Collecting Reference:

Client Ref:

Sometimes the end client, Lead or Supervisor might have collected reference for you.


Spend some time searching the internet to find the type of action you want. You will most likely have to combine elements from a few different sources.

Shoot your own reference

( See the Acting Section ) Spend some time searching the internet to find the type of action you want. You will most likely have to combine elements from a few different sources.

-try to keep the camera as close to the actual shot camera as possible

-try to do it in one take, or edit it seamlessly so you can use the timing

-Stage it to give the viewer the best possible seat to tell the story and see the action

#try to compose on thirds

#don't stage a character down a middle line, try to maintain direction. Keep the 180 rule in mind.

#lead the viewers eye with action and line of action

#try to maximize silhouette

#Do Multiple takes, the more you shoot the more you'll have to choose from.Try different broad strokes, and also try similar actions with smaller variations.Ideally, you can watch your footage as you shoot and help focus in on what you want.

Reference Approval:

If possible try to get your Lead, the Supervisor, Director, or Client to sign off on the reference. This could save a lot of time vs. finding out later that you've just gone down the wrong path.

Breaking Down Reference:

Golden/Story Poses:

Take note of the Golden poses otherwise referred to as Story Poses. You should be able to look at just these poses and get the gyst of the shot. If it's an action shot, these will probably be the extremes of the motions.

Primary Breakdowns:

The poses that bridge the transition between the Golden Poses. They should flesh out the extreme poses for the body mechanics.

Individual Parts:

Study how the individual parts of the body move, and how they interact with the other body parts. What are the extremes, the level of snappiness, counter animations, contacts, etc.



# style will inform every animation decision you are going to make on that project. Timing will be based on the style. Posing will be based on the style.Most of all, acting decisions will all be made based on the style of the work. Is the style really cartoony, or realistic and contained?

# "Representational," is all about what is real. Photography, still-life paintings, and most modern film acting would all be considered "representational." They depict what life actually looks like.

"Presentational," is more about "showing" the audience something slightly more abstract or "showy." Theater, Picasso, Cirque Du Soleil, and Tex Avery are all examples of "Presentational" art forms.

you need to figure out right away where your character and project are at on the ol' "Presentational vs. Representational" chart before you'll know how they will move, or, more importantly, what sort of acting choices they will make. Specifically, this will inform the amount of "exaggeration" you will be applying to the principles of animation in your shots, and will affect the level of theatrics in their movements.


# The amount of exaggeration is probably the single biggest defining aspect of the style of the animation. Use it to sell the weight of a character, or to spotlight a story point. Above all, exaggeration is used for clarity. Clarity of ideas, clarity of jokes, clarity of personality, and clarity of physical traits.

# How much is too much: It's too much exaggeration when the audience is confused.

1.) What is the style of the project, the more exaggeration the cartoonier it will be

2.) "Don't make it real, make it believable." even realistic styles need exageration to make it as dynamic. Exaggeration of poses and timing help it look dramatic.

3.)like anything else, planning exaggeration is essential. You don't just guess. You don't just start scaling curves to create bigger movements all over the place.

Exaggeration should be as carefully planned as any other aspect of your scene. If everything is exaggerated, your scene will be a mess. If only one thing is exaggerated, it's going to stick out like a sore thumb and feel very unrealistic in all but the cartooniest work.


#Personality is the motivation behind the character. What makes this characters actions unique and memorible. The personality traits that you choose for a character should make it more interesting.

# Every character has wants and needs, both: conscious and subconscious. Wants affect emotion, and emotion drives action.

# Think about your character's internal personality, world perception and background. Every character has beliefs, and a mental model of the world ( accurate or not). With all that in mind, how would your character react to the current sitution. The same needs translated through different perceptions of reality will yeild different actions.

# A character's perception of the world should be consistant until circumstances affect a change. The character should change as their arc develops.

# Does your character lead with their head, chest, or elbows?

how do internal characteristics manifest themselves in external mannerisms

# Does every pose fit the character and tell you something about their state of mind?

# Can that pose be pushed to be unique to that character?

# If it's more of a character shot, do the sequence of poses tell a story with a progression or change of thought? The whole animation should revolve around showing the character thinking and changing his thought process. If it's more of an action shot, does the action and weight read.

# Try to create a contrast between two characters with different personalities. Having different needs or the same needs but with different perceptions of reality.


# Does every action have a motivation?

# Is the character trying to do something or get somewhere, are they pursuing their goal?

# How can you show the character is thinking.


# Do the poses in this shot work with the tempo and emotion of the surrounding shots?

# How has what the character just finished doing affecting what he's doing now.

Line of Action:

# Is there a clean line of action that is easy to read? Does it convey everything at a glance

# Does the line help tell the story, define the action and/or convey a mood?

# Would this work as an illustration?

# Is the line of action intersting?

# Is it strongly concave or convex?

# Does the line invert from one pose to the next for stronger contrast?

# Does it feel natural to the character, not forced?


reversal generally refers to an arc or line of action through the body mirroring into it's "opposite" shape. More specifically, a reversal is usually associated with the curve of the spine mirroring in shape. Use reversals to introduce snappiness.

