Character Animations: How to choose them for your project?
Character animations are the life and soul of animation projects. By adding characters with a story, animators can generate feelings of love, awe, shock and even a sense of attachment.
To create a character animation means to breathe life into an animation by making it move and express itself. Skills like visualization, creativity and problem-solving are a must for any character animator.
Due to the importance and worldwide use of this type of animation, we have decided to dedicate this article to character animations, their types and the methods of choosing them.
When did it all begin –A history of Character Animation
The field of character animations is only over a century old, and hence, it is considered a relatively new field. According to historians, ‘Gertie’ the dinosaur was the first example of a true animated character. After this came the character ‘Felix’ of Otto Messmer in the 1920s. He became a beloved and inspirational animated character of his time. The 30s brought Walt Disney with his animations one after another. This brought a revolution in the field of animation and opened a lot of doors and opportunities for animators. Today, many world-renowned companies, including Walt Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, Dreamworks and Warner Bros continue to indulge in this animation style.
Major types of character animation
Character animations have set styles that animators follow all around the globe. These are:
Subtle character movements
In this animation style, you add subtle movements to your animation to keep it simple yet interesting. Subtle movements in character animation can have a great impact without making things complex for the viewers. Thus, they attract and connect with the viewers at a deeper level. Some examples of subtle movements include head and arm movements, which breathe life into the animated characters.
Subtle character movements help keep the viewers focused on the major object or action without any distractions. As a result, it makes them relatable to the viewers.
Mostly, subtle character movements include movements of the peripheral body parts and head, without moving the core body of the character. Sometimes, the characters are also cropped from the upper body part, which serves the purpose of optimizing the design process of the character.
Detailed character animations
Detailed character animations are one step ahead of subtle character movements. They use a mixture of techniques for the character animation involving full-body movements. Although they are relatively complex, yet do not require a lot of time.
Two of the most popular techniques used in detailed character animations are cut-out and rigging techniques. You can either use one of the two or utilize these techniques as a combination to bring your characters to life.
In the cut-out technique, each body part of the animated character is treated as an individual thing and harmony is brought to these individual pieces to make a whole animated character. However, in the rigging technique, there is a system like bones of the human body that allows animated character movements in a more structured and realistic way.
Complex character animation (cel animation)
The most detailed type of character animated includes “cel animation”, which is a frame to frame process. Although this type of character animation usually requires software, it also uses the classic principle of character animation movements.
It involves creating frames one by one and then moving them one after another to create movements. This impressive technique can be used to create morphs. It removes the limitations that the animators face in other designs, and is easily transformable into multiple numbers of styles. Even though complex character animation is truly impressive it demands a lot of time, experience, and budget.
How to choose character animation for your project?
Here are the things you should keep in mind while choosing the right character animation design for your project:
1. Defining goal
To choose the right type of animation for your character, it is crucial to define your goal. Understanding and defining your goals is the first and foremost step to choosing the right kind of animated characters for your animation.
An easy way to do this is by asking yourself the objectives of your animated video. For example, you need to ask yourself what your viewers expect from your project, and what level of sophistication you want for your videos. Answering these kinds of questions can help you make the right decision for your project.
2. Listing out needed features
After defining your goals and objectives, the next thing you can do is to write down and make a list of the features that you want to include in your animated character. These features vary depending upon the level of complexity and sophistication you want in your character.
For this purpose, ask other fellow animators for recommendations or peruse the work of people who have done anything similar. This can also help you get better ideas. Listing out the feature that you want to include in your character animation can help you make the right decision regarding the type of character animation along with the right software for it.
3. Expertise and experience of the animator
The expertise and experience of the animator is an important point that determines the right type of character animation. A well-made simple animation can have more impact than a complex character with lots of features and errors.
While deciding the type of your animated character, consider your expertise and experience as well. Trying to do something new for your project that you have not tried before can not only cost you a lot of time, but it can do more harm than good. It is better to choose the type of animation character that is within the limits of your expertise and experience, and then put all your creativity and talent into it. A simple animation doesn’t mean that it is any less than a complex one. In the field of animation, a simple but well-made animation can win a lot of hearts. Furthermore, it can easily go viral just because it is easy to understand and better connects with people.
4. Exploring options
After you have decided about the goals and objectives of your project and considered the features that you want in your project along with your experience and expertise, the next step is to take a look at the character animation software options available to you. There are several character animation software available in the market, that vary in their function, prices, and complexity.
Keeping the features that you need in your project in your mind, you can choose the right type of character animation along with the right type of software. It is better to choose software that is not complex and provides you with a lot of options regarding features so you can choose what suits you the most.
5. Budget and turnaround time
The budget and turnaround time of a project are those two things that have a high impact on deciding the type of animated characters. If the time required to complete the project is limited along with a low budget, subtle character movements can perform a pretty good job and can be profitable.
For medium budget and available time, a combination of after-effect animations along with subtle character movements is a better choice for the animators. But if you have surplus time along with lots of budget for the project, frame to frame character animation can be used to make detailed and complex movements to impress the viewers.
6. Visual impact
It is important to understand the visual impact that you want from your character animations. This will help you make the right choice. Visual impact along with the available budget and turnaround time guide you to your animated character’s design. For impressive visual impact, frame-by-frame character animation is most suited. It is usually needed at places where there is a lot of competition and comparison regarding visuals. While subtle and detailed character animations are required at places when the main purpose of the animated characters is to attract viewers and transfer the message to consumers.
7. The visual style of the character
One of the major things that can help you choose a better type for your animated character is the visual style that you have in mind. The shape of the character can also help you determine which design to choose. The characters that have shapes around straight lines or those that are designed around basic shape fare well with after-effect animations or subtle character movements. However, frame by frame animations performs better for characters that have complex and organic shapes because they help their movements look natural and more realistic.
While deciding the right type of character animation one must understand that there is no right or wrong type of animated characters. There is not a single type that fits all your needs. The right type of character animation for you depends upon your goals, expertise, budget, and time. Making the right decision for yourself also demands experience and practice. However, don’t think too much. Remember, the first step to success is always the initiative. Once you make a decision, stick to it and see it play out.
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