Wohoo! Sakuga! It’s been a while since I did a dedicated post to the art of animation and since I’ve been back into anime anyway, I decided to write about the way animation perceives the sense of “Acceleration” and “Deacceleration”.
“What the hell is this title?” is what you’re probably thinking right now. These two expression “Launching from The Spot” and “Running Against a Wall” are the two extremes which will play quite a big importance in this post. If you don’t understand what I mean, feel free to read the article, by the end you should understand.
When you want to be fast, you first have to get fast. You can’t be fast when you’re standing still, so you have first have to accelerate. Now, of course there are different types of acceleration, which also varying in how fast you accelerate. Compare for example: You start walking vs. a plane accelerating to take off. You have a completely different feel for each type of accelerating, and this is a “sense” that has to be brought into animation.
What the Flupping Flop, we’re talking about flepping Flip Flappers again. I should also stop with this flippin bad sense of this thing you call “humor”.
This scene is from episode 1 and animated by Shun Enokido, if you have read the my Fall 2016 Impression you already know this scene and you should have read the short analysis on it. In this post, we’re going to analyze this scene again, but with focus on how Acceleration is shown here (so again, I’m going to not talk about the second half of the cut).
The first frame of these 6 frames shows the complete character, with face, hair, outfit etc. for the very last time in the cut. She never appears during the entire cut again, and everything we see from her is a smeared silhouette. This is not only to show that the character has jumped to such a high speed that “we can not see her anymore”, the cut also uses this, to not concentrate only on the character speeding away like a purple Sonic the Hedgehog.
Let’s talk about physics for a bit. “Force” is something you get by multiplying acceleration and mass. F= m*a, one of the most basic formulas for physics. However, whenever you exert force, there also needs to be some counter force. “Actio-Reactio“, better known under Newtons third law.
Now, getting back to the scene, we have the “Actio” in form of the girl accelerating, considering how fast she accelerates the amount of Force she exerts must be massive. So the “Reactio” must fit to this and this is animated in form of what girl causes to her environment. Let’s take a look at 0:12, where the camera switches to a wideshot of the area;
The first few frames still show the girl as a smeared silhouette. These two above are the only two frames where she is visible, with a frame in-between where she isn’t visible at all, so she is “present” for 3 frames. These 3 frames are just enough so the viewer realizes that she is still there. About 4 frames after her disappearance, then, the Reaction of the environment happens:
Look at 0:12 and see how this scene plays out when moving and take notice at one important thing: The camera shifting to the right. This is a great showcase of how much thought went into this scene:
First, this movement allows the camera to concentrate on what the girl leaves behind after taking off so damn fast, which is a big devastation to the snow land behind her, not to mention her purple “energy aura” which expands behind the spot where she stood seconds ago. This is the reaction of the environment to her taking off in such a manner.
The second is that the camera is in sync with what is happening on the screen. The camera gets “knocked back” the moment the environment is getting whirled up, it is as if the girl kicks back the camera into another angle when she launches from the spot, “forcing” it to look at what happens to environment.
Another tiny but good detail is, how the reaction of the environment is delayed, basically saying that even physical law themselves can’t keep up with the speed with which the girl which is of course far away from any kind of logic, but enhances the feel of acceleration, speed and impact of what is happening.
The next cut has the camera frontal towards the past position of the girl, again the camera is also influenced by the events on-screen as it gets pushed back by the shockwave the girl causes.
An Ice-surface that breaks in a suspicious cube-like manner… we will encounter this again later, stay tuned 😉
Overall, this scene has a great balance of “Logic”, “Style” and “Power” in it, using the girls acceleration speed as force to “destroy” the environment around her, great stuff.
Now, for one to understand just makes this method of animating acceleration such a stand-out, one has to look at a scene, which comes with a similar premise but a different execution, let’s go back to the year 2014, to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, produced by studio ufotable and the amazing Artist Unknown, episode 8:
Reminder, this is a post about how Speed and Acceleration is animated. In this cut, 0:08 – 0:12 is mostly relevant for us.
If you have watched the clip you should have noticed one important thing: When the girl launches from the spot, the camera does not focus on the environment around her but instead says focused on the girl and how she moves.
I hope you realize how “different” the acceleration of the girl here feels in comparison to the clip of before. This cut is relying less on a surprise element, that came in through the kickback of the camera, instead it’s focusing on the blonde girl as she is the star of the scene and what she does, already implied at her entrance at the very beginning of the scene.
In the five frames above, we have the only cut where the girls disappears from the screen. But only for around 5 frames she is completely absent. This scene, as said, focuses more on the girl and her actions than on the launch and her speed.
