The Many Facets Of Anticipation In Animation

When focusing on elegant poses, lucid motion and timing, young aspirants pursuing animation courses often lose sight of one of the basic principles of animation – anticipation. Without this feature, your shot will look robotic. Every time you witness an entire body that squashes down before it jumps off a building, an eye that blinks just before the head turns, compression of the mouth before a speech or pressing down of the heel of a foot before taking a step, you are watching anticipation in action. The scope of anticipation is immaterial – it can either be subtle or broad.

Why is anticipation required?

Any action that intimates the audience that something new is about to happen can be described as anticipation. It enables the viewers to be prepared for the anticipated event with an appropriate subjective response as opposed to being caught off-guard. Please note – anticipation does not negate the element of surprise which may, on occasions, be indispensable to the narrative of the story. Au contraire, anticipation can actually be a useful tool when trying to build suspense towards an unexpected event. The audience is more likely to enjoy the surprise as opposed to missing it.

The most widespread examples of anticipation are seen in broad actions. It involves the classic action of moving first in the direction that is opposite to the action such as the baseball player who raises his bat before bringing it down for the swing or taking a few steps back to build momentum before lunging forward.

The aforementioned is one type of anticipation and is probably the most commonly used. While novice or amateur animators regularly fall back on this technique for their shots, with time and evolved skills, experienced animators develop their own unique blend of organic quality and individuality.

Mastering anticipation

Anticipation may be described as the storage and the build-up of energy just before the execution of the action or activity, akin to a predator crouching itself before leaping upon its prey. When creating anticipation, animators need to ensure that the timing, broadness, and velocity of the anticipation contribute to the action. Almost like a problem in Mathematics, if the anticipation does not seamlessly culminate in the action, the overall purpose will be entirely defeated.

One of the most commonplace mistakes perpetrated by animators when it comes to anticipation is when they are working with superhero shots. More often than not, artists strive to make their heroes faster than average. While this objective in itself is not flawed, the animator’s folly frequently lies in giving their protagonists not enough anticipation space before the ensuing action. Ideally, even superheroes should be given optimum amount of anticipation in order to justify their seemingly impossible feats.

Finding anticipation that is missing

Animation can be a tireless task. An animator will see the same shot thousands of times before finally releasing it. He or she knows every facet of the storyline like the back of the hand. In such a position, it becomes very easy to miss the lack of anticipation in the scenes.

If you are a young artist pursuing an animation course, there is a neat trick that you can employ to make sure that you don’t commit these mistakes. Simply play your shots backward. What was anticipation before now becomes follow-through?

Imagine that you are creating the footfall in a dinosaur walk cycle. When you play it backward, where the anticipation in the form of foot compression should appear, you should detect an overlapping action after the landing of the foot. If your shot looks stiff, this means that the commensurate anticipation is missing.

The anticipation that is unintended

Animators also have to keep an eye out for unintended anticipation. If your character starts to move before it is required, it becomes unintended anticipation. What if your character’s head started to rotate back even before it was punched?

You are likely to encounter this issue if you have set the keys for the punch and the head on the same frames. In lieu of the same, ensure that there is an adequate number of breakdowns so that the head turns only after the punch has landed.

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