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Chapter 7. Animating in Flash > Animation Guidelines

Animation Guidelines

Any style of animation—from classic cartoon-style characters to scripted physics-based movement—can benefit from some classic animation principles:

  • Timing and Motion Timing gives meaning to movement. The speed at which a movement happens can imbue the same motion with different meaning. Think of a punch. If it is delivered rapidly, with the person on the receiving end snapping back, it is a painful event. The same motion, delivered more slowly with a minimal reaction from the receiver, could be seen as playful.

    Timing and pacing are critical for creating realistic and interesting motion. You can manipulate timing to give objects life and convey their attributes: Heavy objects are difficult to move and take longer to accelerate and decelerate. Few objects move at identical paces, so you should vary the speeds at which action occurs.

    Pacing is also crucial. There is a delicate balance between anticipation, action, and reaction. If the pace is too slow, the viewer will lose interest, but if it is too fast, the action may be confusing and open to misinterpretation. Also, experiment with the length of each stage—they should not be of equal lengths or carry the same emphasis. Action typically is the focus, but you can confound that expectation to great effect. Lengthy anticipation followed by quick action and reaction can produce comic or dramatic effect.

  • Anticipation Movement is most dynamic and realistic if it is anticipated. Runners lean backward slightly before hurtling themselves forward. Try adding slight movement in the opposite direction at the beginning of a motion.

  • Follow-through— Movement does not stop instantaneously. Runners do not stop as soon as they cross the finish line, but continue on as they decelerate. Think of the follow-through of a pitcher’s arm after a ball is released. Whenever you initiate a movement, try to follow it through slightly beyond the point where you want it to ultimately finish.

  • Squash and Stretch— Few objects are completely rigid while in motion. Most objects are slightly deformed by motion and collision. To make our ball bounce even more realistic, we could add a shape tween so that the ball stretches as it falls—accomplished by scaling the ball to make it taller and thinner—and squashes on impact—scale again to make it shorter and fatter.

  • Overlapping Action— Action is most interesting if it is varied, so you should avoid actions that begin and end simultaneously. Stagger movement—have a second object begin to move before the first object has stopped—when possible.

  • Secondary Action— No man is an island, and animation shouldn’t be either. Animation is most effective if it produces a ripple effect; movement should rarely happen in isolation. Secondary action results directly from primary action, echoing and reinforcing the main action. Allow objects to interact to produce more complex animation.



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