Animation Study & Discussion
Thanks to community members from Permanoobs who contributed. I am continuing this thread here, feel free to talk about anything related to animation or ask questions. If you have a thought to share please do so. 


1. Analysis Tools
2. Software
3. Theory
3. Animators
4. Further Resources
5. Misc.

Analysis Tools

Great great resource. Thanks for putting it here. I'm curious if you have any other rec's for opensource dedicated animation software that can do the whole shebang?

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My personal workflow is a combination of photoshop's built in timeline with a plugin called anim dessin 2:

I also use After Effects to control camera pan, zoom outs, and camera shakes. 

The animation studio Titmouse (Motorcity, Metalocalypse) Uses Flash, with a plugin that allows you to manipulate pre-constructed assets(?).
For open source, the most basic one to just mess around in is called Easytoon:
Very limited, but easiest to get started in

- I have also heard good things about this one if you want something more advanced:

When it comes to animation programs there is also AzDrawing2

It's simple sketching/inking program but in the menu you can turn on "Animation Edit Mode" which treats layers as frames and there is simple onion skin to see previous and next frames. What I like about it is that you can assign mouse wheel for changing between the frames. Very comfortable for previewing the animation. 

For more advanced stuff you would need Plastic Animation Paper though.

Yeah I kinda hate flash too. Seems so....90's. Thanks for the info guys!

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Wow, thanks for compiling all the information, links and resources! Really interesting, it will be a blast to go trough and get inspiration.

For the links section:
I collect quite a lot of links sometimes, and I've got this link in my collection:
As far as I know it's not being updated anymore and it's also not a huge collection, but I go there frequently for getting reference for my gestures. I don't know how useful it is for an actual animator though, because I thought that I'd like to have a slow motion option because everything happens way to fast here. Gonna try out one of the programs you mentioned above though if I have time to get some frames out of them!

And the tumblr blog of Bahi JD maybe: who worked on Space Dandy and others.


I'll update op with your links, thanks for sharing.
Maybe I'll update this thread like a thought blog because there are several things I've been wanting to talk about but couldn't find people who were interested. 

This is a fundamental skill that is discussed when it comes to both animating and drawing figures. When I was starting I was very confused by this topic because everyone has a different style. But I've come to realize it is merely a short hand and method for problem solving - posing. So I needed to come up with my own. 

Actually, I am not too big a fan of Hampton's gestures. A lot of the images that you find when you search gesture drawing into google are exaggerated and artistic focusing mostly on graphic curves and flows. I prefer a more 3d approach rather than diluting the figure down into graphic relationships. 

[Image: michael-hampton-figure-drawing-design-an...1366760013]

The book that had the biggest influence on me is called 
Blazblue Chrono Phantasma Collection (Very "findable" on the internet)

Personal Gesture Criteria
I was inspired by how easy and simple they made the figures, and they also felt very solid and spatial.

After looking at this book, I tried to break down the problem of "posing" as simple as possible into these parameters
-Balance & Function
-Perspective and Eye Level
-Action of Spine// Tilt of shoulder & hips (I like to think of this as a single problem)                   
-anatomical details (Last in terms of importance)

Visualization & Purpose
A problem I would critique for many people just starting out is way too much focus on anatomy in figure drawing. From the few sketchbooks I've visited, rendering and anatomical knowledge are very good, but foundational drawing (perspective and form) are off. By focusing so much on detail and rendering I often see very weird posing, combined with very high level of painting, which instantly ruins the artwork for me. 

A problem I had/ and still have is visualization. People would often say they see images. Personally, I dont see anything and I doubt that is actually how our brain works, because if it was, then animating would be very easy. I think a lot of people tend to draw very randomly, and that is why poses tend to be so awkward. But if you can create a mental checklist, and come up with a story/function for your character before you start, at least you have a criteria you are working towards. 

