“Bouncy Bally”… in Blender! (1h-challenge)

Here’s a little animation I made in 1h to play around with keyframe animation in Blender!

This article is also available on Medium.

These past few weeks, I showed a little “kitschy” dancing man and an animation with some gears that I made in Blender as 1h-challenges. Today, here’s another time-constrained standalone render: this time, I made a simple character, “Bouncy” – a little red ball bouncing endlessly on a lane…

The final result is a 2-seconds animation that loop 😉

About this render…

My goal with this new standalone was to work on three things: basic character design, simple animation (following the famous 12 principles of animation) and simple scenery/lighting/shading.

Designing the character

For this render, I quickly had the idea of making a little ball bounce. It’s pretty straight-forward to animate and it’s a Blender primitive shape, so it’s easy to make!

But just a basic ball wouldn’t be that fun to watch!

So I decided to go for a simple “blobby” character by adding a face to the sphere. I went for a cartoon vibe with big eyes and mouth:

I separated the eyelids a bit to have more freedom with the face expression: they allow me to give the character an overall curious and happy style.

Animating the character

The animation for this render is keyframe-based: the idea is to define some specific states for the object at particular points in time. At each of these specific frames, we can enforce a location, rotation and scale for the character. Then, Blender automatically interpolates between those given points to compute the transform of the object for the in-between frames.

To make a somewhat “credible” movement, I relied on the 12 principles of animation.

The 12 principles of animation are a set of 12 rules that were first given by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston; they are fundamental core ideas for making nice engaging and convincing animations. Of course, it can be applied both to 2D and 3D animation.

For a really cool sum up of these principles, I really recommend you check out this video by Alan Becker: he shows great examples that give you an intuition for each rule and why it’s relevant to animation.

Here, I used several of these principles:

  • Principle 1 – “squash and stretch”: by compressing and dilating your shape, you can emphasise your movement and convey information about the mass of the object. Something important though is that the object must always keep the same volume – so if it gets higher, it must also get thinner; or else the viewer will directly catch that there’s something wrong with the stretching!

As you can see here, “Bouncy” stretches when it jumps and then squashes when it lands, which improves the overall feeling of movement.

  • Principle 2 – “anticipation”: when you want a movement to have energy and the audience to expect the movement to happen, you should anticipate it by having your object “gather strength”. In my case, it’s the slightly compression just before the jump!
  • Principle 6 – “slow in & slow out”: by having the character use bézier interpolation instead of linear lerping, I’m creating more of an organic movement

Shading and lighting the scene

Staging is actually also a principle of animation (Principle 3): it’s about finding the right camera shot, the proper frame, that will focus the viewer’s attention to your object the most.

In my render, it’s a mix of basic things: of course, “Bouncy” is at the center of the frame which clearly defines it as the focus point; but it’s also very saturated compared to the rest of the image that’s all blacks and whites. Finally, the fact the “Bouncy” is the only “living” thing (meaning, the only object with an organic movement) and that the rest of the scene isn’t cluttered with stuff instinctively pushes us to look at it rather than the floor or the grid wall.

The shading in itself is pretty simple: I used Blender’s built-in Principled BSDF shader from the EEVEE rendering engine to get a nice diffuse colour.

As for the lighting, I went for a simple sun – a directional light that lights up everything in the scene from a given angle.

Conclusion

This new 1-hour challenge was yet again a really great way of exploring Blender’s features and getting more familiar with keyframe animation. I also learnt a bit about camera framing and staging, which is always useful!

I hope you like this render! If you do, don’t hesitate to check out my CG-dedicated Instagram, and as always, feel free to suggest other ideas of renders in the comments! 😉

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