Saturday, 4 April 2020

Why It's Best to Animate Just One Character

"Two shot" by Jeton Lakna
Animating two characters acting is, obviously, more complex than animating one, and a lot more work.

So what if an animator has a line of dialogue that involves two characters talking? Do you need to animate both of them?  The answer is no. There are plenty of ways to animate the shot convincingly without having to work on two characters at once.

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 the answer is just to animate one, or one at a time.  See below the 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 well, 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. You can also cut from one to the other in a series of over-the-shoulder shots if you like.

Characters should always look at one another
Maintain Eye Direction
One of the most important things to remember is that, when people talk to each other, they look into each other's eyes. So when you are animating two characters, talking, always make sure they are looking at each other. Your second character may be off-screen, but the on-screen character still has to be looking in the right direction. To get this right, you will need to make correct use of your character's eye direction controller.

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.  One handy trick is to attach the "Look see" controller to the second character off screen, to maintain eye contact.

Eye Direction Controller Tutorial Video
Below is a short video that explains how to use the eye direction, or "look see", controller, effectively.

If you must animate two characters, don't use the same rig
Sometimes animators will use the same character 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, always use different character rigs for each character.

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

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