, having torsos that are vertically short, but horizontally long. To contrast this, the bird photos display a bipedal form, their bodies are oriented more vertically and their heads are set high on their torsos. Their legs are less pronounced than those of quadrupeds like dogs, this is due to the lowered reliance on ground travel for birds compared to dogs and goats. I found observing the body structures of creatures to be quite interesting, in particular I am intrigued by the limb structure of dogs and similar quadrupeds.

In the video above are recordings of animal movements, the ones displayed in this video are goats and birds. In the goat recordings we can observe them walking to their pen, from this we can gather that the goats walk by moving the legs one at a time, with no legs moving synchronously. The goats also alternated between moving frontal legs and hind legs to walk. In comparison, the bird movements were more straightforward as they were bipedal. When they walked I noticed two characteristics of their movements, first was that they lean to the side with each step, causing them to waddle when they move. The second thing I noticed was that the bird head bobbed forwards with each step, unlike the goats who had comparatively stable head movements.

From this primary research I have been able to observe the body structure and movements of some bipedal creatures and some quadrupedal creatures. I have been able to observe the movement patterns of these creatures and compare how their differing body types and leg structures affect how they move. For example; goats walk by moving one leg at a time, with no synchonised leg movements, they also retain a relatively stable overall body motion due to the amount of limbs they have. In contrast, Pigeons have more top-heavy forms with two short legs, which causes them to sway as they walk. These observations will help me because if I animate an animal of some sort for my final project I must be aware of their movement patterns.

 

Wildwood Research Outing

I conducted primary research by visiting the animal conservation park Wildwood, while I was there I took photographs and video footage of a variety of animals. I focused mainly on quadrupedal animals, such as Wolves and Lynxes. When recording video footage I aimed to record from a side-on view which would allow me to easily observe their mannerisms when walking. The main aim of gathering these photos and videos was to have material to reference, in particular I can use the videos as reference for animation. Below are some of the photographs I took during the day at Wildwood.

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While at Wildwood I focused on taking photos of quadrupeds, I was interested in comparing the body structure and movements of similar creatures, such as Wolves and Arctic Foxes. I also captured video footage, when recording I tried to view the animals from a side-on perspective, I did this so I could easily analyse their movement patterns when walking. These video recordings can be seen below.

The video above mostly consists of side-on videos of animals walking, the aim of taking side-on footage was that the walk patterns of the animals become much more clear. This will benefit me greatly when I try to animate animal motion because I will have a better understanding of how their limbs move. From the footage taken it is easy to see movement patterns of different animals as well as how the joints of the limbs move and how this differs between species, during my final piece of work it will be important for me to understand what is unique about the way my animal of choice walks.

Overall this has proven to be a great way of gathering resources, the wide variety of creatures at Wildwood allowed me to gather footage and compare the movements of different animals. The photos and videos will aid me in future practical tasks as I will have reference material for animation work, by observing the animals and then animating its movements I will hopefully solidify my understanding of their movement patterns.

 

Rotoscoping

To better understand the movements of quadrupeds I decided to try Rotoscoping one based off of my Wildwood footage. Rotoscoping is the practice of drawing over individual frames of video footage, it is a process used in the industry when realistic motion is required, especially for complex scenes. I will be applying Rotoscoping as a way of improving my understanding of how a wolf walks, the footage I will reference is all of a wolf walking from a side-on perspective. By trying this process I hope to learn more about both the movement patterns of wolves and animating as a whole.

My first attempt with Rotoscoping was a simple seven frame looping animation developed digitally. This experiment initially proved quite tough, I needed to convert the footage into still-images with even spacing between which would result in a cyclical animation. I believe that the animation does appear to loop nicely, however from feedback I received the animation is said to be quite “jumpy” because of the low frame rate and how much the images move between frames. Overall I was still very happy with this as a first foray into Rotoscoping and I learned a lot about the process.

