Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Animator's Hands and The Moment of Contact

The second years have been riding along with my explorations on the theme of the "Moment of Contact".

We watched the meeting sequence in How To Train Your Dragon, where Hiccup makes contact with Toothless - the anticipation was about 7 minutes.

We watched Summer Wars and a different type of contact, this time between two human characters. An initial little finger touch building through at least two more powerful hand holds as the emotion in the story intensified.

Something to realise as an animator is that the sense of touch in humans, a life-form the viewer strongly empathises with, is expressed most strongly through the hands. When people describe something as "touching", they describe the idea that contact was made with their emotions.

Hands are important in communication and animation. In many cases they can be regarded as 'best supporting actors' or 'betrayers of emotion'. The secondary action (an animation principle) portrayed in the hands can be at counterpoint to how the character is acting, but at the same time a revelation of how the character is truly thinking or feeling.

Studying people's hands, the shapes, the gestures, the tension, the floppiness during any communication exchange can reveal so much about the true feeling of a moment and the energy and emotion of the speaker.

Milt Kahl's hand drawings are often referenced as examples (especially search out the ruff versions).

Milt Kahl Hands

Below is a show reel by Mike Stern who animated on How To Train Your Dragon. Watch, in particular, the hand acting at about 00:36 onward. The acting, the contact, may communicate more in that sequence than the dialogue?


Anonymous said...

I love this post , Frank, as I burbled on to you over a Coopers at Sketchcrawl....you teachers are great at reminding us to look again , especially the HTTYD clip, to look closer and understand. I love those Milt Kahl's hand drawings.I'll try to dig up that French movie opening scene I saw the other night where only the hands at a blackjack table are seen. So much good stuff to continue studying and absorbing , thinking about and trying to apply it in your work.

Frank said...

Look forward to see more examples of hands as animation actors on other blogs and in people's work.

Corey said...

Great post Frank!