Tony White's Animator's Notebook: Personal Observations on the Principles of Movement [NOOK Book]


Apprentice yourself to a master of classical animation techniques with this beautiful handbook of insider tips and techniques. Apply age-old techniques to create flawless animations, whether you're working with pencil and animation paper or a 3D application.
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Tony White's Animator's Notebook: Personal Observations on the Principles of Movement

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Apprentice yourself to a master of classical animation techniques with this beautiful handbook of insider tips and techniques. Apply age-old techniques to create flawless animations, whether you're working with pencil and animation paper or a 3D application.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tony White's Animator's Notebook PDF series offer something new: a LIVING book, where pages can be read like a book but they are not static like a book. They come to life with full animations that leap from the page with just a quick click of the mouse. This is a great idea for learning about animation. A textbook alone isn't enough to understand the rhythms of animation. Visualizing the goal through embedded sample videos will help all animators. Currently, these PDFs are available on the Focal Press website. Perhaps they'll be offered as a more flexible eBook in the future. The neutral grey text displayed in the sample make it a little difficult to read, but you should check out the sample for yourself. (I couldn't get the animation to playback tho)."—Ninja Crayon Blog

"Tony White's Animator's Notebook: Personal Observations on the Principles of Movement is a real treat if your newbie is fascinated with creating characters that really move around. The book focuses exclusively on the details of animating various kinds of movement and comes with an associated website (password requires having access to a hard copy of Tony White's Animator's Notebook). This text and website combo provides the explanations plus animated examples of all the principles outlined in the book, as well as demonstrations of core principles found in all of his books. This is quite neat because you get to see White's animations in motion and you can compare his results to your own. Bonus treat on the website is one of Tony White's own animated productions on the Japanese artist Hokusai - a lovely film."—Animation World Network (

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781136131974
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 265
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

Tony White, renowned animator, director, professor, lecturer, and author, has been in the animation industry for over 30 years, and currently teaches 2D animation and oversees principal animation production classes at DigiPen Institute of Technology. White began his career working with legendary industry professionals like award-winning illustrator Ralph Steadman, animation gurus Ken Harris, Art Babbit (original lead animator on Pinocchio, Fantasia, and others at Disney). He also personally assisted, then directed/animated for Richard Williams (3-time Oscar winner and author of The Animator's Survival Kit). In addition to being the Dean of Fine Art and Animation at DigiPen, White founded and presides over The Animaticus Foundation, which he formed to preserve, teach and evolve the art form of traditional 2D animation.

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Read an Excerpt


Personal Observations on the Principles of Movement
By Tony White

Focal Press

Copyright © 2012 Tony White
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-81308-0

Chapter One

The Principles and Process of Animation

Before you can tackle animation in any serious way, you need to understand the process and principles involved. The actual "process" of animation (i.e., the way the animator actually approaches the creation of scene) is hardly ever mentioned in literature on the subject, but it is extremely important, especially if character animation is your goal.

This chapter remedies this lack of information by explaining both the process and the principles of animation right from the get-go. Reading this part of my notebook will give you a foundation of method and information at your fingertips before you attempt the actual nitty-gritty of character animation in any serious way.

But first, let's briefly review how we got to this moment in time with the finest art form known to humankind: animation!

Animation's History in a Nutshell

The first animation was achieved by drawing the images directly onto film. This process involved every image on every frame of film being drawn slightly differently from the preceding one, like an old-fashioned paper flipbook.

This process of apparent movement was preceded by such fairground novelty devices as the Thaumotrope and the Practascope. However, it was not until Emil Cohl first drew images directly onto film that animation as we know it today—with direction, action, and story—was invented and captured the public's imagination.

As time went by, a greater emphasis was placed on larger-scale drawings, initiated on paper, which were filmed and edited into short films. This gave both artists and filmmakers greater control over the subject matter, which meant that more finesse and complexity could be added to the action.

Typical of this era was the work of the great Winsor McCay, who drew incredibly complicated and intricate pen-and-ink drawings onto cards that were successively aligned and filmed afterward.