My second attempt with Rotoscoping was designed as a way of building on my previous experiment, I took industry frame rates into consideration because of the critique I received. After researching possible frame rates I decided upon a 1 second animation at 24 frames-per-second, as this is a common frame rate used in animation. I quickly realised how much more work was required to develop smooth animation, the previous animation was a full, cyclical animation of a walk in 7 frames, however this new animation was not a full cycle in 24 frames because of how little the wolf moved between each frame. With that in mind I still believe this second animation is an improvement on the last animation because of how much smoother the animation appears. After receiving feedback of both animations people enjoyed the second animation much more because of how much nicer it was to look at.

By completing this experiment I also was able to consider the patterns of movement of the wolf I was animating. One of the most noticable features of this wolf’s walk is the way the front paws fold backward when they are lifted into the air, this is considerably different to the rear legs which are relatively static during the walk. During the walk the wolf’s head bobs slightly, when observing the clip it is possible to notice that the head lowers when the front legs are farthest from each other, this is because the chest is at its lowest point here, which in turn lowers the head. This can be compared to when the front legs pass each other, here it can be seen that the chest and head are at their highest point, this is because the front leg which is touching the ground is completely vertical which pushes the rest of the torso up. The same happens with the rear legs and the hind of the wolf which raises when the rear legs pass each other. With regards to limb ordering, it appears that for this wolf a rear limb is lifted forward to take a step, followed very shortly afterwards by the forelimb of the same side. Based on this it appears that the wolf has at least 1 leg and at most 2 legs in the air at any time, though this could vary based on the individual wolf and the speed of the walk.

Overall this task proved to be a great way for me to learn about industry animation techniques and practices, it also served as a good way for me to analyse the movement pattern of a wolf when it is walking due to how clear the outline style was. By doing this I also gained more respect for how long the process of animation can be, my experiments were simple outline drawings only intended to display movement clearly, and yet they still took me a relatively long time for such a short duration. Moving forward I will be able to apply what I have learned about animation techniques and animal movement to my final piece, the Rotoscoping animations can even serve as references for my final work alongside footage of wolves.

 

Material Experiments

In order to create an animation which is visually appealing I need to consider what materials or textures I should use for the model. Following my research into colour, lighting and stylised visuals I am aiming for create a model with soft lighting and light colours. I also wish to create a simplistic, impactful and bright design which would appeal to younger audiences. Considering this I have experimented with several material options for creating this type of effect, the first is a “Falloff” material, the second is an “Ink ‘n’ Paint” material and the last is also an “Ink ‘n’ Paint” material with an outline this time.

The Falloff material is the first material I tried, the effect is very similar to the other materials in that it makes the model appear less three-dimensional. This is due to the softer shadows and the fact that the darker areas of the model are a different shade from the lighter areas rather than a subtle gradient. The shadows are slightly harsher than the shadows in the other renders, so I may move away from using this technique in the future.

This is the first Ink ‘n’ Paint material render, in this one there are no strong ink outlines. The end result is a render which appears very similar to the Falloff render, however the shadows are slightly less extreme. Overall I prefer this method to the Falloff material, but the differences are very minimal.

This is the final render test I did, this render is also done using the Ink ‘n’ Paint material, however this time there are outlines for the material. I find this style much more impactful than the alternatives and it feels reminiscent of cel-shaded games. The one downside to this method is that it takes longer to render the scene, other than this I prefer it to the alternative methods by a large margin.

Overall this experiment proved useful in that it allowed me to learn about different materials and rendering methods. After asking people around me I found that they generally preferred the third method, but didn’t see much difference between the first two methods. Following this I will likely aim to incorporate the third method into my final product if possible.

 

Rigging Experiments

 

An important aspect of animation is rigging the character, I will have multiple options for rigging methods when it comes to the creating the my final piece. To discern which might be the most appropriate for me I am going to try three different methods on the same model and evaluate my experience with the process. By doing this I hope to come to a conclusion about which is the most appropriate for me when I develop my final animation.

The first method I tried was CAT (Character Animation Toolkit) rigging, the method was convenient in that it allowed the creation of different bone types which would have different properties. This can allow for efficient rigging, but it can also limit what you can do with each bone and can lead to a poor end rig if used improperly. This type of rigging also allows the user to switch between animations easily due to its animation mode, however if I end up making a single animation this wouldn’t benefit me. Overall I found this method to be quick, but slightly limiting compared to the other options.

