Tips on Making Fluid and Powerful Animations

Today we're going to look at some of the tricks you can use to sell your animations and make it powerful. 

These tips were shared during a GDC animation talk by Mariel Cartwright on Scullgirls. Scullgirls is a 2D fighting game that was hand-animated which means that every single frame was drawn manually. 

Silhouette is always important but if you're working on a game with characters moving fast, silhouette is your main tool. Make sure that your attack and blocking moves are clear by emphasizing key elements of the characters. 

Anticipation is also incredibly important. Anticipation is the thing that's gonna give your moves contrast, make it readable and give it power. Having even a frame of anticipation will make your move much better in terms of readability. You don't even see it, but you feel it. 

Please note that there's a difference between animating your player character and enemies, and you have to keep that in mind when balancing anticipation. 

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You also have to favor keys. Choose important moments and emphasize them when you have a limited number of frames - this will make your animation more readable and believable. 

Another important thing is to use followthrough when you don't have time for in-betweens - this will help you effectively fill in the gaps with hair and other details. That way you can also balance anticipation. 

You also need good smears. A good smear can sell your motion and fill in the gaps if you have too much space. 

By using smears you can tell about the pose your moves are coming from, the motion they're currently making and the final state. 

Having one frame overshooting your frame and then pulling back might also help you and give more power. What is more, you can mix smears and overshooting to find a perfect balance. 

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Still don't have enough power? Try breaking bodies! Don't be afraid to break a couple of limbs to push your animation - players probably won't notice the breaking part, but the move will look much more powerful. 

Remember, you're animating, and there'are always tons of ways to create powerful moves. You don't have to make every frame perfect as long as your motion is readable. 

You have to remember your foundations as an artist, but don't forget that as an animator it's sometimes better to forget about the rules, break some bones, and add crazy smears to sell your animation.

You creating movement, not individual pieces of art. 

Please note that the tips were originally shared during a 2014 GDC talk. You can watch the full video here to get more tips from the artist. 

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    Tips on Making Fluid and Powerful Animations