And by practicing this over and over again, you can close the effort gap between the criteria you set up for yourself and the end result. So whenever I do gesture studies, I constantly deconstruct the factors I deemed important above, and practice reconstructing through copying. Don't just blind copy images when you study but focus on deliberate learning.

I think basically that pose (movement, rhythm, balance, weight distribution) and anatomical knowledge (structure, volume, ranges of motion) have to go hand in hand. Each will fail in some way without the other.
As you are coming from an animation background you've presumably been forced to work with both. I agree that many studying illustrators seem to fall into the anatomy study so hard, that when it comes to "Doing" things with it, they fall flat. figurative art should be about expression of some emotion as a by product of that knowledge, not about how accurately you can draw a muscle group from memory.

So yeah, nothing in isolation is the way to go.

Interestingly enough, you might want to check up on this, but there is an actual condition where people are literally unable to visualise anything in their minds. They aren't dysfunctional, but they just can't see things "visually" like most people can. A friend of mine has this. She works with concepts, not images in her mental space. I can't even conceive it, being incredibly visual myself. It's called 'Aphantasia'

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I agree Hampton isnt the best for learning gestures. He uses too many scratchy lines which creates bad draftsmenship habits in my opinion. As well as what you said about the exaggeration. I think using exaggeration is fine but most beginners dont have things like proportions and perspective drilled into their heads enough. So when they try to exaggerate its already coming from a distorted understanding of the figure. So Hampton's book is good as a beginner artistic anatomy book but I'd skip copying his gesture style.

Im not an animator but I really found this book useful. Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators by Michael Mattesi. It took me a while to really understand gestures honestly. This book talks about gesture in a some what abstract way that may be confusing to some at first. Like you said gesture is problem solving so it makes sense to teach it in this way. What he teaches is how to feel the rhythm of a pose so that you can solve the unique problem each pose presents. Theres no formula that will work for every pose.

Other influences on me for gesture is Proko and Jeff Watt's approach to gesture. They use a more graphical approach than Hampton or Michael Mattesi. They really focus on gesture as a design and exclude any perspective or anatomy during that phase of the drawing. They're not animators so this makes more sense I think for their purposes.

To me gesture is all about designing the pose but with a core understanding of perspective, proportions and anatomy. Exaggeration with a solid foundation of those 3 things allows you to make informed decisions about the over all rhythms. You think about the action the person is doing and what rhythm lines to emphasis in order to convey that action most effectively.

I have to disagree about visualization though. I do see images in my head and so do you. You see them every night when you're asleep. They're called dreams :P The mind does work that way. You might just be forcing it too much. I saw an interview that Frank Frazetta described drawing as projecting an image in his mind onto the page and then just tracing it. Kim Jung Gi says he sees about 70% of what hes going to draw before he draws anything. Now that might not be best described as "seeing an image" but its definitely a real experience. I've had detailed images flash in my minds eye though plenty of times.

I might be going off on a tangent here... Theres a phenomenon call hypnagogic imagery in which during the process of falling asleep you will "see" images. Whats actually happening is your subconscious is implanting the fabricated memory of an image as though you saw it several seconds before. I think the memory of images can be created in the mind while awake. Just close your eyes while looking at something and notice how the visual memory of what you were looking at is there and then fades. Artists like Kim Jung Gi have strengthened their visual memory so that they can access a library of mental reference that they can manipulate at will to work from. Just my little theory :)

Thanks for the replies,

I've been eager to see what other people think about visualization. The reason i say that I don't really believe we see things is because we rely so heavily on constructive drawing in order to recreate things from imagination. We can't just dive into full detail finished illustrations, but there are a few arguments against that like Kim Jung Gi. In fact a lot of more experienced illustrators and I feel especially comic artists can draw with less laborious under drawings. But still, I've always wondered why constructive drawing was necessary to reconstruct from imagination. Why can't we just imagine the picture and put the lines where our mental image dictates?