Fox CAT-Rig Max.png

The second method is the one I have the most experience with, this is bone rigging where the user places bones which each begin with the same settings. This method of rigging is my favourite, one of the reasons for this is that I have the most experience with this style. It is slightly more complex than CAT rigging, but I have enough of an understanding of this style that it wouldn’t be an issue. Overall this style is more complex, but less limiting than CAT rigging which I prefer.

Fox Bone-Rig Max.png

The last type of rigging I tried was in Maya, to rig the model in this program I had to create joints. This style felt quite streamlined even though I wasn’t used to using Maya, and adding the skin modifier worked well almost immediately for what I wanted. The downsides to this method are that I have the least experience with it and that I would be limiting myself to only rigging when at home as the computers I would be mostly using have 3DS Max rather than Maya. This is a method I would like to try more in the future, however learning to use the program might take to much time away from the project itself.

Fox Rig Maya.png

To summarise, each program has its pros and cons; CAT rigging in 3DS Max is easy to use, but limits the user because the different types of bones have unique preset settings. Bone rigging in 3DS Max is more complex, but it allows the user more freedom when rigging, I also have the most experience with this style so I will use this for my final project. The last type of rigging is in Maya, this method was easy to learn, but I ended up deciding that it would be better to use a method I have more experience with over learning a new program for its rigging system.

 

Fur Experiment

 

Another consideration I had for my project was the addition of fur to the final model, I will experiment with adding fur to a pre-existing model to see if I can create fur which makes the model more appealing. By experimenting with this I can get a better sense of how I want the final model to look. I can also find out if this adds to the visual design or detracts.

Fur PreRender.jpg

Above is what the model looks like before a render, the yellow lines are guides for the direction of the hairs, I chose to only add orange fur as an initial test. I found the fur and hair modifier quite difficult to work with, I felt that I couldn’t create the effect I wanted with the modifier. I feel that adding detailed fur is at odds with my idea of using a highly stylised look, I would rather go with the cartoon-like visual style I experimented before.

Fur Render.jpg

The outcome of this experiment is that I feel I would rather not use a fur modifier in my project for multiple reasons. The first reason is that I am very inexperienced with the tool, which means it would take me a long time to create a nice effect. I also feel that the realistic fur is at odds with the stylised visuals I have been moving towards. For these reasons I won’t be adding fur to my final model.

 

CHAPTER 4

Research Findings

 

Data analysis

What strategies did you use to analyse your data? What did you find out?

The overall aim of my project is to explore the movements and anatomy of animals. As a final product I aim to create an animation which displays natural animal movement to display what I have learned through my research. In order to create a realistic animation I also need to understand the process of animation and more advanced animation techniques which can help convey natural animal movement. In this chapter I am going to summarise the research tasks I undertook and analyse what I have learned from them. I will discuss why I conducted a particular research task and how my findings could be applied to my practical work. I will end the chapter by writing about how these research tasks have influenced the creation of my final product.

The first secondary research task I conducted was into two practitioners of animation, one early practitioner and one contemporary practitioner. I first researched Walt Disney, I learned about the animation techniques used when animation was still a young art form. By learning about these techniques I gained a better understanding of the fundamentals of animation as a process. I also learned about how the character design of Mickey Mouse changed over the years and how his design appeals to a younger audience. The second practitioner I researched was Mariel Cartwright, by researching her work I learned about modern animation techniques and how animation has evolved. By researching Mariel I found out the ways in which animation is adapted for a fighting game and how certain techniques such as smears, anticipation and overshoot are used to get the most out of a limited number of frames. By understanding these types of animation techniques I can create more complex effects even with a limited number of frames.

The next topic I researched was the anatomy of canines, the aim of this research was to aid me in understanding what made the anatomy of canines unique and how this could impact movement. I learned that the forelimbs of wolves are locked in their rotation, which stabilises their running. I found out that canines can rotate their paws in an up and down motion, something they do very often while walking. I researched about the scapula of canines and how their shoulder has enough mobility to impact the way the forelimbs move when walking. By knowing what makes canine movement unique I will be able to develop a more convincing animation which is grounded in reality.

