Reading 11: Animation

April 12, 2010

in Assignments

(assignment due Thursday 4/15)

Now for something completely different: we’re going to talk about the (artistic) principles of animation. This might seem a little off-topic. However, knowing these principles is really useful in using motion for visualization. Plus, its more fun than some of the other topics. And its tax day, so I need something fun to cheer me up.

You need to read one of the “principles” readings, and the “animated transitions” reading (at the bottom). Then comment on how you think this might relate to other things we learned in class. (the 2nd one is what I recommend, but you might pick 2 and 3)

The classic reference for the Principles of Animation is “The Illusion of Life” – a book about the history of Disney animation. It’s a coffee table art book – not necessarily something meant for either animators or computer scientists to learn from. But it is fabulous, and full of great examples from classic Disney films:

  • Johnson and Thomas. Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. Several editions (Aberville Press, 1981 is the “original” I think). Chapter 3:The Principles of Animation. (26MB download)

Because so many artists wanted this book, it has been reprinted many times (I own 3 different reprints). Curiously, one of the editions is more focused on teaching artists. In this version, Chapter 1 is the principles (very similar to Ch3 in the original). The preface is a good introduction to animation pre-“Principles” (which is good for understanding them). And Chapter 2 is a great summary of how they made the movies (irrelevant for class).

John Lasseter was a Disney animator who went to work with a small company of graphics hackers. The company grew and grew and grew and now everyone knows Pixar. His SIGGRAPH 1987 paper was a seminal work where he introduced the graphics world to the principles of animation. The basic content is the same as the Johnson and Thomas chapter, but its more condensed, and the examples are from Pixar films.

  • John Lasseter. Principles of traditional animation applied to 3D computer animation. SIGGRAPH 1987. (acm site with PDF). Note, there are many summaries of this paper on the web. Here’s one by a well-known animator. But do read the original. (well, you’re even better off reading a Disney thing first, then reading this for historical context).

Now, you might wonder “what does this have to do with visualization.” One answer (and this is only one of several) can be seen in:

  • Jeffery Heer and George Robertson. Animated Transitions in Statistical Data Graphics. InfoVis 2007. (project page – I strongly recommend watching the movie as it is well done. you might not even need to read the paper)

In your comment, say which things you’ve read, and your thoughts on the roles this might have in the kinds of things we discuss in class.


turetsky April 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I read the Johnson and Thomas reading. “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life”, Chapter 3 as well as “Animated Transitions in Statistical Data Graphics”. The first reading about the principles of animation seemed interesting. Growing up watching the newer generation of Disney animation, it was cool to see how the concepts I simply took for granted were developed. Some of the most basic principles, (stretch and squash) seemed to be exagerating the principles of physics we expect to see in motion. We expect to see conservation of mass occur, and the idea of a ball squashing and stretching makes some sense (as can be seen in looking at a bouncing ball in slow motion through a high speed camera). The principles are about making animation fit in with what our eyes and brains and used to seeing.

For transitions of statistical data, I am not surprised that transitions between two different views are better with animation. With animation, if we can see something move and change, we can anticipate it’s final location, whereas static changes give no prior visual cues to how things will change. It seems to me that split animations were normally better for the same reason. It seems to follow the idea of anticipation as laid out in the other reading.

Jim Hill April 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I read the introduction to “The Illusion of Live” as well as chapters 1 and 3 (they where very similar). I also read Lasseter’s paper and watched the Animated Transitions in Statistical Data Graphics video. I’ll probably look over chapter 2 at my leisure tomorrow.

I think there is a lot to animation in visualization. The video showing the transition from one representation to another is probably just scratching the surface. The three principles that I saw in that video and with regards to visualization where anticipation, staging, and appeal, although they all, in some way, have a bearing on the final product.

Anticipation is making sure the audience knows what’s going to happen by exaggerating movement. This wasn’t as prevalent in the video, but it would be good to add. For example, if some indication as to the location of a new data point could be given before the animation occured, it would help the viewer track the data.

Staging is probably the most important concept and Tufte would probably file this under “removing visual clutter” although it could add visual clutter. Making sure that the context of the data is absolutely understood is the ultimate goal of a visualization. If the visualization is of birth rates, then adding pictures of babies or baby toys will help the reader understand the visualization much better. In some ways, the staging is a visualization in and of itself. It is sort of like the pre-visualization visualization that gives the viewer the first hint as to what is being conveyed.

Appeal, is probably the second most important part of visualization. If the method of presentation is not appealing to the viewer, it will be that much more difficult for him to understand the data. This could include aesthetic things like picking appropriate color combinations and making sure that there is no aliasing in any lines. It could also be used to describe the method of visualization as in, a bar char is much more appealing than a pie chart.

Those three can be applied to any visualization, when thinking about animation in visualization, all of the other principles should be at play. Things like timing and slow in and out are really important for tracking of data as it moves. I think there is a ton of work that could be done to see how the principles of animation apply to visualization of data.

As a side note, I spent about an hour on youtube watching old Disney shorts and I have to agree with Turetsky, it really is amazing how much of that animation we take for granted and how good it still looks today.

Nakho Kim April 14, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I read “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life” Chapter 1, preface and the “Animated Transitions” paper, and am glad I read them in that particular order. The principles chapter discusses the various elements that transforms a simple motion into animation(“bringing to life”). Why is this important? Because although data visualizations do not usually aim for character personality, they still want to communicate a certain research narrative which is carried out by protagonists(in this case, variables) and the often dynamic relationships between them.

