WebRef Update: Featured Article: Web Animation - More Than Software
Web Animation: Steps to Improve Your Animation Skills
- Go to a natural history museum and look at animal skeletons.
Notice that almost all skeletons have the same basic pieces, but
that they vary in proportion. See which animals walk on their toes,
where the legs meet the hips, how the ribs define the chest, and
how their skull is attached to their spine.
- Go to a zoo, or watch some nature shows about animals. Observe the
ways flesh and muscle interact with the bone structures you saw at
the natural history museum and watch the way animals move. Watch the
differences between, say, a hummingbird and a hippo, and think about
their defining characteristics. Is weight important? You might also
notice details that can help you define your character, like the
fact that a dog will follow its sense of smell and lead actions with
its nose. A human might be more inclined to look first, leading the
action with the eyes.
- Practice drawing. Sign up for that figure drawing class you keep
avoiding. Doodle during meetings. Chuck Jones (creator of Bugs
Bunny) used to say that we all have a million bad drawings inside
of us, and the sooner we get them out of the way, the better.
- Read books. "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life" by Frank
Thomas and Ollie Johnston is the established bible for animators,
and Chuck Jones' "Chuck Reducks" is a new close second.
- Watch cartoons. This seems like the easy one, but you are now
watching with a critical eye. Notice the timing of actions, when
characters move and when they rest, and the camera angles chosen
to show the action. When are colors used to emphasize a mood?
Which of these techniques can you incorporate into your animation
Whether you choose to develop your animation skills or outsource animation projects, the Web sites you design can benefit from a well thought out approach to the animation used. Animation needs to support the theme of the site, and should help communicate the message you want to convey, not hinder it. Developing a character that can act as a host or guide is one way to accomplish this (Ask Jeeves is a prime candidate for an animated host, but alas, he's just a still image). Creating interactive animated content is another way (www.rockschool.com) to keep people engaged. And don't forget that sometimes people will visit your site just to be entertained (www.musearts.com/cartoons). One thing you can be sure of: animation done right will impress and engage your audience; bad animation will only annoy them.
Summary: The tools and the technology for creating animation on the Web are available right now, but it takes an animator to bring artwork to life.
About the Author:
Christopher Grotke is an owner and founder of MuseArts, Inc., an award-winning digital design company specializing in interactivity, animation, and databases for the Web. He has written for industry magazines such as Exhibit Builder and Computer Pictures. His work has been featured in WIRED magazine, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and on such television programs as PBS's "The Creative Spirit," and "The 90's."
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Revised: May 16, 2000