However, it was only when the animator's peg bar was invented that a precisely registered process allowed for drawings to be consistently and universally created by a team of artists, using a key and "in-between" system, as defined in the early Fleischer Brothers' cartoons, soon to be followed by those of the great Walt Disney.

Disney was responsible for moving the drawn cartoon tradition into entirely new areas of expression, in which a greater reality of characterization and innovative storytelling was developed to incredible degrees of innovation. Films such as Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi defined this amazing era, now often referred to as animation's Golden Age.

Even today, with the amazing digital technology that is at the fingertips of every aspiring animator, we still use the same core principles of movement defined by keys, breakdowns, and in-betweens. As a result, any instruction that applies to the process and principles of animated movement is equally valid for every form of animation that is being attempted. Even the finest animators of the fabulous Pixar studio still pretty much adhere to the same production process that was used all those years ago by fabulous traditional 2D animators at the once great Disney studio.

The Process of Animation

The first question we must address is, how does a good character animator approach the creation of a scene within a production? There are, of course, as many approaches to the animation process as there are animators attempting it—and each animator evolves his or her own methods and procedures. However, what follows is a widely acknowledged generic approach that can apply to all animation formats, even though here we deal with the two principal forms of animation: traditional 2D animation and computer-based 3D animation.

The 2D Animation Process

Traditional 2D animation is no longer at the forefront of animation entertainment, but many passionate traditional animators still prefer the handcrafted, organic feel it offers when it's executed well. For example, the recent Spirited Away movie, by Hayou Miyazaki, has to be considered one of the finest animated films ever made. Sylvan Chomet's The Illusionist is another superbly crafted traditionally animated film. Certainly traditional animators at the top of their game still have a great deal to teach their more contemporary 3D counterparts, and much of its creative potential has yet to be realized, despite the infinite number of diverse films that have been produced traditionally over the decades.

What follows is the finest traditional animation process that I've personally found most valuable when approaching effective character animation. A modern student of traditional animated filmmaking will do well to follow the principles outlined here, even if they are later modified to suit that animator's own particular preferences.

1. Understand what you need to achieve. This means that with whatever form of animation being attempted, the animator first must fully understand the story, the emotion, the motivation, the continuity (in other words, the scene with the scenes around it), and of course, the character acting needs for any particular scene. This can either be dictated by the director (in larger productions) or by the animators themselves on shorter, more personal films. Whatever the length or style of film being considered, however, it is a fundamental requirement of the process that the animators fully understand what they are seeking to achieve with each scene from the get-go.

2. Key-pose thumbnails. To assist in the animators' thinking process, it is highly desirable that they first produce a series of dynamic thumbnail key-pose positions for each character, expressing the kinds of dynamic key-pose gestures they have in mind for the action. These need not be perfectly crafted drawings, just freeform representations of the kinds of ideas that the animators feel best communicate what they are trying to achieve. However, in producing these thumbnails, the animators should not stop with the first ideas they think of or draw. They should push and push their visual pose ideas till something really gels in their mind. It is very often the case that the first thing thought of is not the best thing ultimately, so always push yourself at this decisive stage. When this goal is ultimately achieved, however, shoot your thumbnails in sequence as a rough-pose animatic.

3. Reference video footage. It is very desirable that you find video footage of the action you are attempting, or even film yourself doing that same action in a number of ways. As with invaluable life drawing sessions, observing and recording real life is much superior to relying on memory, imagination, or assumption alone to make your final gesture statements. So, wherever possible, reference either live or filmed footage to give you greater insights into the kinds of key-pose gestures and elements of movement that you need to attempt.

Important note:

Never use footage as rotoscope or motion capture material only; this will only create dead and unconvincing animation, however economically desirable or time-consuming this option might appear at the outset. On the other hand, adjusted motion capture material after the event, achieved by an experienced professional animator, can raise the level of the final animated output through this technique, although the time taken to do this properly will probably be longer than if you had attempted to animate it from scratch in the first place!