After researching anatomy I moved on to researching animation, the first book I read on the topic was The Animator’s Survival Kit (Williams, 2001). This book is a comprehensive guide to all things animation, by analysing the contents I was able to learn about the process of animation in depth. I started by learning about the fundamentals such as how timing and spacing impact how the viewer interprets movement in animation. I also learned about the different types of frames; extremes, inbetweens, breakdowns and keys, as well as how each are applied in animation. The main topic I focused on in this book was about how walks are animated, the writer describes walking as a repeating controlled fall, where we catch ourselves and lift ourselves up. This is important because walks often have an up and down motion to them, Williams (2001) broke down the process of walking into four phases, the phase where the head is at its lowest point, the phase where the legs pass each other, the phase where the head is at its highest point, and finally the phase where the front foot contacts the floor. In the chapter about animal walks the process is laid out similarly, however the front legs raise the chest and the rear legs lift the hind, these motions are also typically not synchronised. These are all points for consideration when animating a walk and I will take these pieces of insight on board when I create my animation.

The next animation book I read was The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (Thomas and Johnston, 1981). From this book I learned about the importance of colour in animation, I mostly learned about how colour can affect how audiences interpret the personality of a character. When analysing the chapter on animal animation I discussed whether I would prefer for my project to stay focused on realism or if I should move towards developing a caricature of an animal by exaggerating movements. I ended up deciding that it would be more valuable for me to learn about how to animate a realistic creature. In the same chapter I learned about the process of Rotoscoping and how it can be utilised to animate complex movements. I later used this technique as a way of studying the movements of a wolf. Another aspect I learned about is how the ears and tail can give a strong sense of an animals mood, which I will consider when animating my final piece.

The last animation book I analysed was How to Become a Video Game Artist (Kennedy, S. 2013), this book covered techniques for 3D animation which made it very relevant to my project. I learned that secondary motion can add a great deal of realism to an animation. Kennedy (2013)  also wrote about the principles of animation and separated them into two halves; those that add realism to animation and those that add appeal. I focused on the techniques which made for more realistic animations as this is a primary focus of my project.

Following my studies into animation I researched key elements of visual design by reading the book Drawing Basics and Video Game Art (Solarski, C, 2012). Solarski (2012) wrote about the connotations of different shapes, for example square shapes represent strength and stability, whereas triangular shapes have connotations of aggression and speed. I discovered how the interaction of different colours can create different effects and various levels of impact. The next topic I researched was the effect of lighting, I learned that the light value key of a scene impacts how a scene is conveyed, a light scene will have themes of positivity, whereas low-key lighting can create an ominous feel. According to Solarski (2012) soft-lighting a shadowless environments can have a soft and surreal feeling, though the scene can lack depth. After this I learned that close-up camera angle can create a connection between the audience and the character, whereas a far camera angle can place the focus more on the environment. I will implement what I have leaned here into my project, I will avoid using shapes which make my character appear threatening, by using warm colours and soft-lighting I hope to create a design which appeals to all ages. I will also use a close camera angle as the focus of the project is on the animal.

My next secondary research task was focused on stylised visuals in gaming, I compared three games with stylised visuals and analysed the impact each had. I looked at the way the visual designs cater to target audience and genre. A large part of my focus was dedicated to the outline style which can be found in some games, this style combined with cel-shading makes the characters and the environment appear 2D and drawn, this has a connection to part of my target audience; fans of traditional animation. I decided that I would be interested in using a similar style for my final piece.

The last secondary research task I completed was focused on the portrayal of animals in games, I analysed three games and compared how the animals move in each. What I learned from this is that some games use quick, exaggerated movements paired with bright particle effects to add action to their games. The issue with this is that it makes the game appear less realistic. Something which makes animals appear more realistic in games is when it’s obvious their movements carry weight, this helps make it seem like they could exist in our world. Finally I observed that body language and movements can convey a large amount about the personality of an animal even if they lack dialogue. For my project I will avoid using exaggerated movements and particle effect, however I will try to make the animated creature appear to carry weight, I will also try to convey personality through body language and movement.

