SECONDARY ACTION: 2D Animation principle

17 December, 2008

SECONDARY ACTION: 2D Animation principle

A secondary action is an action that results
directly from another action. Secondary actions are important in heightening
interest and adding a realistic complexity to the animation. A secondary actions
is always kept subordinate to the primary action if it conflicts, becomes more
interesting, or dominates in any way, it is either the wrong choice or is staged
improperly.

Wally B’s feet dragging behind the main action of
his body is a secondary action because his movement of the feet is a direct
result of the movement of the body. The rippling movement of Luxo Jr.’s cord
results directly from the hopping action of his base.

The facial expression of a character will
sometimes be a secondary action. When the main idea of an action is being told
in the movement of the body, the facial expression become subordinate to the
main idea. If this expression is going to animate or change, the danger is not
that the expression will dominate the scene, but that it will never be seen. The
change must come before, or after, the move. A change in the middle of a major
move will go unnoticed, and value intended will be lost. It must also be staged
to be obvious, though secondary.

A secondary action is an action that results
directly from another action. Secondary actions are important in heightening
interest and adding a realistic complexity to the animation.

Conflict

If a secondary action conflicts with, becomes
more interesting, or dominates in any way, it is either the wrong choice or is
staged improperly.

Facial Animation Dangers

Generally, in facial animation, the movement is a
secondary action, subordinate to the body’s movement. The danger with facial
animation isn’t that it will dominate the scene, but that it will not be seen.
The change in expression should happen before or after a move, changes in the
middle of a major move will mostly likely go unnoticed.

Example: A sad person wiping a tear from their face

Primary action: The expression of the face
is the primary action. This is because it is what will portray the characters
sadness the best.

Secondary action: The wiping of the tear
is the secondary action because a hand wiping a tear without the expression
would not portray the emotion that is needed for the scene.

The hand wiping the tear would need to be
carefully planned to support the facial expression. A big overwhelming gesture
with a huge hand covering half the face wouldn’t be acceptable. If the hand
wiping the tear is to subdue it could be completely inconsequential. In which
case there is no point in even having it there. If you make the hand fly past
the face to quickly people will wonder what just happened and or whether they
missed something. In which case it takes attention away from the primary action
(the face), and you will have destroyed the feel of your scene.

In some scenes the expression will become the
secondary action. Such as in a long shot where the character sadly turns to walk
away. You need to make sure that the expression is seen but the primary action
is the character turning to walk away. In this case you would need to show the
expression either before or after the primary movement and you have to make it
obvious, even though it is the secondary action. If you do it during the
movement it will most likely never be seen. A change of expression in the middle
of a major movement will go unnoticed and any intended value will be lost.

Making sure your secondary actions are
subordinate:

A good way to make sure that your secondary
action stays subordinate and your scene flows well the way you want it to be to.

  • Go through and animate the primary action, make sure that it looks
    the way you want it.

  • Then go through the scene a second time and animate the secondary
    action, making sure that it all works the way you want it to. And that it
    doesn’t overwhelm or detract from the primary action in any way.

  • Then go through a third time to make sure that the rest of the
    animation relates to the primary and secondary actions the way they should.

Its simple and obvious I know. But I have made
the mistake of trying to animate all the actions at the same time. And it’s hard
to keep track of everything that is going on. And it’s harder to tell which
actions are going to be the most dominant if you are animating them both at the
same time.  If you do it this way you will save yourself a lot of time and
trouble because you will be able to compare your secondary actions to your
primary ones the entire time and you can catch your mistakes sooner. Also one
last thing to know about secondary actions is that you don’t only have to have
one. Some times you will have several secondary actions. In which case you
should decide which ones are least important and make them subordinate to the
others.

Secondary action adds to and
enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation,
supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action.

Example: A character is
angrily walking toward another character. The walk is forceful, aggressive, and
forward leaning. The leg action is just short of a stomping walk. The secondary
action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the
possibility of dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of
the head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to distract
from the walk action. All of these actions should work together in support of
one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce
and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.


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