Why we blink
Blinks are important because we blink so often, so routinely, and because if we leave them out, our characters tend to feel robotic or zombie-eyed. Try moving your head from one side of the room to another. Did you blink? Of course you did. But you probably barely noticed doing it. Blinking is like breathing - it's something we do automatically, without conscious effort.
|Blink action taken from The Animator's Survival Kit - the book every animator should own|
Add blinks on a head turn
When we move our heads to take in a different view, our brains have to process a lot of new data. To minimise the amount of data we have to process, we blink, effectively editing out all of the transitional or in-between material. This is why cutting in film works - the cut mirrors the effect of a blink when we change eye direction.
The General Rule: add a blink on a head turn
As an animator, the general rule is that your characters should blink every time they change eye direction. So, if your character is looking from one character to another, or one point in space to another - always add a blink.
This is not an inflexible rule, of course, and, like all rules, it can and should be broken - where appropriate. But, for the most part, adding blinks makes your characters feel more alive, and helps make the motion feel more believable. It will also help to avoid the "zombie eyes" problem described above.
Animate the eye brows too
Don't forget also that when we blink our eyebrows are involved as well - even if just a little bit. So, when your character blinks, you should add a little motion on the eyebrows too; to create flexibility in the face and make the overall motion feel less stiff.
But the trick with mastering the craft of animation is to learn the rules, apply them and then - when you fully understand them - understand when to break them.
Remember, if in doubt, always add a blink.
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