Shoelace Trip up Animation

This performance is an observation based on my own behaviour that I picked up on recently. I always tend to be quite clumsy and always trip up on things in the street which can be quite embarrassing. I noticed one time when I tripped up and fell on my face that my immediate reaction (after extending my arms to break my fall) was not to respond to the pain I felt, but to look and check that nobody had seen me. I found this fascinating and everyone I asked agreed that they’d had the same experience before. So it seems that it’s human behaviour that we fear, and are more worried about being embarrassed in public than feeling actual pain. After doing a bit of research I found that there have been many studies done that prove this to be true.

So since this is something common in us all I thought it might be humorous and relevant to animate a character in this same situation.

Here is the animatic I created for this performance. It begins with a side shot of the character’s feet already in motion, as Ed Hooks says “scenes begin in the middle, not at the beginning”. We see his shoelace is loose and as he walks it gets tangled and he falls to the floor. We then switch to a front shot to see him fall and get back up, and it’s revealed that there is a crowd of people behind him who all saw him. The character then looks around, embarrassed, then finally settles with his head down. As an audience we are meant to feel sympathy for the character.

The only thing I did differently from the animatic was that I changed the shot where he falls over. I changed it from a front shot to a 3/4 shot to avoid any foreshortening of limbs and to get more out of the performance.

I filmed my reference for this animation in my garden (please ignore my very confused dog, he’s very photogenic and needed to be involved but doesn’t affect the reference). The main piece of reference I used was from 0:25 – 0:30 for the final shot where the character sits up.

I analysed this footage in Syncsketch where I marked out the extreme poses, breakdowns and other important frames.

I began creating the first shot by blocking in the key poses of the walk cycle using the Animators Survival Kit as a guide for timings. I blocked in the key poses on stepped curves, then switched to spline when I was happy with the poses. For the shoelace I used a mix of 2D animation by importing the playblast into ToonBoom then manually drawing the shoelace into each frame. The end result I think looks quite convincing. If I were to do this again, I would probably use the same approach as I imagine animating a shoe lace in 3D with convincing gravity and drag would probably be more difficult. Looking back at the animation I think there needs to be more of a response from the character when he initially pulls on his lace, maybe some followthrough is missing.

I posed all the shots in stepped mode basing them all on my reference footage that I had open on a second monitor. Then when the timings were right I set the inbetween poses using the TweenMachine plugin which I’ve found really useful. This final shot where he sits up was a difficult one to animate because I wanted to convey the shock and high adrenaline of the character, so I had to find the right balance between quick jerky movements and slower tired movements to contrast. I also pushed the extreme poses to exaggerate his head looking around and used some subtle anticipation and followthrough. I made a separate animation layer and animated the character’s heavy breathing on it’s own where I could easily control the intensity of it. Animating on layers is a workflow that I’ve found really helpful.

For a final touch I added in some background characters to be laughing and pointing at the main character. Unfortunately due to time, I was not able to animate these characters so I made the decision instead to try and put them all in strong poses that communicate what they’re doing. Looking back, it’s probably a good job that I didn’t animate those characters because I think if they were animated, then there would be far too much movement happening on screen and the viewer would be confused as to where the focal point of interest is. But as still poses I think it works because it could be assumed that time has slowed down for the character in this embarrassing moment, or we could be inside the character’s head and his anxious mind has invented this situation.

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