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VWN Product Reviews: The Animator?s Survival Kit

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This book is written from the life experience of film animator Richard Williams, who struggled through animation the hard way ? he desired to remain both an independent contractor, and have the expertise to create realistic movement.

Unfortunately, at the time, Disney had cornered the market on realistic, believable, immersive animation, and they would not share their techniques with anyone who was not contracted exclusively to them.

Now, it does not matter whether your animation is 2D or 3D. With the possible exception of mocap, every animation technique involving people, centres around getting the head and hands moving both fluidly and correctly. If this is not achieved, the believability breaks down, and perception becomes that the entire thing just does not move right, in an undefined yet observable way.

The book opens out on William?s life experiences, chronicling some of the efforts and difficulties involved in attempting to become a master of his art, over decades of trying, refining techniques and working alongside great masters, yet frustratingly never able to come close to their standards, at least for many, many years.

The book is thus his attempt to ?dump his kit? as the author puts it, and share with others, the fundamentals of animation that are not generally taught outside of industry practice, and always were taught behind closed doors. How, for example, muscles, boning and weight are not ?nice to have?s?, but, how even in 2D cell animation, they are essential constructs for believable movement, and just as vital in 3D.

This book does not focus on one medium or another; everything in it is hand drawn, but applies equally well to other forms, because this book is about tearing down everything you thought you knew about animation, and building up from the basics, tearing apart Disney, Pixar, and other animation studios? work, analysing walk cycles, motion paths, facial expressions in step by step detail, clearly explaining what is going on.

The author continually urges readers to draw daily, regardless of their medium, and admonishes the use of headphones and music ? or any other distractions ? whilst working. Do that, he says, and you will see your skill improve.

 

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