12 Principles of Animation That Will Make Your Video Stand Out

By November 26, 2020March 7th, 2022Animation Video

The animation industry is massive. With consumers increasingly expecting higher quality videos and visual effects for an immersive experience, the global animation market is predicted to reach a staggering 270 billion U.S. dollars by the end of this year. With 99% of video marketers saying that video has gotten them incredible ROI and is going to continue to be an integral part of their video marketing strategy in the future. That’s why creating appealing videos that people would love to watch matter the most.

We have already talked about the types of animation styles you can implement for your next video campaign. Since people love watching animated content, more and more companies are outsourcing to a professional video production agency to create animated videos for their business.

In this piece, we want to talk about the basic principles of animation that help produce more appealing and realistic work, which can incredibly benefit your marketing strategies.

The Bible of Animation

Back in the day, nine ‘old men’ from Disney Studios were considering how to make their animations look more realistic.

The question was: how to succeed at creating snappy and appealing animations?

That’s when, in 1981, two bright Disney animators Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas tried exploring different possibilities of making animation better. What they learned during the process, they later systematized it into twelve basic principles of animation. Published in The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation book that came out in 1981. Since that time, these famous principles have been adopted by almost every professional animator. Although originally intended for applying in traditional, hand-drawn animations, these principles still have great significance for today’s animations that are created digitally. The book is still considered one of the “best animation books of all time,” and famously is recognized as the “Bible of Animation”.

Here are the famous animation principles that make the animations come to life.

12 Basic Principles of Animation:

  1. Squash and Stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Slow In and Slow Out
  7. Arc
  8. Secondary Action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

1. Squash and Stretch

Squash and Stretch are the most crucial principles. It gives a sense of weight and volume to drawn objects. For example, a bouncing ball, which appears stretched when falling and squashed when it hits the ground. Even slightly exaggerating on shortening and widening animated objects will give them that realistic feel.

This principle works over the physical properties that are going to change while the object is in motion. Ensuring squash and stretch makes the animation convincing.

2. Anticipation

Almost nothing happens suddenly. As the action appears more realistic if the audience is indicated what’s going to happen next, anticipation is used to prepare for the main action of an animated scene. It is usually divided into three phases:

  • Preparation phase
  • Movement phase
  • Finish

When this animation principle is implemented for the video, it helps make the action in motion seem more realistic.

For example: Before kicking the football, the actions of the player comes under anticipation. When the player prepares to kick the ball, it creates a sense of anticipation for the viewer. It prepares them for what the action is going to be now. Implementing this makes the animated video look more natural.

Imagine if you were to jump in the air and you don’t bend your knees, or perhaps look in another direction without turning your head a little. It would appear very unusual, as it is impossible to take a jump without bending your knees first! In the same way, animating movements without a flicker of anticipating what should come next, would make the motion seem awkward, stale and lifeless.

3. Staging

Johnston and Thomas defined staging as “the presentation of an idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear,” such that, the audience’s attention, can be directed towards the most standout part of the scene. A scene should clearly show the intention, attitude or the mood of the characters. Be careful during the ‘staging’ of the scene through shots (close-up, medium or long), the character’s posture, and setting the right frame rate and by turning the angles when recording.

This animation principle deals with focusing on what is relevant and removing the unnecessary details, so the viewer understands the message of the animation clearly and avoids confusion.

4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

There are two ways to carry out the actual drawing process- Straight Ahead Action & Pose to Pose. For the first one, draw out a scene frame by frame from the beginning to the end

With pose to pose you start with a few keyframes- the beginning frame, the end frame and a few important frames in-between. Later on, you go back and fill in the rest. This technique is proven to give you more control while creating a scene that increases the dramatic effect of the motion.

Fast scenes should be done with a straight-ahead animation whereas pose to pose animation should be followed for emotional scenes. These two techniques are usually combined to create a dynamic and dramatic illusion of movement.

