Written & compiled by Zero Dean
Generally, most exercises will involve either a character’s emotions or a character’s physical presence or both. Depending on how complex an animation you want to work with, characters can be as simple as a bouncing ball or as complicated as a living thing. It depends on how much time you have and how much you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions to get you thinking.
The following exercises vary quite a bit in complexity. Most of them will require at least an intermediate understanding of the program you’re using, but you are welcome and encouraged to attempt them no matter what level you’re at. These exercises are ways in which you can challenge yourself and improve your animation skills. If you’re not being challenged, you’re not really doing yourself any favors. Pick something just above your level of competency and then try it. Once you’ve done it effectively, make it more complex.
When I have time, I will try to rate these exercises and put them in some sort of order. If you know of an exercise that has been particularly useful to you or just have an interesting idea, please send it and I will add it here.
1) Try to display the emotions a character might go through while waiting for a bus that’s late. Pay close attention to facial expressions, body language, and detail.
2) Have a character try to open something (i.e. a present) that refuses to open. The character can only use body parts for the first minute, but may resort to other measures (i.e. tools and explosives) thereafter. Note, the character will be affected by the tools used (i.e. blast of an explosion). After you’ve mastered this, try to do the same thing with a normally inanimate object (i.e. lamp) as your lead character.
3a) Animate someone riding a pogo stick or some other ‘fun’ object (i.e. using a hoola hoop).
3b) Have your character use a weighted object, such as a hammer or a shovel. Demonstrate how the weight of the object affects the stance and demeanor of the character using it.
4) Create a walk cycle, then vary it to accommodate different attitudes and ‘character’. For example: Angry, happy, sneaky, limping, carrying a heavy object, sleep walking, etc.
5) Animate two characters sawing a log. The first character is a big, muscular brute. Animate him pose-to-pose first and cycle his animation. The second character is a scrawny little guy who gets yanked around, grabbing onto the saw for dear life.
6) Have a character bend down, pick up something heavy, and throw it. This exercise can help you with timing, emphasizing weight, and anticipation.
7) Put a short character in a tall room with one window, one door, one light (and switch) and a hanging ceiling fan (with hanging switch). The room contains 3 boxes, a ball, and a board. Imagine the different ways your character could figure out how to reach the hanging switch and then animate the most outrageous. Next, subtract two boxes and add a skateboard and try again.