Spacing analysis: regarding flattened apexes
(An insightful short regarding the post-WWI era, and war in general. To see the full movie, click here)
Another spacing analysis I thought I'd share.
It's a good example of of how animators can sometimes totally "break" physics, intentionally, and get great results. The lady in this shot is "popping" all over the place. The anticipates and start/finishes of the jumps are more-or-less as one might expect, but the apexes of the jumps are an interesting sort of hold: a hold vertically, yet horizontal motion is maintained.
Now this may come as a surprise when explicitly traced out, as done here. But we are looking at a pretty well developed method, this isn't something "out of the blue". And it doesn't "look" wrong when played out. It actually looks very right. So how can that be? Because in terms of physics, it most certainly isn't correct.
I'm no expert, I'd like to get an expert's take on this one, but here's my best effort at an explanation for now:
I think we're looking at a good expression of something perceptually harmonious. For starters, solid holds are good to have on important poses, the mind is given that little bit of extra time to "take it in" and we get that here. But secondarily, I also think we're seeing an emulation of how the eye tracks motion, an essentialization of that. It takes about 5 frames (or 1/5th of a second) for the eye / human consciousness to "become aware" of a motion and focus in on it (that is, begin to track it). These "5 frames" begin from an >anticipate< going into the motion, not (as you might expect) from the start of the motion "itself". (In fact, a good part of the consequential motion is comprehended on the basis of the anticipation alone. For example, we best understand how much force is represented by a given motion is not from the motion itself but from the anticipation that leads into the motion.)
Okay, so: in the above sequence, from the start of a jump's anticipation to the start of the "apex hold" you have roughly 6 frames in each case: 10-16 = 6f; 22-28 = 6f, 35-39 = 4f, 46-51 = 5f.
Now, once the eye HAS fixated on a moving object, it tracks the object, right? So >perceptually<, from that point, the object stops moving! Relativity swaps out: perceptually, it's the object that is now static, and the background is moving (but because it's the background rather than the focus, this is a secondary detail). And this is exactly what is being expressed with this particular method! Then, at some point, the eye presumably anticipates an upcoming contact moment and stops tracking the object (reverting over to a tracking of the ground instead, you might say); the object then impacts, and if there is another anticipate, it should be that the process continues. So what we have is an integration of anticipation-driven perception and eye tracking into the animation technique, all working toward snappy and appealing results. On one hand it isn't accurate; yet on the other hand it is >more< accurate than photographic / naturalistic / physics-correct spacing, because it takes into account the workings of our human minds and the workings of our eyes. This is akin, as always, to a similar continuum in the static arts: when comparing photorealism / photographic images to good quality abstractions / drawings: the former is "techincally speaking" more accurate, but the latter is "humanly speaking" actually the more accurate of the two: the latter having taken into account all things human, as digested by the mind and outputted onto the paper / artistic space: whether it be thought influenced by fantasy, myth, dreams; perceptual adjustments of every sort, enhancements of focus, enhancements of essential concepts, or even our "simple" human weaknesses (style is the ultimate refinement of our artistic shortcomings) etc. Drawings are to photos as cartoonish animation is to video.
A quick disclaimer as with other musings I must point out that it's "just a theory". I'm not basing this on anything especially authoritative. However, I do think this would hold up to further scrutiny. I'd be interested in learning more.
Cartoon timing naturally works very well for cartoons. But it isn't quite a cut-and-paste, what is gleaned from 2d work does not necessarily translate into 3d. Usually, the 3d side needs to be a bit more naturalistic. The level of cartoony motion that can be tolerated within the 3d realm also depends very much on the level of abstraction already being applied, visually. If the rigs in use are more realistic, the motion in use is going to have to also be more naturalistic. If the rigs are more abstracted, a greater level of abstraction in motion is possible. This particular example is highly abstract, visually; the manner of animation, accordingly, has greater freedom into extremes of abstraction.
I have already been pushing somewhat in this direction with my own work. The path of a jump often looks more pleasing if it has a longer hang time / a flatter apex, and an especially fast "in" (the motion just before contact). A parabola is the "technically speaking" correct path for a "thrown" object (or leaping character, one and the same), yet it is also, arguably, the least pleasing path to use, perceptually. Strange but true.
2011 07 20 addendum:
During Q&A at AM today, I had the opportunity to ask Pete, my current Class 3 mentor, about the technique behind this particular clip. He had some interesting things to say about the matter, along with some project-specific stylistic comparisons. I am not at liberty to go into details with regards to class discussions. A main key point he did make, though, was regarding the establishing and directing of audience focus. A cartoony style can better optimize focus. Whichever style one finds oneself working in, special care does need to be taken to ensure it is applied consistently across the scope of a project. The fictional world portrayed needs to be internally consistent, even though its laws may differ from our own.