If you compare the two scenes, there are is one similarity. both characters have a very high acceleration, both get launched from standing still to a rapid speed in only a few frames (consider that anime usually is rendered at 24 fps). However, in both scenes, you get a completely different feel of what happens. Have you noticed that, in the second cut, there is no “delay” of the environment? The sudden disappearance of the character in the Flip Flappers clip gives off a way better feeling of very high and surprising acceleration, combined with the delayed reaction of the environment .
The second scene focusses more on what the character does, which is why there is no such thing as a delayed reaction of the environment. The camera follows the movement of the character as accurately a possible, so that we have a clear view of her, which is nice in its own way.
Please keep in mind that I do not want to call one scene good or bad here, mainly because both scenes had different priorities on what they want to show, but in terms of the topic I’m discussing here, it is still interesting to see how both scene differ from each other!
Let’s move on to another kind of acceleration
Going Fast, Going Off-Model
When I talked about explosive acceleration before, I noticed something rather weird. Both clips don’t concentrate on the actual acceleration progress at all, it’s more about the consequences of these acceleration. Consequences, that characterize the speed the character is going not through the acceleration itself which is fascinating in its own way. However, let’s concentrate on clips, that do focus on the acceleration progress.
Red lines is something I see a lot when wordpress corrects my spelling, so it is only fitting that I mention the movie Redline for once in a post of mine.
Now, the build up in this scene, animated by Takafumi Hori, alone already is impressive… the whole movie is impressive actually, you should watch it. Anyway, the build up has lots of mechanical animation, the engine revs up, the exhaust pretty much explodes with fire, and then… This happens.
I have a question for you. How would you describe the feel of a really high acceleration? For example a sports car going from 0-100 km/h at around 3-4 seconds or when a plane takes off? Here is in one sentence how I feel about it: The moment the vehicle gains on speed I start getting pressed into seat, it takes quite some force to get into an upright posture again or moving your body forward.
This feeling is caused by something called “inertia” (yeah, we’re talking about physics again). Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, that means it resists change of speed, direction or state of rest. The feeling of “being accelerated” is because your body does not want to change the speed it’s currently going at.
Back to the clip, we have the whole environment resisting this change of speed, which is visualized in form of the already mentioned distortion. The whole environment is getting stretched in the direction of the acceleration, as if part of the back of the object doesn’t want to be pulled with the rest, but in the end has to submit to the need for speed (kill me). With that, the feeling of things accelerating is enhanced enormously and most importantly, it completely feels different from the two clips from before, it’s more lengthy and more intensive in a way, not to mention that the acceleration is in focus and not the product of it.
I encounter this form of Acceleration pretty often in anime. I had a lot of trouble finding more “Explosive Acceleration” clips before, but for Acceleration like this, I found quite some amount.
This Clip is from episode 6 of “Tales of Zestiria the X” and was presumably animated by Masayuki Kunihiro. Studio ufotable’s animation is a lot of the times “on-model”, they rarely change proportions of an object for the sake of getting an arguably better feel of movement and dynamic into the animation. So it is quite a standout when Masayuki Kunihiro animates as he is one of the rare ufo-animators that go off-model at points.
By the way, this is not a sign of “bad animation” as some people on reddit and the likes will probably try to tell you. Keep in mind please that these frames are for the sake of movement animation.
Slow in, Fast Out
However, object distortion and going off-model is not the only way to show acceleration. Yutaka Nakamura in Mob Psycho 100 definitely went way over the 100 mark when animating the following scene in episode 8
What is outstanding here is that the camerawork is heavily involved in the way this scene portraits the acceleration. Let’s go towards 0:18
This is the beginning of the acceleration process, these two are slowly accelerating towards the camera. A total of 20 frames are involved here with the last pic above being the last one, lots of frames are dedicated to the start of said acceleration. Now, let’s move on starting from the next frame
The moment they are the closest to the camera, things rev up quickly. 6 Frames are dedicated to how fast the “fireball” these two turned into moves away from the virtual camera (there are still frames after this, but these 6 frames are the most important here). The fact that they are turning into said fireball only enhances the feeling of speed.
This is the very principle of “slow in, fast out”, also called “Easing”, which is a technique in which more frames are dedicated to certain phases of an acceleration, in this case more frames are used for the build up fo the acceleration, and less frames are used when they’re at high speed already. It also builds in a sense of “weight” as if there was quite an amount of effort needed to move the object to its final speed.
