Principles of Animation Physics

A course entitled “Principles of Animation Physics” will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference. The course notes may be downloaded here:

Download PDF Here

Why should a character animator care about physics?
If you’re going to be a surgeon then you need to know advanced anatomy; for life drawing
a basic knowledge of muscles and bones is helpful. If you’re going to be an engineer then you
need to know calculus and physics; as a character animator a basic understanding of mechanics
and bio-mechanics is helpful. In Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones writes, “Comparative anatomy
is a vital tool of the complete animator or director.” The purpose of this course is to make
physics another tool in your animator’s toolbox.
At San Jose State I teach Physics of Animation, a one semester course for animation artists.
The first eight weeks of the semester cover mechanics and bio-mechanics; this SIGGRAPH
course is a distillation of those 16 lectures down to a three hours. The focus of today’s course
is character animation, though many of the concepts are also useful for character effects, such
as hair and clothing. Physics is also useful for effects animators and for lighting artists but we
won’t have time to get to those areas today.
All animators are familiar with the “Principles of Animation” as described by Ollie Johnston
and Frank Thomas in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. These principles,
such as “Squash and stretch” and “Anticipation”, give helpful guidance to animators. And since
they describe motion it’s not surprising that many of the principles of animation are based on
physical laws. For example, the animation principle of follow-through is based on the Law of
We’ll follow the successful model introduced by Johnston and Thomas and make a list of
principles to organize our understanding of physical motion. Specifically, our Principles of
Animation Physics will be…Read More



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