LEARNING and PRACTICING ANIMATION:

A09   USE YOUR EYES CONTENTS

The Three Cups Trick
The Eye Rig
What's in a Blink?
Eyes for Life

A09   USE YOUR EYES

Use your eyes

“Our eyes are supremely expressive and we easily communicate with the eyes alone.
We can often tell the story just with the eyes.” Richard Williams (The animator's Survival Kit)


The Three Cups Trick

This exercise is about showing emotion through the eyes only.   The rig provided is purposefully restricted in its use.   The outer and inner eye brows can only be raised or lowered and the eye direction and lids have all that you need to express the three main emotions needed for this sequence which are boredom, interest & surprise in this order, as the Three Cups Trick is demonstrated in front of this character.   The Three Cups Trick has already been animated (in a basic way) so you don't need to worry about that aspect.


The EYES RIG


THE BRIEF
Eyes.

Artistic Elements Covered: Choreography of and Showing Emotion through the Eyes

Scene file "The Three Cups Trick ".     Sequence Duration 32 seconds

Use the eye rig to express boredom, interest & surprise in this order, as the Three Cups Trick is demonstrated in front of this character.



The Eye Rig

Be aware that there are three ways of changing the eye direction in this rig.   For instance, when you select Control_eye_direction_left, the channels operate as follows:-
Control_eye_direction_left.Rotate = 1.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim A = 0.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim B = 0.0
then the rotate X and rotate Y are active.

If the following channels are set as follows:-
Control_eye_direction_left.Rotate = 0.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim A = 1.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim B = 0.0
then the Control_aim_A is active.

If the following channels are set as follows:-
Control_eye_direction_left.Rotate = 0.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim A = 0.0
Control_eye_direction_left.Aim B = 1.0
then the Control_aim_B is active.

The same rules applie to Control_eye_direction_right.
By experimenting with these values you can mix between these modes of eye control.


What's in a Blink

Blinks do vary in frequency, close and open times depending on the mood and activity of the character.
The timing below, which is 2 frames close and 3 frames open is about right for a normal blink cycle for an alert character.
A Blink


When the character becomes anxious you can double up and do two blinks.   The ones below have a gap of 5 frames between them.
A Double Blink


A sleepy or less alert character should have the blink cycle lengthened.   The one below is timed at 4 frames close and 13 frames open.
Be careful not to blink too often. The space between blink cycles is variable and also dependeds on the mood and activity of the character.
A Slow Blink



Eyes for Life
Eyes are also really useful in establishing that a character is living.   You can usually detect life in a human being or a land mammal when it is asleep by looking at the chest or flanks as the creature breaths.   (Some animals, however, have very expressive ears even when they are asleep but that's another story).
When a human and some animals are awake but sitting still, it is usually the eyes which tell us that life is present.   The first element of this is the eye direction which tends to change frequently as the eye changes it's concentration between elements of the surroundings.   This seems to happen whether we are concentrating or not and as you are probably aware, the eyes tend to drift upwards as we start thinking.   The second element is the eyelids which have to blink now and again to keep the eyes moist.   A creature that blinks is a creature that lives.
I realised this some years ago when Peter Lord (Co
founder and chief animator of Aardman) was working on a claymation sequence for a BBC programme called “Down and Out”.   Peter was animating quite a complex scene with a number of characters.   The two main ones, as I recall, were talking in the foreground, but a few other others were sitting around in the background.   I asked Peter how he managed to animate all the characters at once.   He told me that he only needed to concentrate on the two main ones as the others in the background only needed to blink now and again.   What Peter had said then made perfect sense because if the background characters did move or fidget too much, then they would take the attention away from the main foreground characters, and that, of course, is one of the golden rules of theatrical staging. Try and have fun with the animation of these eyes but remember, like the example above, not everything has to be in perfect synchronisation.

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