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Animation Tip: Anticipation

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Anticipation is what gives animated actions real impact. It's the wind-up into the pitch, the rear back before the punch, the strain before the lift; it's that moment of pause that lets us know something's about to happen before it actually does.

Using anticipation can engage the viewer more, making them lean forward in the chair in (wait for it) anticipation of what's about to happen; it can also be used to surprise them, when the moment of anticipation tells them one action is about to happen only for the animation to take a completely different direction.

In a normal moment of anticipation, some slower action leads into the final punch. An example could be an animation of a cowboy lassoing a horse; before he throws the lasso, he twirls the rope in the air, building up speed and momentum. The twirl is the moment of anticipation; we know he's going to throw it, but we're made to wait a moment, to hold our breaths and see if he'll actually land the throw.

For a surprise twist, one example could be a boxing fight. When Boxer A draws back to throw a punch, we have our moment of anticipation - but we're thrown a twist when, out of nowhere, Boxer B lands his punch first. The moment of anticipation still has its culmination, but not in the result the build-up had implied.

Whether your result is expected or a twist, anticipation is a valuable method for involving viewers in your animation and making the motion seem realistic.

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