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The Five Fundamentals of Game Animation: An Introduction


Hello, welcome to video game animation study. This channel studies animation in video games,
and to kick off 2020, we’re gonna look at the five fundamentals
of video game animation in this new mini-series. This episode is sponsored by Squarespace,
the all-in-one platform to build your online presence. The actual medium of animation has been around
for well over a hundred years. The first use of CGI in animation could be
attributed to a number of pieces dating back to the 70s, 60s and even 50s. The first use of stop motion and hand drawn
animation stems to the early 1900s, and even the zoetrope and associated devices
date back to the 1800s. But video game animation is still relatively
new, and evolving all the time. Techniques and processes are always dictated
by the limitations of the host technology, which is why we had limited frame use during
the 8-bit era of video games, for example. And as techniques and processes are enhanced
and refined, so to are the outcomes. The 12 Principles of Animation are the animator’s
toolkit for creating convincing, coherent and appealing movement. My buddy Dan has begun this study within video
games over on his channel so you should check that out, and there’s
lots of information on the 12 Principles out there generally, and while all animation generally adheres
to most of these rules, video game animation is a little different. No longer is a story told in a linear fashion
beyond your control. Video games offer the opportunity to play
the story at your own pace in your own order, And so the visual identity of the medium must
adapt. Animated storytelling, for the most part of
the 20th century, followed the format of traditional film storytelling. Actions are planned ahead, your camera must
consider the clarity of your storytelling etc. But as the confines of linearity are expanded,
so are the principles that shape them. A camera in a 3D game no longer works how
it would in TV or film, it’s free roaming as opposed to fixed or planned. Since the popularity of the video game industry
has grown, animators and developers have always had in
their minds their own set of rules for animating in games. For instance, there’s an art to making a
character loop nicely in their idle pose, something you probably wouldn’t worry too
much about in a TV series or a film. You might rewatch your favourite animated
film over and over, but it’ll never match the amount of times
you might punch in Street Fighter over and over, so you have to think about how elegant and
efficient your animation is going to look, and from all angles, too! And now, for the first time, all these unspoken
rules and guides are coming together in the same way the 12 Principles did in The
Illusion of Life. Jonathan Cooper is the author of the book
Game Anim: Video Game Animation Explained, And from his experience animating and leading
on games such as Uncharted, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and The Last of Us, he has collated many modern techniques and
practices over the past 20 years into a single idea which compliments The 12 Principles, which
he has termed: The Five Fundamentals of Video Game Animation. This introductory episode will act as an overview
of these fundamentals, with following episodes going into more detail on each. Firstly, let’s look at Feel. The difference between a game and a film is
the interactivity. Jonathan Cooper posits that an animator should
relinquish authorship of an animation, lest it interfere with the interactivity. This means that no matter how good you want
an animation to look for a move, you should be prepared to scrap some or all
of it for the sake of better control. The fine balance you have to perfect is the
difference between a character feeling sluggish and a character feeling unrealistic. Some characters might take a while to turn
on the spot, while some might flip instantly with no inertia. This affects how the character feels to play. A big punch and a small punch will feel different,
turning a corner fast and slowly will feel different. This is Feel. Next, it’s Fluidity. Fluidity, which I’ve touched upon briefly
before, is how smoothly and coherently different actions blend together. It is the art of transition, removing and
reducing as best you can, as Jonathan puts it, any “unsightly movements” between different
actions that might “give away” the magic. It’s much easier to achieve this with programmable
maths in a 3D rig than it is with separate sprite animations in a 2D game. Going from idle to run, for example, could
look like this, or it could look like this. One of them is easier on the eye and likely
to immerse you more, but be careful you don’t ruin the feel. This is Fluidity. Let’s look at Readability. This is how your action reads on screen, and
is a close relative to the classic Staging Principle. While you may have control of your character,
the camera, in many cases, is independent and will fly around at all
sorts of angles, so a video game animator’s job, more so
in 3D games, is to ensure an action is identifiable and clear from any angle. You have to ensure your action is interesting
and doesn’t just move in one particular direction, but give it some texture by having varying
movements in different directions at once. This is readability. And now Context. This relates to where and how an animation
will be used in your game. Quite often, an animator won’t know when
an animation will be used by a character, or multiple characters, unless it’s a very
specific animation for a scene or character. For instance, all three characters in GTA5
generally have the exact same movement, as far as I can tell. There’s no real distinction between their
personalities, even though they’re all quite different. This is different to, say, Batman in the Arkham
games. You’re going to be controlling only Batman,
so you can have specific nuances and quirks that will apply only to Batman. Batman’s walk wouldn’t really work with
Catwoman, and vice versa. NPCs will often have animation that’s not
going to be seen as much by the player when compared to the player character, so
this is something to consider when designing an action for a character. And you have to consider how close to the
game camera that a character will be, with far away moves given a bit more exaggeration
to make them more readable, and more subtle movements restrained for cutscenes. And lastly Elegance. As the name suggests, this is how elegant
animations all look when working together. This is an idea that applies to design in
general, and not just to game animation. But in this case, it relates to the efficiency
of an action, and the animation systems in place that bring
different animations together. This can relate to the overall production
of the game and how this will affect workflow later in the project, especially when you need to change something
easily. Elegance can be about thinking smart. Jonathan gives an example where if your character
has to interact with a lot of objects in a game, then making the objects all a similar size
will allow you to make a more generic animation to save cost on lots of different animations. However, if your game is about interacting
with different objects, then it might be wise to invest a little more
into unique actions for varying objects. Or, if you have an action for opening a door,
can this be adapted for other things with a little tweaking to the animation? It’s all about being clever and efficient,
and avoiding having your workload being bloated. This will depend entirely on the content,
substance and budget of your game though. This is elegance. And these are the Five Fundamentals. They’re there to compliment the original
12 principles, to help shine a new light on animation techniques
that require a different line of thinking in video game production. The following five episodes will go into more
detail on each of these fundamentals, so do the thing if you wanna be in the loop. You can buy Jonathan Cooper’s book Game
Anim which is out now, you can check out his twitter or his website, it’s full of lots of different things to
do with animation in the video game industry, I thoroughly recommend it if you’re looking
to get into this career, and I also recommend this video by New Frame
Plus. Ooh, before I go: If you’re an animator or creative mind,
and you’re like me and your only experience of web development was editing CSS code on
MySpace back in 2005, then go on right ahead and click that link
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into a big industry! So use my link in the description to start
a free trial to check Squarespace out for yourself, and when you’re ready to launch use my coupon
code for 10% off your first purchase for a website or domain. Okay thanks to my patrons and thanks to Squarespace. Random patron shout-out Silentbun. Thanks,
you quiet rabbit, you! Loveyoubye!