Monday, May 15, 2006

Reader Mailbag!

Okay, so reader k jensen posted this question:

I have a question for you. I have animated for many years and teach animation from time to time. A student asked me one day if I could define the diffrence between the princeples of: Follow through, secondary action and overlapping action?

I have always used those terms to mean the same thing which just proves what a meathead I am! Check out "The Illusion of Life" for a detailed description of these terms. Here's a simplified overview:

Follow through and Overlapping action, according to the book, are two names for the same knid of thing. Basically, it covers all the stuff that prevents a character from looking like it snaps from place to place. For example, the clothes and hair "Catch up" after the body has stopped running. In a fleshy character, their fleshy cheeks might take a moment to catch up to the skull in a fast head turn. Or it could even apply to appendages. As you stop running and your feet get planted, your arms and head might continue to move for a bit until they settle.
Also in this category are things called "follow through" in real life. Like when you swing a baseball bat at a ball - after the bat connects you still continue to swing the bat until it comes to a rest.

Secondary action is "extra business that supports the main action...and is always kept subordinate to the main action". Like a flustered person who puts on his glasses as he regains his composure. The Illusion of Life continues: "If it conflicts or becomes more interesting or dominating in any way, it is either the wrong choice or is staged improperly".

Make sense? If not, please see the "illusion of Life" for a better explanation and some examples! Hope that helps, k!

1 comment:

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Secondary action is this stupid term that everybody understands differently, depending who their teachers were. Secondary action will usually be what you just described. Say Long John Silver in Treasure Planet wiping his hands clean in one of his first shots in the film. However, in a lot of schools, it's taught as being similar to follow through and overlapping action. I think it comes from a misconception about what Frank and Ollie wrote. They were talking about acting choices that add character and the feeling of interaction with the environment (say a nervous businessman pitching something, playing with his tie or pen... the pitching, and all the gestures that come with it are the main action... the playing or fiddling with the tie or pen are secondary) but some people might interpret it as everything that doesn't interfere with the acting. Which brings us to clothes, hair, etc.

Actually, follow through, overlap, drag and (as mentioned in The Animator's Survival Kit) succesive breaking of joints are all related, basically mean the same thing, but are kind of used in different cases. Drag is more something that, well, drags behind. Followthrough is more about something that slows down or stops, while what is behind it is still moving forward. Succesive breaking of joints is how everything starts at one place and moves through up till the end. Overlap could be more how the movement in one direction overlaps the movement in a different direction in different parts of the same object. At least that makes most sense to me... but I figure usually people won't bother making the difference.