My Three Degrees in Animating Characters

My Three Degrees in Animating Characters

In my March blog post, I wrote about a new cartoon character animation app I’m working with.  I’m really having a good time with it. So today I want to write about the full range of animated characters I work with, from simple to complex, and the reasons for the existence of each.

 

Cartoon Two Dimensional Animation: This is the simplest method for animating characters. A good example would be South Park. Characters and props are like flat paper cutout shapes moving back and forth past each other across the stage/screen, creating the basic illusion of a third dimension.  There is no floor or ground for the characters to walk on, it is just implied by the positions and sizes of people or objects in the scene. But characters can move and talk, mainly facing forward like puppets. This style of animation is perfect for quick, simple story telling and presentation. Characters can be created from existing body, head and action components, and modified to be more original and unique as cost and time allows.

Everyone relates to cartoons and comic characters. The 2D actors are the easiest to make and lip sync, but the least realistic. And, at a basic level, characters can hold objects and do simple tasks. Creating original characters adds time, but makes them unique. But existing characters can have different facial elements, bodies, and clothing without having to start from scratch. This is a great platform for presenting information in a conversational manner.

 

Cartoon Three Dimensional Animation:  This style is the next level up from the 2D method in realism.  A floor/ground exists, so lights and shadows can exist too. Characters move in a “real” third dimension, rotate in all directions, and can walk or run.  Characters’ poses are applied to convey a range of moods and feelings to go with lip synced speech. There is constant life to them. However, they do not have the level of control necessary to pick up and interact with props in a realistic way. They’re cartoon characters, after all! But they lip sync nicely, and are great story tellers. So if you want your message delivered in a fun, entertaining way, this is a great option.

Both the 2D and 3D options create affordable cartoon lip-sync. The 2D actually has more control with movements, but the 3D has more of a sense of environment.

 

True Three Dimensional Animation: And then there’s Maya, capable of creating cartoon or realistic characters. When you want the best and you have the budget, it’s Autodesk Maya. The characters can be near photo-realistic or stylized, or even cartoon-like, as needed. Most of my professional work falls into the almost-real category. I create a lot of first-person POV animation in which the viewers are the users, and put themselves in the position of performing the task. For these “explainer” videos, accuracy in details is critical to the storytelling process. Here, I have control of everything in the scene, right down to camera depth-of-field, motion blur, ambient occlusion, special lighting and shadows, custom materials and textures, complete control of hands to pick up and hold things, and interact with them accurately using inverse or forward kinematics to drive the movement and connection of hand to prop. And if all that sounds complicated, it is!

So these are my three degrees of animated characters. Having worked with Autodesk Maya for over a dozen years, I’m a little partial to the model building process and true 3D animation, but I really enjoy them all.

So, what dimension suits your needs?

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Bill Giobbi (bgob1) is founder and owner of Linea Forma Design, a 35 year old design firm specializing in creating graphic content for print, web and video. He is a graphic designer, industrial designer, model maker, technical illustrator and a digital 3D content creator/animator, with a love of all things design.

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9 Responses

  1. Jeff Hall
    |

    Always thrilled to see what’s next. I need to make a trip to Gresham!

    • bgob1
      |

      Thanks. You need to make a trip to Gresham. Miss you buddy.

  2. writzy
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    Damn this blind eye. . . can’t see 3D!

    • bgob1
      |

      Didn’t we both sit in a theatre in LA in 1971, I think it was “House of Wax 3D” and it was about 5 minutes in we looked at each other and laughed. Neither of us could see 3D!

      • writzy
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        Good Memory!

  3. Gayle
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    Entertaining and informative, as always. Love how 3-D you is hanging out in a trashy alley. Also love the Travitar!

    • bgob1
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      Just having fun!

  4. Joe Chisholm
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    I always saw the ‘depth’ in your persona, even without the 3D. Just do your sales job live – I’m presold!

    • bgob1
      |

      Aw, shucks. Thanks, Joe!