Today we will be working on a quick series of keyframed drawing which will illustrate the principle of squash and stretch.
What’s a keyframe? A key frame in animation and filmmaking is a drawing that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition. The drawings are called “frames” because their position in time is measured in frames on a strip of film. A sequence of keyframes defines which movement the viewer will see, whereas the position of the keyframes on the film, video or animation defines the timing of the movement. Because only two or three keyframes over the span of a second do not create the illusion of movement, the remaining frames are filled with inbetweens.
Although this is most commonly known as “tweening” in Flash. Keyframing has been used in animation for over 40 years. This video, produced in 1971 looks at some of the early attempts at key framing for animation.
So. Since you are not going to be creating a full animation (although if you want to do a short animation you should). I want you to just draw 3 different key frames. This must involve changes in a character. So I don’t want to see 3 different positions of a ball. The keyframes should also demonstrate the animation principle of Squash and Stretch. One drawing will be of the ball (object) resting, when will be squashed, and one will be stretched.
Squash and Stretch was described in The Illusion of Life as being “by far the most important” discovery that the Disney animators made in their pursuit of excellence in animation. Only lifeless stiff objects remain inert while in motion. Any living object will tend to change shape, though retaining overall volume. One example is a flexed bicep, another is a human face – while talking or chewing it will tend to extend and compress. The principle is often used in conjunction with another principle of animation which is “slow in, slow out”
During the 1930s the Disney animators competed amongst themselves to exaggerate the squash and stretch in their drawings, making their poses ever more extreme. The important thing was to maintain the overall volume of an object so that it did not appear to change size as well as shape. To this end they devised the half-filled flour sack, showing that even if dropped on the floor or stretched out by its corners, its overall volume would never change.
The animators consulted the sports pages in the newspapers and found in the photography endless examples of the elasticity of the human body in motion. Using these poses as reference the animators were able to start “observing in a new way”.
The classic preparation for the training of Disney animators began with a bouncing ball. The ball would change shape, compressing (squash) as it hit the ground, then extending (stretch) as it bounced up again.
Here’s a video tutorial of how to squash and stretch a ball, and the dramatic difference it has on an animation.
And in these drawings we can see how squash and stretch is applied to a character.