Many of the principles laid out by the Disney animators were nicely embodied in the chart transition experiment, some more obvious and some less so. The most obvious one was anticipation, which is providing cues to the viewer that a particular data variable will take an action, in this case transforming its form or moving to a different spot. It provides a good understanding where the variables fit in the various graph formats. also the staging principle is interwoven so that the sequence of graph formats are directed to make the narrative that the data tells us clear. Also form factor principles such as “Squash and Stretch” and “Slow In and Out” are implemented to provide a more fluid and engaging transformation between bars, dots and pies. And not surprisingly, there is a significant level of “appeal” in the data variables – we have seen them performing enjoyable and familiar motions such as jumping, running and switching places. At the end of the presentation, they feel like nerdy incarnations of Mario and Luigi. Overall, I think the way they used animation principles can be of great use to communicate a visual narrative.

Shuang April 15, 2010 at 1:03 am

Chapter 3 of Johnson and Thomas‘s “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life” is a good introductory reading to animation. The twelve principles are discussed in this chapter. The first principle, the squash and stretch, describes the physical behavior of visualizations. Although the picture is fixed on the background, squash and stretch can show the tendency of movement based on the common sense of readers. Anticipation also uses common sense of readers to show the further motion of the picture, like the Donald example. Another interesting point is timing, which is important in animation industry. Simple movement may require less amount of time comparing with complicate movement. Those factors are useful in describing the third dimension in the visualization. I am not familiar with concepts of drawing, but I think the solid drawing gives a vivid image and makes me focus on it.

I am interested in statistical data analysis, so my second reading is “Animated Transitions in Statistical Data Graphics”. The video is quite helpful in understanding the content of the paper. My first impression while watching the video is that the animation makes the explanation of statistical graphs, like bar chart, pie chart, easy to understand, especially it helps read focusing on the important part. The representation of the value is simple and clear, but it does not explain the confidence interval in the graphs. I guess the reason is either it requires further knowledge to understand the concept or it is not important. Another useful viewpoint is the change of data schema. Choosing a good view can make explanation different.

hinrichs April 15, 2010 at 5:29 am

I seem to always have something to disagree with the readings about…

Some of the principles seem more concerned with cartoons rather than animation in general. For instance staging – the idea that you can convey one, and only one idea at a time, and that it should be given complete focus. Granted, keeping “clutter” (for some definition of clutter) to a minimum is a good idea, but this seems like an extreme position to take. For instance, if I am doing comparisons in an animation, I want there to be multiple things going on so I can flip back and forth while I compare them.

Squash and stretch can be used for non-rigid objects, as they describe in the text, but (my opinion) if it’s overdone you get something very cartoony.

Exaggeration is synonymous with cartoons, and while it may be worthwhile to consider whether effects are noticeable and effective, there can be such a thing as overdoing them. In the context of animation for the purpose of entertainment, there have been some very good ones without much exaggeration, like Cowboy Bebop, or the Miyazaki films. Incidentally, the ones I’m mentioning here do occasionally have some exaggeration, but usually for brief humorous effect before returning to the main story arc.

Appeal – That is something that is always called for, but almost by definition has no short definition. Oh well.

Arcing motion, followthrough and slow-in / slow-out are actually great ideas for visualization. In cartoons they make things more lifelike and less robotic. For abstract visualizations I think they could be used to at least make the motions more pleasant to look at, and also easier to follow.

Timing can actually be used as a visual channel (speed. jerkiness, etc.) so it’s worth paying attention to as well.

jeeyoung April 15, 2010 at 5:36 am

I read chapter 1 and animated transitions.

Chapter 1 presents the principles of animation which could be implemented for motion as encodings or a function affecting encodings. Example of bouncing ball is interesting.

In animated transitions, anticipation, stretch and squash are used in animated transition. Staged transition uses staging additionally. In each subtransition, the use of staggered motion could minimize occlusion. These animated transitions show better accuracy of tracking and perception of changing values as well as preference than direct transition.

ChamanSingh April 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

I got the book “Illusion of life” from the library and read many chapters from the book. It is truly remarkable to know how animation movies are made. I have always been curious to know why the animations movies captures the imagination of children rather than real movies. The ease with which they understand the context, anticipation, and staging concepts make be believe that there are more fundamental questions to be answered in cognitive sciences.

The paper “Principles of Traditional Animation … ” is a nice summary of the chapters in the book. The 11 design principles of animation looks very convincing but I am sure that they are hard to implement and large number of iteration between the animators and users may be required to have sufficient “entertainment content”.

From the paper “Animated Transitions ….. “, I did get a sense of authors intention, but from the video from their site created doubts about their usefulness and efficacy, Although the paper is nicely written, I still have doubts for the final product.

Nate April 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

OK, it’s totally late to be making a post here — but if you read Chapter 1 somewhere secluded, do it again at a coffee shop and shamelessly people-watch as you do so. It’s crazy how much of the guidelines there apply to real objects — especially people — when you watch carefully.

dhe April 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

I read chapter 1 of Illusion of Life and the animated transitions paper.

Animated transitions uses animation to aid matching data elements between two visualizations. Animated transitions makes this matching effortless by using motion machinery in the visual cortex.

dalbers April 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

I read through the original chapter (CH3) and the paper on animated transitions in statistical graphics. I found that the animation principles were actually really interesting. I would have never guess so much could be learned from a simple bouncing ball. Also, the concept of motion in silhouette, though somewhat intuitive, is not something that I would have expected to be a primary principle in animation design. It was really interesting, however, skimming through the images and taking note of how many of the effects I recognized from the films.

The animated transitions paper did bring up an interesting point in how animation can be used in visualization. Although it makes sense as a manner to retain visual consistency between data graphics, I hadn’t thought about using those techniques in terms of creating a sense of causality and attracting attention to the image.

faisal April 15, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Its probably too late to comment on this reading now. But I read the chapter 3, looked at the video for paper and read parts of their paper as well. I will say that I am slowly getting the idea of how useful the principles of animations can be for scientific visualization.

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