6 Ways to Avoid Over-Animating Scenes

Too much of a good thing is never good, especially in animation. Over-animation is excessive animation that animators put into in a scene. When animators over-animate, they give a character or an object unnecessary movements that ruin the animation’s purpose.

This is a common problem for animators. In the pursuit of the best animation possible, they tend to over-animate the material in the scenes of their animation video, especially when they’re working on dialogue.

As an animator, it is your job to breathe life into your animated characters. However, animation doesn’t always mean you have to move something around a screen. You may feel like you have to make a character move at  the times, but doing this is actually counterproductive.

In this blog post, we take you through how you can avoid over-animating your scenes based on this tip from the animator Aaron Blaise.

Aaron Blaise is a wildlife artist and an animation feature film director. For 21 years, Aaron Blaise worked with Disney to help create some of the best animated films such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “Mulan” and many more.

He also co-directed “Brother Bear” in 2003, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. After working on “Brother Bear,” he helped develop more projects but left Disney to pursue a work opportunity in his home in Florida.

He recently became a 2D Animation Supervisor and Character Designer for the advertisement titled “The Bear and the Hare,” which millions of people worldwide came to love.

Aaron Blaise is working on bringing art education and animation training to many animators worldwide through his website named “Creature Art Teacher.”

Aside from Aaron Blaise’s art tips, we also share with Jean-Denis Haastips to avoid over-animating.

Jean-Denis Haas is an associate animation supervisor at ILM, a teacher at Animation Mentor, his own Spungella Animation Workshop, and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

On his YouTube channel, he uploads videos of his animation projects, acting analysis, animation tutorials for beginners to advanced animators, as well as his workshop critiques..

Here are the six tips you should follow to avoid over-animating scenes.

1) Refer to the Dialogue

man listening to dialogue of a video

Image by Austin Distel via Unsplash

According to Aaron Blaise in his video, having a dialogue scene will help you phrase out your posing.

You can have one to two poses for each phrase, then you can start working on animating those poses. Listen carefully to the video’s voiceover and select which phrases in the dialogue you want to make animate.

Before proceeding to make animations on your animation software, you can draw some thumbnails on a sheet of paper first. This can give you a place to start and prevent you from over-animating the scene on your animation software.

A way to help you avoid over-animating is to get inside your character’s head and think about how they would act in the situation you’re animating. You can also act it out yourself and observe people when they tell a story.

You’ll find that there are certain areas that people pick to move quite a bit, but it’s also balanced by a lot of held-back posing.

2) Use Real Life Movements As References

man filming another man

Image by Jakob Owens via Unsplash

You have to be as realistic as possible when animating a character in a scene. A great way to make realistic animated videos is to shoot reference videos.

Place your camera at the same angle the camera is in inside the animated video you’re working on. While shooting a reference video, you can put tape on the wall and look up to that height when your character in your scene is taller than you.

You can take a video of yourself or someone else with the same props, positions, and movements as the character in your scene.

3) Understand the Character

happy characters of Inside Out Disney movie

GIF by Disney Pixar via GIPHY

What is your character thinking and feeling? What does your character want or have to do, be it emotionally, physically, etc? You need to answer these questions so that you can get from pointpoint A to B in your progression.

Take note that in order to not over-animate, your character also has to feel and react the way people in real life do. Don’t rush through the emotions or the actions of your character. Give your character time to think and process things and go from A to B.

4) Simplify Your Animation

woman telling people to keep it simple

GIF by Swing Left via GIPHY

You don’t have to put every single principle of animation into your animated video.

Showing arcs, anticipation, and other big movements in every movement will give the character in your video a messy performance. People who watch your video won’t be able to understand what’s going on as the characters and objects move because they will be overloaded with visual cues from the character.

Keeping it simple will make your character more lifelike and make the scene more realistic.

5) Learn About Acting From Actors

Jean Dennis Haas' YouTube video about acting analysis and tips for animators

Learning how to avoid over-animating may take some time.

To help speed things up, you can watch and study videos from Off Camera With Sam Jones, Film Courage, The Hollywood Reporters’ Roundtable, and Inside the Actors Studio, where there are tons of interviews with famous actors discussing their acting techniques, realizations, and more.

You can also check out Jean-Denis Haas’ videos in his YouTube playlist titled “Acting Analysis for Animators” where he gives animation tips by analyzing movie characters. He covers character interactions, thought processes, posing, character staging, strengthening emotions, and more.

6) Read Books About Acting for Animators

woman getting a book from the shelf

Another good way to learn about how to do performance animation in your animated videos is to read books and articles about the topic.

As an animator, you don’t usually think about the acting aspect of the characters in your video. You think of the technical side such as when your character will blink, for how many frames you will keep your character’s eyes closed, how big the movements will be, etc.

Jean-Denis Haas suggests that animators read the book “Acting for Animators” by Ed Hooks. “Acting for Animators” tells animators everything they need to know about acting and presents it with references that are more relatable for animators.

This book clearly shows the connections between physical activity, thinking, and feeling. It also gives the steps for an effective character analysis and more acting principles.

The book is accompanied by a CD-ROM with examples and video clips covering everything from the seven essentials of acting as well as the highlights of Rudolph Laban’s movement theory. 

Ed Hooks has been a respected acting teaching and professional actor for three decades now. He has taught about acting to animators at the world’s top studios such as Disney Animation, Electronic Arts, and Lucas Learning. Ed Hooks has also been a speaker at several international festivals and conferences.

In Summary

Always remember that as an animator, it is your business to give life to your animated characters by expressing how they feel and think in a realistic way through your animation.

You can learn more about animating characters by shooting references videos, reading books and articles, and watching YouTube videos and online courses.

We hope that you were able to pick up some tips from this blog post about the methods you could use in order to avoid over-animating scenes.

If you liked this blog post, feel free to share it with your colleagues who might need to read this.

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