Sunday, January 30, 2011

Animation 101: Blood and Posture.. are motion lines necessary?

"I don't use action lines to describe what is happening in the frame; I use blood and posture to tell the viewer what is happening" -Gibbens (of "Watchmen")

Another epic blog entry from Mark. It's something I think about all the time, and I happen to lean toward the NO action lines especially in animation. I hate that I've used them in the past, they added practically nothing to the action. "Blood and Posture" may just be my new tag line. i'm using my own drawings from my films as examples, you'll have to forgive me, i just have no immediate other examples at hand, and I love talking about my own discoveries, errors, etc.
Above I used action lines in "Puppet" to punch up this key that was exposed on ones. Now that I look at it, it didn't add anything, i should have left it out.
Above, I think I did well, some animators would use a "wipe" effect by elongating this exposure (again on ones) but it looks better with the more realistic "stretch" of the sock being thrown down, as well as a nice drag from the hair and sleeve.
Above, directly after the SMACK, I think I used the saliva coming off the kids mouth as a "Blood and Posture" move, eliminating any action lines, and only using goober to leave a motion trail, and also again the direction is aided by the drag on the hair, as well as the puppets little hands. This was a fun scene to animate.

Similar use of saliva.. Above from "Masks" the trail of slobber reflects the arc of the head and mouth as the character catches the little dude in it's mouth. Also, a slight blur helped the realism.
Dangit... above is another one... what's wrong with me?? this one had no reasoning behind it.. I think sometimes I put them in when i'm working on 1's because i think it goes by so quick. Also, sometimes they creep in from my roughs, when I'm establishing the arc.
Above: I even see they crept in within the rough lines of this one also from "Puppet", again, probably rough lines from mapping an arc.

Above: from "Masks", I did this right. No motion lines, even though this still is from some VERY extreme action shot on 1's.  Instead I relied on solid drag and cohesive drawing (or "posture") of the figures.  My point is, if you draw it correctly, there is no need for any effect lines. However, in "Masks", I often used subtle motion blurs when things are moving fast, which punches up realism, unlike action lines, which only serve to make it cartoony.
Here's another one above, and I think this is unforgivable.  You see the VERY NEXT FRAME has debris (read "blood") that made the action quite clear enough.. no lines were needed. moral of this... stick to the real world for your references... there's no motion lines in reality!  Hope you enjoyed this analysis.. please let me know if you agree or disagree. It seems every film I do I learn an absurd amount about movement and animation, and I love to share my discoveries, small or big. -Patrick


  1. I think less conventional, more overt uses of motion lines can punch up animation nicely, particularly in more limited animation (I'm a fan of Yoshinori Kanada's use). Yes it's cartoony, but so?

    I think the examples you cite from your short are a bit unimaginative and unnecessary. However, if the situation called for a character to pop from one extreme pose to another for an animation with the right amount of impact (someone swinging a knife through the air, for example), some sort of mark could help make that read better.

    Really, I don't think it's something to be overused, but neither should it be thrown out entirely. If it feels right, then why not?

  2. i don't like cartoony.. life isn't cartoony.. if there was a guy jumping up with a knife, base the observation of that action on reality.. no motion lines. i could understand a use of a blur, or even a dry brush technique (which really was an older way to make a blur).. but never have i ever scene a line. so why go there? to separate your motion from reality more? to what end? it will punch up better if animated well. not sure why i feel so strongly about this:) totally subjective of course. thanks for you comment btw.. hope you like the blog.

  3. When inking a scene for John Hubley, back in my early days, he told me not to ink any of the action lines the animator had drawn. I eliminated them and the scene worked just as well without them.

    His was a graphic decision, and I think the opposite is also true. Add the action blur/lines if it works for the graphic style you're trying to put over.

    I don't think I've ever included them in anything I've done since way back when John gave me that request.