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Digital Acting

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Bringing your character to life means being able to think and breathe like your character – essentially, understanding the techniques of acting. In this article, George Maestri teaches a crash course in acting for the animator.
George Maestri is the author of several animation books from New Riders Publishing, including [Digital] Character Animation 2, Volume I and [Digital] Character Animation 2, Volume II. He is also the series editor for New Riders' [Digital] series of books, including [Digital] Lighting and Rendering and [Digital] Texturing and Painting.
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In many respects, animators are actors who use a mouse, a pencil, or clay to bring a character to life. An actor is a natural show-off, someone who always wants to be in the spotlight. Animators tend to hide behind their CRTs and light tables, but the performers that they create must have the same vitality as any created in live action.

Bringing your character to life in a convincing manner means understanding the techniques of acting—being able to think and breathe like your character. When you truly step into a character, the actual act of animating will become a bit of a blur. You will simply be the conduit from the character to the mouse.

Acting vs. Animating

Plenty of people and schools can teach you how to act. These can be of great value to an animator. As you become more involved with creating characters, you can draw upon many techniques from the art of acting.

Acting, however, is fundamentally different than animation. Acting happens in real time, usually in front of an audience. Actors need to learn how to deal with the here and now.

Animation happens a frame at a time. You go through many of the processes that an actor goes through, but the actual motions are translated through the mouse into the computer. Animators have the luxury of going back over a performance frame by frame until it is deemed perfect.

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