How to:

Squash & Stretch

Does an object move accurately or realistically? These are often not the same thing. The abstraction and technological limitation imposed by screens means that it’s often the case that accurate representation actually looks unrealistic.

Does an object move accurately or realistically? These are often not the same thing. The abstraction and technological limitation imposed by screens means that it’s often the case that accurate representation actually looks unrealistic. This is one reason why people wear more and different makeup on TV and in movies. On screen it looks natural, but in person it’s not. The screen makes similar distortions elsewhere too, and movie magic can mean that what seems unrealistic to human eyes looks natural on camera. Fight scenes are comical in real life, people can seem to run faster on screen than they do in real life, and physical reactions, from falling to getting punched to being surprised, often look very different in real life, too.

Getting a natural appearance on screen can be particularly challenging in animation, where everything needs to be built from the ground up. With live action, 90% of acting is already done simply by the actors appearing properly human. As they walk around, laws of physics and their life experience mandate that they walk in a way that’s literally natural. Then, if any unnatural accomodations need be made, it’s relatively easy to make those changes without having to worry about also fabricating real life.

Animation needs to build all of that, and moreover, it often needs to incorporate a level of playful abstraction too. We don’t expect things to animate entirely realistically, but, as I say in another post, while you can make up any rules, once you do, you have to stick to them.

If you want to learn how to animate things well, a great place to learn is from the animators at the company that basically invented animation—Disney. Disney has this list of 12 principles that they use to guide their animation.

When I was at Google, I was very fortunate to have attended a talk held by one of the lead animators of Beauty and The Beast. I went up afterwards and got to meet him. It was an incredible talk and conversation afterward, and he was kind enough to give me a signed drawing (one of the ones he had done during the talk as a demo) of The Beast. It shows The Beast with his face scrunched up, perhaps even a bit unrealistically. This is a “squash”—part of the first of Disney’s 12 principles, “Squash and Stretch”. Though this example is used to illustrate Squash and Stretch, all the principles are designed to work together, so this one has overlap with others like Anticipation and Exaggeration.

Of course, The Beast isn’t real. So how can we talk about what’s “realistic” for his face?

Posts
/
Ideas

Squash & Stretch

Does an object move accurately or realistically? These are often not the same thing. The abstraction and technological limitation imposed by screens means that it’s often the case that accurate representation actually looks unrealistic. This is one reason why people wear more and different makeup on TV and in movies. On screen it looks natural, but in person it’s not. The screen makes similar distortions elsewhere too, and movie magic can mean that what seems unrealistic to human eyes looks natural on camera. Fight scenes are comical in real life, people can seem to run faster on screen than they do in real life, and physical reactions, from falling to getting punched to being surprised, often look very different in real life, too.

Getting a natural appearance on screen can be particularly challenging in animation, where everything needs to be built from the ground up. With live action, 90% of acting is already done simply by the actors appearing properly human. As they walk around, laws of physics and their life experience mandate that they walk in a way that’s literally natural. Then, if any unnatural accomodations need be made, it’s relatively easy to make those changes without having to worry about also fabricating real life.

Animation needs to build all of that, and moreover, it often needs to incorporate a level of playful abstraction too. We don’t expect things to animate entirely realistically, but, as I say in another post, while you can make up any rules, once you do, you have to stick to them.

If you want to learn how to animate things well, a great place to learn is from the animators at the company that basically invented animation—Disney. Disney has this list of 12 principles that they use to guide their animation.

When I was at Google, I was very fortunate to have attended a talk held by one of the lead animators of Beauty and The Beast. I went up afterwards and got to meet him. It was an incredible talk and conversation afterward, and he was kind enough to give me a signed drawing (one of the ones he had done during the talk as a demo) of The Beast. It shows The Beast with his face scrunched up, perhaps even a bit unrealistically. This is a “squash”—part of the first of Disney’s 12 principles, “Squash and Stretch”. Though this example is used to illustrate Squash and Stretch, all the principles are designed to work together, so this one has overlap with others like Anticipation and Exaggeration.

Of course, The Beast isn’t real. So how can we talk about what’s “realistic” for his face?

Updated continuously — Latest commit on
5.3.24

More stuff to read