In Defining The Art, we take a closer look at some of the lingo of the animation biz. Though these entries are invaluable for beginners, even veterans might find some new or once-known-but-now-forgotten tidbits to keep in mind. Today’s topic is Twinning.

As everyone knows, Twinning is a a delicious brand of tea.

Wait. No. That’s Twinings.

Twinning is when your character (or scene) is chock full of symmetry. Here is an example of a character that would be considered “Twinned.”

Sometimes in animation is it preached that twinning is evil. We’ll leave that up for you to decide, but there are instances where it has the potential to help the scene you’re trying to create. For instance, symmetrical movements often have a raw power to them which non-twinned motions might not. If someone slams their fists down in fury on a desk, chances are pretty good they aren’t going to slam one fist down followed by the other. This action might be better suited to simultaneous, mirrored action.

WATCH EXAMPLE VIDEO

Many times (dare we say MOST of the time) though, you want to avoid twinning like the plague. Sadly the way to avoid twinning is NOT like the plague and you can’t just increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. It is a never ending battle that all animators face, as even the best of the best see it slip into their artwork when they aren’t paying close enough attention.

Why Avoid It If It Seems To Come Naturally?

If we naturally fall back to putting twinning into our work, why should be avoid it? After all, isn’t animation the art of capturing the natural world? Well, yes and no. Animation is indeed all about looking at reality and capturing its essence, but as animators we want to go BEYOND that. We want to make animation even better than reality. Peter Docter, a Pixar director, animator and writer, says

Animation is real life with the volume turned up.”

This quote is extremely true. As an animator you want to take “real life” and make it even better. The truth is, when you have an action (or pose) be perfectly symmetrical, it lacks a lot of dimension, depth, and life that it could otherwise have. Just take a look at yourself the next time you’re standing waiting in line at the grocery store or bus stop. Chances are very good that your weight will be on one leg more than the other, and perhaps one hand will be in your pocket (or holding your phone). As human beings we rarely stand or act with perfect symmetry.

Yet even veteran animators sometimes forget this classic principal and their work suffers compared to what it COULD be.

The next time you’re animating, pay close attention to any twinning sneaking into your work. It will try to. It’s very tenacious. Consciously break the habit and remove it from your animation. Unless, of course, it adds to the power of the scene. After all, it has its useful place. The key, like most principals of animation, is to know when to use it consciously and when to leave it out.