I’ve been reading Ed Hooks’ Acting for Animators and under his section on insights, perspectives and suggestions he talks about power centres. Everyone has a power centre, an imaginary point around you that leads the way while you walk. While you may not think about it, a power centre says a lot about your personality. A power centre in the chest may suggest pride while a power centre on the floor would suggest a depressed character.
Ed Hooks says “When you give a character a more noticeable power center, it suggests more characterization.” It also effects their walking rhythm, a character with a high power centre will walk faster.
I want to animate walk cycles that can really emphasise a character’s personality or mood. I think power centres can effect these massively so I gave it a go trying out power centres in front of the nose, in the chest, in front of the feet, and behind the shoulders.
I let the power centre “pull” the character around. I had to make it feel like their energy was all focused around that imaginary point. I acted out these walk cycles myself to see how my posture was affected when I followed a power centre.
For the first animation I placed the power centre on the floor. Because of this, I made the back arch and slumped which in turn made his head face the floor. As the head was dropped over the power centre, each step he took I made his head bounce.
The end result was basically an obviously depressed or sombre character. As Ed Hooks says, “the higher the power centre, the quicker the rhythm of the character”. As this is a low power centre the character walks slower, less confident. He’s staring at the ground, and unlikely to make eye contact with anyone in his sight.
In the second animation, I put the power centre in front of the chest. Its higher and so there’s a quicker walking tempo and a greater sense of confidence. The character’s chin points toward the power centre and as he walks he also has a little bounce in him. His pelvis rotates around the power centre as he walks and moving it a little further down would give him that John Wayne style walk. I made the arm swing greater to emphasise the confidence and almost clumsiness this character seems to possess.
The third animation focuses on a higher power centre, just above and in front of the character’s head. The pose overall is that of confidence or snootiness. The character’s nose leads the walk and his chest is raised up to point to it. I also made this character raise his knees slightly higher up and increased his walking rhythm.
I felt this exercise has definitely been worth it. Placing power centres in different places makes you think more about the pose and can exaggerate and give character to an otherwise normal walking character. The strongest animation I feel is the low power centre, depressed character. I like the way it allowed me to slump him over and have his body flop up and down on each step. There is more characterisation in this character as it is the most extreme pose out of the 3. The weakest animation was probably the middle power centre one as I feel his character didn’t come across as strongly. I think a greater rotation in the waist and a more exaggerated pose would’ve brought this one up.
I would like to come back to this task at a later date and try different poses with the same power centre and different power centre placements.
Moving on from this task, I’d like to put a bit more focus into giving the animation context. By that I mean, think about the backstory, why is that character there, what was he doing before and what is his current goal, how does he feel. The audience won’t necessarily need to know all this, but by thinking about this and applying it to an animation, the action displayed by that character should be more believable. The audience can then make up their own backstory to that, and if the animation is convincing, then the ideas should be similar.