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Tips and tricks

Loops

Loops also known as cycles.

A loop is simply the same sequence of animation repeated over and over. Used carefully, loops can stretch out your animation effectively, and you can make one if the first frame of an animation is (nearly) the same as the final frame.

Loops are the drawn animator's greatest friend, and although more difficult to create in stop-frame, cutout, and pixilation they can still work well.

The straight loop

A good example of a straight loop is a wheel turning or a dripping tap.

The ping-pong loop

A good example of a ping-pong loop is a clock pendulum. You only need to create one set of moves, in one direction, to create the 'tick'. Then, usually in the edit, you reverse the movement - to create the 'tock' : and then keep moving back and forth: tick-tock-tick-tock!

Enemies of looping

The main problem with creating a loop is too much going on - eg someone has created a fantastic dancing bear sequence that you identify as ideal for looping. But there's a bird flying across the background, and when you try and loop the dancing bear, the bird keeps on entering and re-entering the screen!

Good animation is like a raisin sponge cake; you can get away with a lot of minimalism (sponge) as long as you reward your audience occasionally with tasty dynamic bits (raisins)
John Challis

Holds

Holds are simply pauses when you don't animate anything - they are that simple. For example: when a character turns and looks, you simply pause the action at the end of the head turn. This can be achieved by recording one or two seconds without changing anything, (If you are working on 'threes' you just press the grab button maybe ten times) and this hold is easily adjusted at the edit stage. If you forget a hold - this can also be created in the edit by using a freeze-frame.

In drawn animation, a hold does not work so well when a drawn animator's style is very wild - see 'boiling' below.

Boiling

In drawn animation 'boiling' is where you trace the same drawing almost identically (usually 3 times) and then film each in turn and loop it continuously. This adds life to a scene that doesn't actually have (or need to have) anything moving in it.

It can be difficult to convince young children that boiling has any value, but sometimes without it, a wild animated style will sometimes not tolerate a hold.

Easy lip sync

True lip sync is quite difficult to achieve. Fortunately there is a much easier way of giving the impression that a character is talking.

  • Make sure you have a few frames of a character's mouth moving in different positions. Children love creating endless mouth movements (and this is logical too, as they are trying to get enough animation to go with the length of the speech) However, you actually need only a few frames!
  • In post-production, loop these few frames to create a ‘chattering mouth’. Every time the character speaks, use the chattering loop. When there is a pause, use a freeze frame of a closed mouth position. (Later, you can get more sophisticated, with the widest mouths being used for loud words, etc)
  • It is essential that nothing else is animating in the shot at the same time! Otherwise, every time the 'chatter loop' happens this other unwanted animation will start and stop too. This is particularly important if you have a two-shot of characters talking to each other
  • Partly because of this, close-ups are easiest and often most convincing
  • If you don't have mouths for some characters, just a small amount of limb or body movement as they talk, followed by freeze-frames can work extremely well

Replacement animation

Replacement animation is also known as substitution animation.

Replacement animation can really surprise your audience and be a lot of fun. You are creating some of the magic, (so easily available with drawn animation) and using it within cut-out or stop motion animation. It is relatively easy to create replacements in cut-out animation but hard work in stop-motion.

Example 1 - expanding balloon

For each frame of a balloon blowing up you place, a new, slightly larger balloon where the last one was. This is relatively easy as a balloon can be a flat single colour. It's trickier if your story involves an inflating head.

Example 2 - a puff of smoke

For the first frame place a small compressed piece of cotton wool, stretch this for the second frame, replace with a new larger piece for the next frame, and so on, until you have created a blob that can float off. Then start another blob of smoke.

With explosions, smoke, water squirts, etc; the start of the action is considerably easier to create than the dissipation at the end.
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