Dancing, Hip-Hop Dancing

If you’re looking for last weeks Lip-Sync tutorial, go HERE, or use the navigation in the panel to the left.

NOTE: Due to high demand and traffic, some of my vimeo files appear to have locked. I am remedying this situation and will have them back up shortly. If any video doesn’t work for you, please try refreshing your page. If it still does not work, please email me for a link to the quicktime file.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was not able to film myself describing this weeks tutorial. I do, however, have LOTS of video reference of our subject!

Boy, this weeks tutorial is a tough one to grasp. Dancing in itself is so varied that it’s extremely difficult to put a workflow around it, or speed it up with some magic tip. What it really boils down to is the fundamentals of any animation: Foundation (Planning), Structure, Details, and Polish. Here is what we end up with:

I also animated this one just for fun, but it does show off some nice overlap and the wave principle:

Not bad for a days work!
Ok, before we get into animation – as part of our Foundation, let’s take a closer look at weight:
Rather than explain what happens when you shift your weight from one side to the other, let me show you!

Notice how far the body needs to shift in order to take the weight off of one foot.

Also notice how much the knees need to bend in order to change the angle of the pelvis, AND notice how the pelvis can pivot almost independent of the spine.

Foundation, or Planning: With dancing, planning is just as important as ever. While you’re not planning an emotional performance as in acting, it still is a performance that conveys a message. You need to plan the exact choreography and attitude of your dance. Hopefully you can get video reference of the exact moves you will be doing, USE IT! But don’t forget to, at some stage, detach from your reference material and look at your animation for its own weight, timing and poses.

If possible, sketch out the key poses of your scene, and note the breakdowns and inbetween action.

Here is the dance clip I used as my reference. It’s a Justin Timberlake sequence with pretty subtle moves. I wanted this to show how even subtle moves can be animated using low-quality reference (I got it off YouTube and the camera is panning/zooming).

Now, how do you use the reference footage? Well, I never put it in my scene as a background! I open it up in quicktime player or Media Player Classic so that I can step through it frame-by-frame. I also run it through Premiere or some other program to get a timecode on it, frame numbers are a life saver!
Next, its a good idea to go through your reference frame-by-frame and sketch out some key poses, making a note of the timing. If you’re too lazy (like me) or time is of the essence, just write down the frame numbers of your reference instead of sketching. This is the most important part of your animation process! Plan plan plan!
Blocking: Now I go into my animation package, in this case 3ds Max with Character Studio (quick and easy rig).Make sure your scene frame rate is the same as your reference footage (if you’re going to be using the same timing as your reference).

This is basically getting your character to “go through the motions” of the dance. No details yet! This is just the framework to hang our details on. It looks pretty bad right now (partly because it’s difficult to get biped to let you “step” the keyframes), but that’s ok. We are adding on lumps of motion that we will later carve our details into:

Structure: You need to have a firm grasp of weight in particular (see reference above, and much more in the members reference section), before you can animate a convincing dance sequence. You also need to understand the rhythm of the music. I won’t give you any formula’s for working this out (I’m an animator, not a mathematician!!), I just simply animate a bouncing ball to the rhythm. It’s much easier to shift the keys of a bouncing ball around to match the music than it is to shift the keys of an entire character.
Details and Polish: The Structure and Details stages on this animation are very subtle. You really can barely tell the difference, so we might as well skip to the end and look at the Polished piece:

I really hope that this breakdown of a dance workflow helps! Again, your reference will depend on the dance style you are animating and also the final style of output (Cartoony, realistic etc…). If you would like to see these reference clips in Quicktime format, then head over to my Reference Page by following the link I’ve emailed you. I’ll also be uploading the weight shift videos from every angle, and even some torso movement and shifting.

I hope you found this tutorial informative and inspirational! If you really want to take your animation to the next level, then check out the Guardian Animation Program! Doing so will also help support this animation community.

How to make Lip Sync Animation Easy

How to make Lip Sync and Facial Animation Easy

In this weeks video tutorial I explain an amazing method to speed up your lip sync and facial animation.

I show you how I produced the above animation from start to finish in only 36 minutes.

So Lets get started!

First, watch this video as I explain
How to make Lip Sync and Facial Animation Easy:

A lot of planning and preparation went into this, and I genuinely hope you enjoy it! But make sure you watch it all the way to the end. I’d hate for you to miss any secrets.

Now let me step you through this technique.

I have made some example videos using that I animated in with this lip sync animation workflow and noted the time each step took.

