The JibJab Blog

Stick Your Face In It!

Character Animation

Over the past few years we have focused a lot of energy on taking our character animation to the next level. Sometimes simple, herky-jerky animation it’s perfect for the joke we are telling – like it was in ‘This Land’.

In ‘This Land’ we used the same marching dance over and over and over again. It worked because the underlying joke was that all of these politicians are the same. However, with ‘Time for Some Campaignin’ the goal was to highlight each candidates unique qualities and the way a character MOVES is another opportunity to showcase their personality.

Check out the differences between the two approaches…

One of the characters we were most excited to animate was Obama’s magical stead! However, we don’t just rush into animating – that could be disastrous. Before we do any actual animation we do what is called a “pencil test”. The pencil test gives us the opportunity to nail down every movement and make sure we are happy with it before beginning the time consuming animation process. Check out this pencil test next to some completed animation.

Once we’re happy with the rough motion we use our pencil test as a guide for clean up animation. Check out the magical stead brought to life…

One of the great misnomers about animation done on a computer is that the computer actually does the work. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It still takes an artist to make a decision about every pixel of every frame. The computer is just the piece of paper and the pencil. Here’s two examples of what it took to make our unicorn run. First is a breakdown of the assets and next is a screen grab from Flash, the software we animate in. An actual human designed and placed every one of those dots! Click to enlarge…

People sometimes ask us if we ‘trace’ our animation (meaning, do we pull a video into an animation program and trace the action frame-by-frame). The answer is no. However, we will often use live action reference video to get a feel for the character and his/her motion before we begin animating. Here is a shot of Evan acting out the George Bush opening animation prior to animation. Do we use fancy stuff here at JibJab? HECK NO! This was shot with the built in iChat camera on a Mac! (Aint’ technology great?)

With the acting reference as a guide, it becomes a lot easier to animate the action. You’ll notice that the acting and the animation don’t really “match” but share the same “feel”…

Animation is the most intense, grueling part of the process. Creating a few seconds of animation can take days. It is the dedication and love of the artform that drives our team through the long days and nights to bring this work to you!

9 responses to “Character Animation”

    • Awesome. I’m an animator too and now I’m workin’ on a video like yours.
      Hope to obtain the same feelin’.

      Anyway, great job! You’re GODS!

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