#The reversal is the visual description of what is going on in your body as it tries to build up force and power, as it curls around itself in order to coil and build power, or prepare to spring into action. We all know that anticipations create the power necessary for many actions (if you don't believe this, try jumping without dropping your hips at all first!), and as do many other body mechanics, anticipations are a big part of what creates these reversals in the first place. Overlapping action, arcs, force, etc - all of these work together to CREATE the reversals, but the concept of reversals in and of themselves can be a powerful tool for the animator, and an easy way to meld so many animation ideas together into one performance.

Lead, Follow, and Offsets

# Decide what's leading and what's following. Fit this to the character and his current state of mind and goal.

# Build offsets in to the poses vs. offsetting keys for various parts. This will help avoid the pose to pose feel.

# Keep all the limbs active

# build in opposing actions to add life ( ex: have the arms come up as the head goes down)

# Break up the major shapes


# Exagerate the poses to get more snap

# Add contrast from pose to pose

# use reversals to add more energy

# show the build up and release of energy. A character could be building up energy even in a hold.

# Exagerate the time to get more snap, faster than it was in the ref. Usually the same overall time but faster in the middle with more ease at the beginning and end


# if the character is stationary he should be balanced, if he's moving his balance should be shifted in that direction

# shifts of balance in the opposite direction are needed to get moving ( anticipations )

# move the character around on their feet vs. keeping them pinned down.

# Usually, one leg holds most of the weight near the CG and the other is just supporting.


# Is the pose readable in negative space?

# Your goal in almost every scene is clarity. The main point of the shot should be clear. Black out your characters, if you can't read the emotion or action, then your shot is poorly staged. Selling the emotion through the overall body posture of your character is absolutely critical, since that's the very first thing the audience will see. The audience has a restless eye, and you might only have a split second to tell them all the information they need to know. Is your character shy? Devastated? Exuberant? The posture of the body needs to tell this to the audience as fast as possible.?

# the further you push a silhouette, the cartoonier and more "theatrical" the acting will get, so the style of the project is something that must be considered when choosing how much to exaggerate your silhouette. Also, a great way to show an attitude in your character is sometimes to have his arms folded across his chest. Well, that isn't much of a silhouette, but I bet that if you're clever and careful, you can at least make sure to stage his pose in a way that his silhouette makes it clear that his arms are folded!

# Is there assymetrical contrast within the pose?

# Is there contrast from pose to pose?


# Try to add in more dynamic angles whenever possible

# Contrast angles within a pose and from pose to pose.

#add inperspective to help create a dynamic look and break up symetry

Squash and Stretch:

# push the poses to emphasize squash and stretch

# maintain the volume

# for facial animation shoot for squash on one side and stretch on the other

# for body animation keep contraposto in mind with weight shifts

# use squash and stretch to amp up the energy/power of the action

# highlight straight to bent and vice versa

Contrast & Texture:

# Is there contrast within a pose, playing straights off of curves

# Is there texture in the poses, having some being broader and others more subtle. reversing from pose to pose creates interest. This can be subtle or extreme.

# are there fast and quiet sections of the animation. Mix it up with flurries of activity and followed by simmering holds. Try to get at least three speeds in a shot.

# hold on some poses longer than others

# have one characters style of movement contrast with the other

# Is there texture in the rhythm of the actions, or a difference in the length of timing between the main beats?

# building contrast into the timing of your scene adds organic believability. During your planning process, consider different uses of contrast (timing and posing), and how those moments might best be used to communicate emotion changes, sell jokes, show weight, or simply imbue your character with more entertaining and dynamic movement.


# A "Twinned Pose" is when one side of a pose is mirroring the other side. By it's nature this creates a symetrical pose, which is the opposite of a dynamic pose with contrast.  There are a few specific gestures which require this, but it should be avoided in most cases in favor of something more interesting.

# Too many twinned poses can tend to look robotic.

# "Twinned Timing" is when the keyframes of your various controls hit on the same frame. For example: when the left foot lands the same frame as the right foot or when both hands reverse direction at the same time. This will give it a robotic, non-organic feel. Breaking up the timing conversely gives it a more organic look. An animation with twinned timing shows that the animator didn't build in anticipations and overlaps.

# You can also twin with multiple characters. For example they all stop walking at the same time or do the same action. Even tight dance choreography won't be twinned completely.

Weight and Force:

# We want to believe that the character moved, not that someone moved the character. That means you have to animate a character that looks like it is dealing with weight and balance through its own thoughts and efforts.

# Force does not exist in animation. It is implied through posture, path of action, balance, timing, arcs, successive breaking of joints and on and on. It is implied by what the character does. Deciding why a character moves will reveal how it moves. Hold on, this is about weight, not force. No, wait, weight cannot be shown without the visual implication of FORCE. Wait, force and weight don’t exist in animation, there can only be a visual implication. There are two types of FORCE – internal and external.

# Heavy: too much overlap that flows from pose to pose, can sacrifice weight. For more weight some actions should hit harder Hit harder with the hips, do most of the overlap with the chest

# Walking: Going into the impact/compression shows how much effort is exerted to stop the body weight from its downward motion and coming out of the impact/compression describes how much effort is needed to raise the body ‘weight’. Keep in mind, the slower the cadence the more weight shift from side to side there needs to be. The further apart the feet are the more you have to shift weight side to side.