Acting is Doing, Acting is also Reacting

By March 10, 2015Creative Research

“Acting is Doing, Acting is also Reacting”, one of Ed Hooks’ seven acting principles for animation. Different people react differently to the same action. Ed Hooks gives an example “I lean over and gently touch your cheek. Your reaction might be to fondly place your hand on mine, or it might be to jerk away with indignation that I would be so presumptuous to touch you.”

Reactions are an important part of acting, as well as animation. A reaction will tell the viewer what that character is thinking or feeling, in regards to an action another character is performing. Movie editing tends to focus more on the listener than the talker. This helps us to get into the head of this character, and understand how they are reacting to the scene, as opposed to us making our own reactions in reaction to the speaker.

I wanted to explore this in an animation. I chose to animate a character confrontation involving a slap in the face. In the scene we see the two characters mid conversation. The female character (Mery) is listening to the male character (Mike), she is holding her hands and keeping eye contact. We don’t see the Mike’s face or hear what he says, but we understand the scene through Mery’s reaction.

I always wanted to do a face slapping animation, just because it sounded fun, but I did want to animate it using techniques I had been reading about. Mery is holding her hands and nods intently to the conversation she is having with Mike. Her reaction introduces the conflict into the scene: something inappropriate was said, and Mery does not like that. She gasps (eye brows raise, mouth opens, eyes widen) and moves her body back.

Her eyebrows then turn to a frown and eyes begin to squint in anticipation for a slap in the face towards the other character. She rotates her body around as her arm follows and makes contact with Mike’s face. I decided to make it a quick and relatively heavy contact. This is followed by quick follow through on her arm and of course Mike’s poor face. The impact makes Mike head jolt strongly in the direction of the impact and the force also feeds back into his body.

They both return to their original positon however Mery’s body is now leading with her right shoulder with a slight side-on stance, this shows a more defensive pose and suggests she retains her offence taken and does not regret the action.

In this scene one character slaps another. Just like real life, different characters in an animation may react differently. Mery may not have hit Mike under other circumstances, and Mike may have avoided or been more aggressive afterwards. It all depends on what character you are trying to convey.

Along these lines, I have looked into examples of this acting principle in other media. “Euphoria” is a procedurally generated animated artificial intelligence software. In the video below, its shown that the same action on an a character will produce a different result each time. For example getting hit in the chest, one character flinches and holds the area of impact, while another stumbles backwards. The software is designed to be used in games and allows for the break up of repetition. Characters that react differently become more interesting and unique.

In future animations I will consider how the character I’m animating will react, and how it might be different to another character. All of that is up to my choice but making informed decisions based on the character’s background, personality and emotions at the time will greatly enhance my performance in animation, especially in animations where the character is in more than one scene.

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