Animation cycles- problems and solutions

Animation cycles are created with couple of frames and include action that can repeat in loop. Using that technique, the animator can reuse such a sequence of drawings over and over again to build up screen time without any additional effort. Some cycles may consist of only two drawings, while others may be involve several tens of complex actions. There are a lot of animation cycles like walking, running, bouncing ball and lots more but all of them must follow the same animation principles to make them look believable and interesting.

I tried to create my own animation cycle in flip book. Here are some mistakes I have made and solutions to create better animation cycle next time.

  1. Mistake: The figure looks odd.
    Solution: Using reference photos of figure, use basic anatomy to make the animation more believable.
  2. Mistake: The cycle is quite boring.
    Solution: Making storyboard before creating animation to see roughly how the cycle will look like.
  3. Mistake: Animation cycle looks untidy and chaotic.
    Solution: Using pose to pose animation principle to keep size, volume and proportions consistent.
  4. Mistake: Animation cycle doesn’t loop properly.
    Solution: Making first and last frame the same.
  5. Mistake: Body and shoulders look stiff in comparison to arms.
    Solution: Using squash and stretch and secondary action principle.

Flipbook exercise

The exercise that challenged me the most was flipbook animation. I wanted to make a stick figure doing “burpees”. I thought it will be easier but actually it was a big challenge for me.


The principles I wanted to concentrate on in this animation are arcs and timing. I decided to go straight ahead and to draw frame-by-frame from start to finish because I have found it harder to select key frames and complete the rest. I focused on positioning the head on an arc as well as shoulders and hips. I also created more frames of figure while standing to create sense of timing.

The greatest challenge for me was to keep the animation consistent. I had to correct drawings couple of times because, for example, the spine was shrinking in one of the frames or legs were too long in other. Probably the solution would be drawing the floor at the beginning that would set the stick figure.

Anyway creating this animation was very interesting and it was good to learn from my mistakes.

My first memory of animation

My first vivid memory of animation from my childhood was games Neverhood and Oddworld. I remember how hypnotized I was while playing these games. All characters seemed so real that I believed they were actually existing somewhere. To be honest when I look at the screenshots now, I am surprised how child’s imagination can alter the reality. Klaymen from Neverhood and Abe from Oddworld were real creatures for me by the way they moved, talked and looked. I knew back then I wanted to be that sort of artist- creating different reality which is believable and stays in your memory for a long time.


Neverhood (1996) is the game made entirely with clay and surreal landscapes and buildings made that game unique.



Neverhood (1996)


Neverhood (1996)








Oddworld (1996)

Mise en scène and composition

Mise-en-scene, from French „putting into the scene” is the arrangement of everything that appears in the framing and influence the verisimilitude or credibility of a film in the eyes of its viewers. It helps telling a story, generating a sense of time and space, mood or character’s state of mind. Key elements of mise-en-scene are set design, lighting, space, composition and movement. All of those have big impact of viewer’s impression of the film. For instance, this is how use of mise-en-scene was explained in “Film art, an introduction” (2010):

While one film might use mise-en-scene to create an impression of realism, other films might seek very different effects: comic exaggeration, supernatural terror, understated beauty, and any number of other functions. We should analyze mise-en-scene’s function in the total film – how it is motivated, how I varies or develops, hot it works in relation to other film techniques.”

Composition is the arrangement of visual elements. In cinematography, is the organization of objects, actors and space within the frame, so how the elements of mise-en-scene
appear in the image.

httpwww.elementsofcinema.comcinematographycomposition.htmlOne of the most popular compositional technique is rule of thirds. It’s a guide that states that arranging
the important features of an image on the intersections of two vertical line and two horizontal lines that divide the image into equal parts. That sort of composition is comfortable to the eye, thus the middle portion of the frame are kept clear.

garden-state nofilmschool

Patterns and repetition also may be used to compose the image. Humans are naturally attracted to patterns and they will immediately attract viewer to the image. Also including the element that breaks the pattern will keep the image interesting and audience engaged.

Garden State, 2014

There are some other techniques to use composition in the film to make it more pleasant to watch. For example, if a character is looking frame left, then he should be placed frame right. This makes the framing comfortable because the subject is looking at the open space in front of him. This open space is called lead room or lead space.

Filmmakers use composition to guide viewer’s eye to specific place or object. These techniques are widely used in cinematography. Here I put some examples of interesting composition used in films over the years.

raw deal 1948

Raw Deal, 1948

We can see that there is used rule of thirds and interesting composition of lighting and shadows. This creates the sense of mystery, melancholy or fear.

lawrence of arabia 1962

Lawrence of Arabia, 1962

Point of interest, main character, is on the far right of the shot looking to the left. The space on the left suggest that there is a long way for character to overcome or he is wandering into unknown.
cabaret 1972.png

Cabaret, 1972

Symmetry is pleasing to look at. Lines that create lighting and characters dancing on both sides direct viewer’s eye to look in the middle at main character.

spring breakers 2012

Spring Breakers, 2012

Color and shape used in this shot suggest that something dangerous happens and we follow these characters to see what they are going to do.

Directors and cinematographers think of composition more like painters or illustrators than like theater directors because camera can be used as a point of view of the audience, not like in theatre. This creates lots of possibilities to create interesting shots that sometimes look like a piece of art. Art is a mixture of science and imagination: a little bit of earth, a little bit of sky- Leonardo da Vinci and Fibonacci both making Mona Lisa smile.