Here's my argument: when using reference a lot of people can replicate it pretty close, some of them rely purely on a 2d approach, analyzing values in specific regions and reproducing it on a blank paper. But then why is it so necessary then to learn the science of perspective, form, light, etc. to draw from imagination? Is it not possible to just conjure up pictures and reproduce that?

That's why I felt like I had a "concept" of what I wanted instead of an actual mental picture

For example, here are some visual problem solving tasks: 

This one, I solve through inference, The dots are all similar sizes but one column is different from the others, it appears to be missing one. I can place the dot and draw it in, but I'm not closing my eyes and seeing the dot there and referencing my mental image.

Mental rotation: For these problems I'm using the base image, and then looking for reference points and angles. I problem solve through moving isolated segements, then wholes, its a very fuzzy process to describe.
Mirrioring is the most taxing mental operation for me.

Some Interesting Points

"Shepard's interpretation of it as evidence for irreducibly analog and intrinsically spatial processes in thinking, and for what he called a “second order isomorphism” between image and object (Shepard, 1975, 1978b, 1981, 1984), certainly did not go unquestioned. Some researchers challenged Shepard's contention that his results show that images are rotated as a whole, rather than their parts being compared in a piecemeal fashion (Hochberg & Gellman, 1977;"

"More radically, some have doubted whether the rotation task really involves imagery at all (Marks, 1999). After all, unlike in the experiments with imagery mnemonics, the subjects were never explicitly told to use imagery in performing the comparison task, and alternative explanations of the result "

"Other recent research has centered on whether there might be multiple neural systems for the rotation of mental imagery. Parsons (1987) found that when participants were presented with line drawings of hands rather than Shepard and Metzler-like 3D blocks showed embodiment effects in which participants were slower to rotate hand stimuli in directions that were incompatible with the way human wrist and arm joints move. This finding suggested that the rotation of mental imagery was underlain by multiple neural systems: that is, (at least) a motoric/tactile one as well as a visual one. In a similar vein Amorim, Isableu and Jarraya (2006) have found that adding a cylindric "head" to Shepard and Metzler line drawings of 3D objects can create facilitation and inhibition effects as compared to standard Metzler-like stimuli, further suggesting that these neural systems rely on embodied cognition."

To add the inbetween these poses, I am relying on my personal experience of walking. I find referencing myself and acting it out to be a far more powerful aid than trying to just "see" it

For all of these tasks I feel like I am using more logic and context to deduce a conclusion rather than referencing mental imagery. 

The article Amit posted was an interesting read because the subject was still able to solve visual tasks without mental imaging.

This in combination with the Shepard & Metzlar article mentioning:
"This finding suggested that the rotation of mental imagery was underlain by multiple neural system"

leads me to believe visual problem solving can be done many different ways. I guess this further reinforces that everyone has unique ways they create art and therefore shortcuts in art are very difficult to find. and why mileage is reinforced so much, so you can figure out what works best for you.

Quick Edit: Actually when animating I feel like I rely most on motoric/tactile senses mentioned in the article. I like to mentally act out a scenario and then draw it, this is the reason why animation is so interesting for me. Because I feel more like the actor rather than a spectator.

Damn quote function...have no idea how that piece of crap works in this forum, and I've been on it for 3 years!?

Anyway so...

"leads me to believe visual problem solving can be done many different ways. I guess this further reinforces that everyone has unique ways they create art and therefore shortcuts in art are very difficult to find. and why mileage is reinforced so much, so you can figure out what works best for you"

^ This!

I read a book called Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks which looked at specific neural disorders and how they affected either enhanced ability or specific symptomatic degeneration in the musical aspect of people and it was an absolutely fascinating read. A lot can be learned at looking at things in this way.

I don't know if an analog to this exists for visual artists (I haven't really looked) , but it would undoubtedly be equally as fascinating!
*EDIT Damn it, the man himself wrote it! It's called the "Mind's Eye", though it is about vision, not so much art I guess. Gonna add it to my to read list anyway. Sacks is amazing

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