• Shaikha Al Thani

Animation Exercise: Hair

Something I've always been envious of is animator's ability to mimic the fluid movement of hair. I am not even talking about the ridiculous realism that goes into 3D computer animation that have come out in more recent years (think Disney's Brave and Moana).

Moana's titular character

There's an impressive amount of work and effort that goes into 3D computer animation.

Disney's Brave

Merida's animated hair in Brave took 3 whole years to get the process right. A great article by FX guide titled Brave New hair really goes into the nitty gritty details of what Disney's animators had to do (frankly, they lost me when they mentioned Newton's second law. Who would've thought it would be that complicated huh?)

Progression: Merida's guide hairs and curls.

For the sake of this blog post, and my sanity, I'm referring to 2D animated hair.

Which is what I wanted to attempt to tackle here. Although I cannot speak for computer assisted animation, frame by frame illustrated animation is surprisingly easy if not a little tedious at times. For layers that don't require any shading or details, it is pretty easy. However, illustrating minor details while trying to maintain an overall consistency.

I used the application Procreate which is essentially a graphics illustrator app however there is a great animation function that converts layers into frames for an animation.

Before starting, I checked out this guide that illustrates how exactly hair moves.

The guide

For my attempt, I didn't use a guide which, in hindsight was a bad idea. A very bad idea.

My first attempt

Well...what can I say? There's movement alright. But there's just too much randomized movement here. I focused too much on having stray strands rather than trying to achieve the correct form of how fair naturally moves. So, for my second attempt I used a sample guide I found online which was a lot of help!

Sample Guide

The final result: There's a lot that could be better but it certainly is an improvement from the first attempt. The hair's movement is much more natural and organic as opposed to the first attempt.

Now, for my final attempt, I wanted to try animating hair again without a guide. This is what I got:

Biggest observation is that the hair's length is not consistent. Something I only noticed when I was working on the final frames. Also, although the moment is better than my first attempt - it's still not as organic as the second attempt where I used a guide. Perhaps I should try animating chunks or strands of hair separately before I try animating it as a whole next time.

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