Motion Amplifiers: Sketching Dynamic Illustrations Using the Principles of 2D Animation (CHI 2016)


Our new work on stylized 2D animation, Motion Amplifiers, in appearing  to CHI 2016 & SIGGRAPH 2016! In our earlier work, Draco, our goal was to make animation as easy as sketching, and realize the potential of dynamic drawing as a new, emerging, and powerful medium. Motion Amplifiers augment that line of work by bringing the exaggerated dynamics of classical 2D animation into dynamic drawings.

The master animators of Disney developed the 12 principles of animation that turned hand-drawn 2D animation into a communicative, sophisticated art form. Here is a great visualization of those principles by Centos Lodigiani.


The basic design philosophy behind Skuid is that complex dynamics emerge by composing simple, understandable animation principles

We present a sketching tool for crafting animated illustrations that contain the exaggerated dynamics of stylized 2D animations. Our design formulates the principles of animation as a set of motion amplifiers that can be combined at will. The key idea in our design was to leverage the language of animation as a natural way to think and communicate with computers through freeform sketching. The goal of our design is to increase one’s ability to modularize the fundamental concepts of 2D animation and combine them together in new and powerful ways. By representing the principles of animation in a simplified manner, our system offers users, particularly those with no prior experience in animation, the opportunity to rapidly explore animation effects and produce expressive animated illustrations.

A side-by-side comparison shows what each amplifier adds to an animation.


Notes on Animation Style vs. Principle

“[In animation] there are so many areas to be explored … effects to be created, new wonders to be seen… someone or some group of artists will surely discover new dimensions to delight and entertain the world.” – Johnson & Thomas

The motion amplifiers in Skuid are attributed to the principles of animation that had been devised and nurtured by Disney animators in the 1940s. Beyond Disney, master animators and studios across different cultures and eras have devised their own animation styles and techniques. For instance, the 2D animations by Ryan Woodward depict a distinct fluid-like motion transitions from frame-to-frame. Is this phenomena considered as an animation principle, or, is it a style? What is the boundary between animation styles and principles? We conjecture that the principles of animation present a particular artistic style. The characterization of artistic styles (visual and motion design) into concrete motion design tools is an interesting avenue for future exploration. However, such characterization is often very challenging.

The principles of animation exemplify how a complex, stylized art form can be decomposed into understandable chunks. Seymour Papert refers to this as breaking down a complex problem into “mind-size bites,” which makes knowledge more communicable, more assimilable, more simply constructible. User interfaces for animation that leverage these “mind-size bites” as a natural vocabulary to understand and compose complex animations might have powerful influence on how animators think, learn, and explore.

To elevate this art form to an even higher level, clearly this characterization is inadequate. Can we design tools that not only explain existing principles but also inspire animators to innovate new ones? This remains as an open question for us and our readers to consider.


Motion Amplifiers: Sketching Dynamic Illustrations using the principles of 2D animation
R H Kazi, T Grossman, N Umetani, G Fitzmaurice
CHI 2016 (PDF), SIGGRAPH 2016 Talks







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