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

When objects come to a stand-still after being in motion, different parts will stop at different rates. In the same way, not each part of the object will move at the same speed. It is the basis of this principle- Follow Through and Overlapping Action.

“Follow through” relates to parts of the subject that continue to move even after a completed action. This type of action helps to generate intriguing animations.

For example: If your character is running across the scene, when they stop running, their hair will continue to move for a few frames before coming to rest.

While “Overlap” deals with the nature in which before ending the first act, the second act starts. Suppose if you are running, your head and hands will move at different speeds- this is overlapping action.

Use it right & this principle will work wonders bringing the animations to life on screen.

6. Slow In and Slow Out

Objects take time to speed up and slow down, and this should be kept in mind while creating animations.

Just as it takes time for a car to accelerate when it is started, in the same way when it comes to a stop, it takes a while. It doesn’t happen instantly. So if you want the animation to look realistic, you would need to add more drawings to the beginning and at the end of an action- focusing on the speed up and slow down part of the motion.

The more drawings you add, the slower will be the speed and vice-versa.

7. Arc

When creating animations, you should always stick by the laws of physics. Most objects follow a definite arc or a path while in motion, and the animations you create should reflect that arc.

Suppose, if you throw a ball in the air at a 45-degree angle, the ball is going to keep moving along that arc (following the natural path due to the Earth’s gravity) and eventually drop. This principle of animation will help curate a dynamic projectile motion of the objects- making it seem real.

8. Secondary Action

Secondary actions are for supporting or emphasizing the main action playing in a scene. Adding secondary action animations help add more dimension to your characters and objects.

For instance, the subtle movement of your character’s hair as they walk, the person’s hand moving while they are talking.

Keeping such minor details is sure to create an immersive experience for the viewer.

9. Timing

Next up, Timing!

For this animation principle, we need to look at the laws of physics again. Suppose the objects move quickly or slowly than they would naturally move in the real world- the animation motion wouldn’t look real to the viewer. And that’s not what you want!

You need to handle the speed of the objects in the motion better by adding or reducing the frames. The more you add, the movement will look much slower, while adding fewer frames would make the motion appear faster.

This is a trial and error principle, so play around with it until you master it!

10. Exaggeration

The classical definition of exaggeration, employed by Disney, was to remain grounded to reality, just presenting it in a much powerful and more extreme form. If the animation appears static, it isn’t going to captivate the attention of the viewer. Instead, find ways to push to the limits. Add more details and features to a scene- features that show more of the physical nature and vivid emotions will make it more appealing to the eye.

11. Solid Drawing

Solid drawing principle considers putting the three-dimensional space into perspective while drawing objects. It means that the animator has to understand the basics of drawing- weight, volume, balance and light & shadow.

Keep this perspective in-tact throughout the entire animation process. Otherwise, things will start to fall apart.

12. Appeal

Lastly, we have the Appeal principle. This principle focuses on making the animations appealing, so it captivates the attention of the audience quickly.

Creating complicated designs for the characters should be avoided. Make character design appealing by highlighting their personalities (according to the storyline). There is no right formula to get it right, but try your best!

If the results don’t show still, that’s all right. You always have the option to hire pro animators who can produce animations just like you want.

An option- many brands tend to prefer.

That’s a wrap!

Apply these 12 principles of animation, and watch your animated video come to life.

Are you looking for expert animators to produce an animated video for your brand? You found the best in the business!

Communication Crafts has been a leading video production company that has been crafting animated videos to perfection for clients around the world. Since the last 15 years, we have created trendy and appealing animated videos for companies in various domains, which have been effective in engaging the intended audience. Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to us for which we thoroughly make sure to understand all your business needs and create a plan that would work wonders for your marketing campaign. We adhere to the Bible of Animation strictly while we create animations. We want to produce the best-animated videos that would help put your brand in the spotlight!

Wait no longer, hire us & get appealing animated videos made!
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