I had the pleasure of attending the Acting for Animators workshop by Ed Hooks at this year’s FMX conference in Stuttgart Germany. Here are a few tips and tricks he mentioned to improve your animation! If you ever get a chance to attend one of his workshops, don’t miss that opportunity!
Acting is Doing
A character that isn’t doing anything isn’t acting. It’s essential for the animator to know what’s going on in the character’s mind, but for the audience it must be visual. On screen the character should be doing something, not simply wandering around. This seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often we animator’s get caught up in nothing but facial expressions and wild, meaningless movements! Give your character something to do.
Characters Must Be Relatable
Even a villain should have traits (or actions) that make the audience empathize with them. You want your audience to be thinking “Oh, I can totally understand that” even if they might not, say, create a doomsday device like your antagonist. Likewise it’s essential for the hero to be relatable, even if they are a super hero or vastly different than the common person.
It is the animator’s job to create a feeling of empathy for every character on screen.
Objectives Must Be Provable
If you ask your character about their objective, it should be something able to be proven. “Being happy” is not a wise objective. “Going to Berlin (because it will make me happy)” makes much more sense.
Scenes Begin in the Middle
When a scene starts, something happened before. Characters are coming from somewhere before they enter the scene, and they’ll go somewhere afterward. Don’t think of them as a blank slate at the start of a shot, because they’ve “lived” a life before that and will continue long after the final cut of your film. Make sure you remember that!
In the coming weeks we’ll have a new interview up with Mr. Hooks, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime you can see previous interviews with him here and here. He also has a fantastic book out called Acting for Animators which is chock full of more information like the things above, and a monthly newsletter detailing insights into current animated films!