Monday, April 18, 2011

Squats and Stretch

Yeah, I know, it's Squash and Stretch, but that's not the point.

This past weekend my training involved squatting, and I can think of few other exercises that so perfectly demonstrate the 12 principles of animation than the competitive back squat. There's squash-n-stretch, ease in/out, arcs, timing, exaggeration, etc., each having its own part in performing not only a mechanically sound squat, but a squat that will be successful in competition.

To perform a mechanically sound squat that will get white-lighted (judged as successful) in competition, you generally have the following to consider:
  • Staging - You are standing on a platform in front of 3 judges
  • Anticipation - Unrack the bar and wait for the "Squat!" command. Popping my hips back to start the squat. Waiting for the "Rack!" command at the end.
  • Ease in/Out - slow the descent of the squat, accelerating on the way down
  • Squash & Stretch - Going from standing (stretched) to squatted (squashed) position, and going from squatted (squashed) position to standing (stretched)
  • Arcs- actually, here there is a desire to remove arcs- keeping your back stiff and not rounded, and keeping the bar moving in a straight line up and down
  • Solid Drawing- holding your form is very important, and akin to keeping solid volume with animation- if the volume is bad, the move is bad. Good form prevents injury!
  • Exaggeration - Going deeper than is necessary on the squat (below parallel) so the judges have no doubt you hit depth.
  • Secondary Action - it's always entertaining to see the facial expressions on people who are squatting.
  • Followthrough - the heavier the weight is, the more the bar will bend. You get some cool overlap of the bar post-squat. You also need to bring the bar to a standstill post-squat to get the "rack" command
  • Timing - on top of only getting 1 minute to perform the action (which usually takes 3-4 seconds), your speed to the bottom of the squat and explosiveness up factor heavily in a successful attempt.
  • Appeal - The overall look of your squat, when judged as a whole
  • Straight Ahead/Pose to Pose - The whole squat action itself is very pose-to-pose driven, while unracking and racking is more straight ahead.

Here, I've thrown in the principles as they are executed in one of my squat attempts:

In animation, we can look at the bouncing ball test to learn the above principles. This animation would obviously be considerably faster than a squat movement, but the principles and mechanics are generally the same:

When used properly, the principles as applied to animation guide an animator in creating an appealing, successful animation. Breaking down my squat in terms of those same principles helps me understand the mechanics of the human body, and allows to me see where, why & when I should use each principle when creating my animation.

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