One of the most interesting guides to kick start on the art of Animation techniques that I found is “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams. It introduces and demonstrates one of the techniques called keyframing. It is based on the notion that an object has a beginning state and will be changing over time, in position, form, color, luminosity, or any other property, to some different final form. We then let the artist or a computer program to fill in the intermediate forms. As an example, check out Mike Brown’s simple method for creating walk cycles here. My views on this: (1) Very impressive considering all this was produced with just four keyframes. (2) Attention to detail given, especially with respect to the shoulders, hips and feet movement. You should also check out the stop motion method of keyframing by the movie makers of Kubo and the two Strings here. I was amazed by the creativity of the artists. I am still not sure if this is more or less hard work over using a computer program. But this technique does give a “natural” feel to aspects of lighting, shadows and materials. However I assume the characters’ facial expressions should be difficult to work on.
Procedural animation is a technique used to allow for a more diverse series of actions than could otherwise be created. Here, predefined animations are used following a set of “rules”. This could be used in crowd based animation, as done by the Game of Thrones folks. Check how they did it using Massive Software here. My views on this: (1) As I was not even aware of this technique, I was awestruck with this idea; the fact that a set of rules can result in terrific simulations. (2) I wonder if deep learning techniques are applied to the rules of procedural animation; I guess they are.
Physics based animation is simply how physics is simulated for human visual consumption. More on this in later posts.
Finally, we have data driven animation. Data driven animation using motion capture data has become a standard practice in character animation. Dense markers are placed on various points on the object (human for character animation) which help in “drawing out” parts of the body/skeleton/facial features like how they used in Avatar. My views on this: (1) I was aware of this form, especially from game development videos; a prime example being FIFA. I feel the technology is far from perfect here. This is acceptable for game graphics, maybe, where the attention to detail in animation features need not be the primary issue. For movies, I feel there is room for improvement.(2) I wonder if this is limited to only human or human-like character animation.
All these and more emerging ways of animation (like autonomous animation) are combined in some sort to produce the jaw dropping realistic movie and gaming experience that we love.