4. Rough-pose animatic. With all your rough poses thumbed out, it is necessary to shoot them sequentially in a way that approximates the scene action you have in mind. Although there will be some inconsistencies with time and drawing-to-drawing scale in doing this, it will at least give you a general feel as to how your scene is shaping up and the effectiveness of the key poses you are using. If modification is needed, make the necessary changes and repeat until your rough-pose animatic works as you imagine it should in your mind's eye.

5. Final key poses. When you're satisfied that the shape and flow of your key drawings are basically working, you can begin to draw your final key poses on regular punched animation paper. This will effectively set down final markers as to how your action will be analyzed and expressed as well as how your gestures will define the anticipated action. Even though you might well be satisfied with the thumbnail key poses you have created before, remember that this stage is where it counts. So adjust, extend, and even change your key positions here if necessary, no matter what you believed was sufficient before. Remember that exceptional animation comes from exceptional and defining keys, not just good in-betweening. Thus the more time and effort you place in getting your key-pose gestures right, the more that effort will pay you back in the long run. (Don't forget the value of "flipping" your key frames as you create them so you can get a feel for the flow of the action as you go along.) This advice applies to computer-graphics (CG) animation as much as it does traditional 2D animation, so a strong eye and drawing ability for all animators are always advised.

6. Key-pose animatic. With your final key poses successfully created, shoot another animatic using these drawings instead of your thumbnail drawings. On this occasion, though, start to pay more attention to the drawings' placement and timing. Even now you don't exactly want to lock yourself down to precise timings, but you do want to make a valiant stab at it. So shoot each key pose for the number of frames you imagine it will need to get to the next key-pose frame, and do this throughout the entire scene. (Note: You are not putting in in-betweens at this stage. However, a pose test animatic will give you a strong indication that your keys are well drawn and well placed and will confirm that your action sequence is working as fluidly as possible.) Adjust your key-pose drawings and reshoot as necessary.

7. Breakdown drawings. At this stage I personally prefer to add all my breakdown drawings (i.e., the first in-betweens created between two keys) before going any further. Breakdown drawings are not literal in-betweens for much of the time. More often than not they are carefully located midpositions that are positioned to enable the timing, emphasis, or arc movement required. This means that they are not necessarily precisely in the middle of the two keys being linked together, and all the elements within the drawing are not necessarily equally centered. Therefore, place a great deal of attention on your breakdown drawings because they will control the way your action will best unfold from key to key. (Note: I deal with the issue of breakdown and in-between variations in a later notebook tutorial.) Flip your drawings as you go along so that you can assess the flow and consistency of action, and then shoot your revised key-pose animatic with the breakdown drawings included. Adjust and reshoot as necessary.

8. Rough in-betweens. Now that you have your keys and breakdowns completed, drop in the very rough in-betweens as you envisage them. Timing is always a difficult thing for an animator, especially a novice one, to assess. So it might be trial and error before you arrive at a decision about how many in-betweens will be needed to link each key and where you will place them. As a trial-and-error process, it really will help if you just sketch these in very roughly (but accurately) for now. This will save you a huge amount of work later if you need to make changes after your first pencil test is viewed.

9. First pencil test. With roughly drawn in-betweens finally in place, you should shoot a first pencil test of everything. Most traditional animators work on two's (one drawing for every two frames), at least to review the initial animated action. However, once these are seen and approved, they might decide to add one's later; these are usually reserved for complex, fast-moving action or drawings that appear very large on the screen.


Excerpted from TONY WHITE'S ANIMATOR'S NOTEBOOK by Tony White Copyright © 2012 by Tony White. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Principles of Animation; Generic Walk; Personality Walks; Quadruped Walks; Runs; Jumps; Weight; Arcs; Anticipation & Overlapping Action; Eyes; Flexibility and Fluidity; Essential Dialogue

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    How much!

    Why does this book have to cost $33! Thats too much for a little book, unless george washington wrote it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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