|Squirrels by Henry Fenwick - it's all about eye contact|
One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators when they animate two characters interacting is to forget that the audience can only look at one thing at a time.
The basic rule is when animating two characters is to keep it simple, and try to avoid having too much happening at once.
|Characters should look at one another|
The most important thing to remember is that, in a two shot, you have to guide the audience's eye from one character to another. Don't assume that the audience is looking where you think they are.
If you have too much going on at once, the audience will struggle to understand the meaning of the shot.
Actors listen and react
Stage actors understand this instinctively, because they are trained to listen and react while the other character is talking, and performing. But for animators, because we don't create our performance live, we can quickly get lost in the detail. As a result, we must make a conscious effort not to over-complicate things by having both characters acting and performing at the same time.
|Characters should always maintain eye contact|
Characters who are talking to each other should be looking at each other. To maintain the credibility of the shot, make sure the characters are watching one another. For more on animating eyes, see this blog post.
Use the eye direction controller to maintain eye contact
It is very important to ensure that the characters look like they are talking to one another, and their eyes don't float around the screen. Use the eye direction, or "look see", controller to make sure that each character's attention is fixed upon the other. Below is a short video that explains how.
Keep it simple - just animate one character
Our best advice of all is to animate one character only. Two characters are twice as much work, so why not just tackle one, or one at a time. Below is an excellent shot by Animation Apprentice student Victoria Bailey, in which Victoria animates a character speaking to another character. The second character is off screen; we don't see them, but we still believe they are there. The shot works great, works just as well as if the second character were on screen. So, save yourself some work, and just animate one character at a time. The other character can still be in the shot, but behind the camera, invisible, but still present.
If you must animate two characters, don't use the same rig
Lots of animators use the same rig for both characters. This creates confusion as the audience starts to wonder why the same character appears twice, or maybe they are twins? So, to avoid confusion, use different character rigs for each character.
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