The second set of tasks were primary research, these started with me collecting resources in the form of photos and videos of animals. First, I walked around Canterbury, collecting photos and videos of dogs, goats and birds. My aim was to observe how the different body types affected their movements, at this point in time I was still undecided on what type of animal I would like to animate, so researching the different body types lead me to want to animate a quadruped.

By going to Wildwood I was able to gather more photos and videos of animals, I had a large focus on recording quadrupeds. The main animals I looked at were Wolves, Lynxes and Arctic Foxes. After I was done with my research I felt that I was most interested in focusing on Wolves, this was aided by the fact that I gathered very good photos and videos of Wolves which would help in the development of my project. By gathering these resources I had reference material for other tasks, such as my Rotoscoping experiments.

As previously mentioned, my Rotoscoping experiments were based off of the footage I gathered of Wolves at Wildwood. The first experiment was a seven frame walk cycle, the frame rate lowered the quality of the animation, but I feel that it was a good first attempt. For my second attempt I tried using an industry frame rate, I chose 24 frames-per-second, due to this I spent a long time drawing the frames as there were over triple the amount from my previous attempt for one second of animation. Overall the second Rotoscoped animation was far smoother, and felt like a much more realistic animation. By using Rotoscoping I not only learned about animation techniques and process, I also was able to observe the movements of the Wolf in great detail while I animated.

My next primary research experiment focused on the material used on the model. I wanted to create a stylised look similar to games I had researched, to do this I used three different methods which each had their own appeal. In the end I decided that the final method was the most appropriate for my project, this method gave the model a flat, colourful look with a strong ink outline. I find this style very appealing and I find it to be reminiscent of comics and early 2D animation.

After this I experimented with rigging methods, I tried joint rigging in Maya, and Bone rigging and CAT rigging in 3DS Max. Joint rigging was easy to use, but I felt my inexperience with the program would hold me back. CAT rigging was automated which made the process quicker, but I felt it limited me when I animated. I came to the conclusion that I would use bone rigging as I have the most experience with this style, and I feel it is the least limiting.

The aim of my final experiment was to see if I could improve the visual appeal of my final model by adding fur. I found the process of adding and modifying fur to be difficult, and I also felt that realistic fur clashed with the stylised visual design I have been moving towards. Overall I decided that I would not add fur to my final model for these reasons.

 

Conclusion – How did the research help me with my project?

 

The direction of my project has been heavily influenced and developed by the research tasks I have undertaken. At the beginning of the project I knew that I wanted to study realistic animation and I wanted the theme of the topic to be animal animation. From this I knew that I would need to learn about animation techniques and the anatomy of animals in order to create an engaging end product. Following my research into animals in Canterbury and at Wildwood I moved more towards focusing the project on quadrupeds, and later on canines specifically. I eventually settled on my final model being a Wolf, which was partly influenced by the amount of photographs and videos I had of Wolves from Wildwood. When researching animals in games I decided that I would rather develop an animal with realistic movements, rather than over-exaggerated movements. Closely tied to this was my study into stylised visuals in games, I decided that I would like to use a bright visual style for my project which I later experimented with in 3DS Max. Following this, I experimented with the effect of adding fur to a previous model, but I found it was visually at odds with the stylised appearance I had settled on. When researching animation I learned about the processes and techniques used for both 2D and 3D animation, I also focused heavily on what to consider when animating animals. Other research tasks I conducted focused on visual design both for games and for art as a whole, I developed my understanding of the formal elements and how I can use certain techniques to convey specific themes to an audience. Following my research into animation techniques I experimented with Rotoscoping, by trying this animation technique I gained hands-on experience with the process of animation, and I was able to study the movements of a Wolf in depth. Before moving on to my final animation I looked at alternative methods for rigging a model, I wanted to see the benefits of each process to determine which method would be the most suitable for me, I ended up concluding that rigging with bones in 3DS Max would be the best for me due to my experience with the method.

 

 

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