  • Foundation: We have already done this by listening to our soundtrack and “getting into character”.
  • Structure: From the video, we learned the basic structure of all lip sync animation is:
    • Open – Closed
    • Wide – Narrow
    • We feel this by placing our chin on our fist and saying the dialogue at full speed.

Lip Sync and Facial Animation Structure
Step 1 – only the open/closed positions.

It took me 2 minutes to produce:

Structure Step 2 – the wide/narrow positions.

It took me 1 minute to produce:

Facial Animation Details
Step 1 – the Details in the Eyes

Now our Structure is done! Not bad for ~5 minutes work. Now its time to put the lip sync details onto our animation structure.

This step took a bit longer (8 mins), and I am starting to add in motion to the eyebrows. Nothing too detailed yet, just some broad strokes of emotion in addition to the lips and mouth.

Details Step 2 – Details in the Face

Now we’re really rolling! I’ve pulled back to add in some details to the entire face. I’ve also animated the mustache and shifted my keyframes to help it match the audio a bit better.

Now our facial animation Details are done! This file took me about 13 minutes to animate, meaning all up we’ve spent 26 minutes to bring our facial animation to this level! Let’s move on to the Polish.

Lip Sync and Facial Animation Polish!

We’ve done all of the building work, now its time to have fun and get really creative!

  • What I’ve done here is animate in some head accents for the dialogue. Then I went in and added in some micro-smirks to make him feel as if he is pleased with whomever he’s talking to! Another 10 minutes, making 36 minutes total to produce this lip sync animation! 
  • At places like Disney and Pixar, the polish stage is where you’d spend most of your time animating (besides maybe planning), however on lower budget productions with tight schedules, polish is the stage that usually gets cut.
  • If you’re preparing a showreel, be sure that you are spending MOST of your time in the polish stage. Many animators out there are competent, meaning they can get an animation this far, but its the top few who can really push it in the polishing stage, especially with lip sync and facial animation.

Well, I hope you found this lip sync and facial animation tutorial informative and inspirational! If you really want to take your animation to the next level, then check out the Guardian Animation Program! Doing so will also help support this animation community.

Animation Hell – How you can avoid it (or escape)

We’ve all pulled an ‘all nighter’ at least once in our lives, but is this a wise career move for our animation? How does over working ourselves, especially in animation, affect us long term?

Here is the video where I explain the effects of over animating in detail , and also some guidelines to help you avoid it in the future:

All 4 minutes of this animation tutorial are jam-packed with terrific animation tips and general pointers, so watch it all the way through!

If you want a course that will help you balance your Education with your Experience, and your Speed with your Quality, check out The Guardian Training Program. It will help you make continual self improvement into a habit!

NOW! Let’s review what was covered about your Capacity for Animation Production, or your CAP.


Every animator has a CAP, and the value of an animator is directly tied to their CAP.

  • Broadly, it is the amount of animation you are able to produce to the required quality standards within a specific amount of time.
  • So, if you had to produce Pixar quality animation you might only be able to produce 1 second per week.
  • Yet if you had to produce low-budget tv quality animation you might be able to produce 30 seconds in a week.
  • This is your CAP.
  • At some point, every animator will need to produce beyond their personal CAP.
  • When we attempt this we usually use artificial means:
  • Sleeping less or pulling ‘all nighters’
  • Taking fewer or shorter breaks
  • Ignoring the fundamental Principles of Animation or ‘cutting corners’
  • These methods may work short term but have long term consequences.
    • Bad Animation Habits
    • Burnout

Burnout literally is the result of working beyond your capacity for too long. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will!

  • For long term benefit we need to increase our Ability.
  • This is because: We will never get more Time.
  • But we can gain more Education
  • And more Experience

This is called the Ability Spectrum


  • We learn from the Ability Spectrum that we must balance our Education with our Experience.
  • Having a new experience means we should Educate ourselves about that experience.
  • More education means we should apply that and gain Experience.
  • What this will help us do is increase our Capacity.
  • Greater Speed.
  • Higher Quality.
  • More done in the same amount of time.

This is called the Capacity Spectrum


  • If you are very fast at animating, maybe you should work on your Quality a bit more, and vice-versa.
  • Always keep your Speed and Quality in balance.

But what is Capacity?

  • Energy = Capacity to do work.
  • Our goal then, is to increase our energy.

Energy in the human sense has 4 components:

  1. Physical Energy
  2. Emotional Energy
  3. Mental Energy
  4. Spiritual Energy

We will cover this in more detail next time

Well, I hope you found this tutorial informative and inspirational! If you really want to take your animation to the next level, then check out the Guardian Animation Program! Doing so will also help support this animation community.