Animation, Character Essences, Coding & Inventing, Research & Play

Character Essences Begins

After a few years of improv theatre, animation research and coding I think it’s time to begin my dream project. Character Essences will combine theatre techniques of character creation with traditional and procedural animation. Drawing on character archetypes from Commedia dell’arte and the physical theatre methods of Jacque le Coque and Rudolf Laban, the main focus is to find movement parameters (constants and variables) that define well established characters.

Once the parameters of movement have been identified, they can be manipulated to create a large variety of characters procedurally. The uses include video game automated character generation, extra characters in films and autonomous robot movements. One of the goals is also to simplify movement patterns without the need for large data sets like in machine learning. My belief is that by focusing on the intrinsics, rather than the extrinsics of character movement one can better identify the corresponding building blocks.

Characters can range from simple primitive models to animals and humans. Early experiments included Expressing Emotions Through Mathematical Functions (see Research page) for primitive models. I found that combinations of fast, sinusoidal movements can create the illusion of joy in spheres and cubes, for example. These observations are linked more to psychology and to the Heider-Simmel experiment. If human emotion can be identified in such simple entities, surely adding a recognizable shape to the character (eg. biped, quadruped) will produce more relatable experiences with the observer. Let the adventure begin!

Keywords: Archetypes, procedural animation, psychology, biomechanics, equations, theatre, characters

Acting & Improv, Character Essences

The Logic of Movement

A year ago I went to a workshop called The Logic of Movement with Stephen Mottram, an amazingly gifted puppeteer. He showed us how each character has a unique movement code that defines its personality. ‘A piece of cloth can move like a chicken’, he said and also showed us, as we gaped in amazement. Now, as I’m writing about handmade characters in my thesis, I came across some of his work from 1990, Animata. I’m sharing one of the videos here. I find it fascinating that a simple set of ping pong balls can create such complex characters in our minds. This is DEFINITELY an area of great interest to me, as a future independent researcher.