However, this scene doesn’t stop here. Starting from 0:36 we have a fast accelerating camera quickly descending to the ground, with the fireball passing even passing this camera very quickly while the camera still tries to keep up with the two guys crashing into the house.
It should also be noted how our view is getting narrowed, leading our eyes into a certain direction. Everything around the scene becomes black as a “cause” of the speed before both camera and object crashing into the ceiling of the house.
Overall a yet another amazing scene by Yutaka Nakamura, let’s move on however, before I start getting a little bit too orgasmic about this scene (Yutapon is great).
Well, what can I say… Distortions, Smearing as well as Camerawork can be important in portraing high velocity and acceleration. However, let’s slow down a bit more…
This scene is completely absent of Smears, Distortions etc. all of the likes we saw before, mainly because there is no need for those. We have no superhuman or something similar so the animation is less “super” as well. I’m not saying this scene is bad, it’s actually pretty good, but as you can see here, things are way slower-paced. I’m basically just showing this to give you a contrast of what we have seen before and to lower the pace a little bit…
…just take all the beautiful animation in, before we go to the next point…
Star Driver The Movie (don’t watch it, not worth it), scene by Yutaka Nakamura again. It was surprisingly hard for me to find a good scene of something decelerating, and this scene right isn’t the best example either. But we have a general idea here of “inertia” here when something is slowed down by force.
What I am talking about here is that at 0:01, when the black Mecha crashes into the white one, both are getting knocked back, before the white one pushes the black one away. It’s a perfect example on how weight works as well as inertia. If you remember, inertia is a the resistance of a physical object to change its state of motion, in this case the black Mecha does not want to change its speed before he finally gets pushed back by the white Mecha.
From the 8th Mob Psycho 100 episode with Toshiyuki Sato being involved (+ Artist Unknown), at 0:16 we have another interesting example on how inertia is implemented. It is here to notice that Mob, the black haired kid, has in incredibly strong posture when he catches the incoming brute’s face.
One important thing, do you see how the head of the guy gets compressed? It’s the opposite of what happened in the Redline Clip from before where everything is getting stretched due to acceleration, while here we have something stopping almost instantly, so the part of the body which gets stopped is getting compressed before almost bouncing back to its original shape.
Now, let’s move towards Yutaka Nakamura one last time and come to an explosive Full Stop:
You know what we’re talking about so it shouldn’t take you long to figure out what part of this clip I’m going to talk about. It’s about 0:21 and what follows after.
Remember the Flip Flappers Cut at the very beginning of this post? Animator Shun Enokido used the Kickback the girls launch caused to make the camera move in an authentic way to focus on the destruction caused by the scene.
This scene does the exact same but in a different way. In the 4 frames before the impact happens, the camera still is moving in a pace similar to the green Mech which moves at a ridiculous speed at this very moment. Because the impact happens right after, this is barely noticeable, but you still unconsciously register it, which makes the following even more impactful.
After 2 impact frames the camera still is moving to the left as if the camera itself wasn’t prepared for the impact to happen or more accurately, since it was focusing on the speeding green mech, it is speeding past the place of impact, even making some kind of bouncing movement trying to get back to that position, because unlike the green Mech it did not run against a wall of some kind that made it immediately come to a Full Stop.
What this causes? The point of where the two Mechas clash now moves to the right from the perspective of the virtual camera and now the screen is filled with mostly something else:
Inertia applies to two things here, the camera and the environment. I already explained what happened with the camera, and the environment works similar. The Green Mech was stopped in the blink of an eye to an absolute still, but you should know now how inertia works. There still has to be some kind of force which still went by the white Mech, and this is visualized through the form of destruction in (of course) cubes!
There are 5 seconds between the impact and before the fight continues. Considering how large-scale the destruction is, I think these 5 seconds are perfect to let the feeling of impact fade out without it outstaying its welcome.
And with that Run against a “Wall” you arrived at the end of this blogpost. Yeah, you should see the point of “Launching From The Spot” and “Running against a Wall” in the title now, they were beginning and end of this post! Yeah, haha… creative…
At this point, this post has around 3000 words now so it is quite large. To give some closure… I love animation… I still do. When I’m analyzing stuff like this, I tend to appreciate these scenen even more than I already do.In other words…. I have quite some fun doing these. You’re welcome to give me feedback about it and things I should be on look out for!
As for upcoming posts. Currently there is only the last part of my Moe Anthropomorphism project, which will certainly be finished but it will take an indefinitive amount of time unfortunately, due to real life issues. Talking about real life, there will be something coming out concerning this as well, look forward to this!
See ya, bye-bye then~