Final Character Performance

Choosing my idea

Above and below you can see spider diagrams that showed me trying to plan a final idea for this character performance piece. I started with thinking about a character not a dialogue. After reading acting for Animators I realised developing the character is hugely important as it motivates how the characters moves and acts.


3 ideas moodboards


Above you can see my three ideas summarised in a moodboard. The three ideas as captioned above is: A  Gardener (Soft, driven, messy, nature lover). Basket case (Introvert, relaxed, scruffy, unique) Silent movie actress (Affectionate, expressive, flirtatious, feisty). I decided to apply four words that summarised the character to get a vague image of the character I am planning to use.

After some decided, I have chosen to develop my silent movie actress, Viola. I have already learnt about her physical characterisation but developing her I will be able to understand her mentality and how she moves and acts! I am really looking forward to getting to know her more.




Above is the synopsis which I created when Modelling. This really allowed me to understand my character and define the characteristics. Why is this important? It is one of the top priorities to understand the attitude and the internal thinking of the character. How does the personality drive the character’s action.


How people moved in the 1920s

My character lives in the 1920s, something which is very important. After all people move differently and the era also adds another element of contrast. There was different cultural references and idols which people will mimic without realising. To understand perhaps how my character would have been influenced by this. Below are a several videos which I watched in order to grasp movement and flow of the actors and actresses. I also looked at dance and music, what would my character like how would she dance? All questions I thought needed to be answered in order to understand my character.

Liberation in the 1920s for Females 

Something drastically change in the 1920s. After the war women were given opportunities in the working world.  The Sex Disqualification Act of 1919 meant women were able to go to university and this impacting how they were able to get education and in turn get qualified jobs. Women felt liberated with there new found freedom further fueled with fashion. Shorter hair and baggy clothes defied the corset and floor length gowns of only 15 years earlier. The drastic changes turned for more sexual liberation, smoking and a wave of new dances and music. It really was the roaring twenties.

The Metropolis dance scene is incredibly powerful and hypnotising to watch from the movements to the camera shots. I think this whole piece works so well. Considering my character in I want the body to be used in a strong way also. And I really want to use these dramatic camera changes to evoke emotion.

I watched this whole film to see how the cinematography was used and the similarities between acting styles. The use of body language in this is beautiful. The section where Salome is along side the man and he is refusing her and she comes closer to him is particularly nice to watch. We don’t need the words to see what character she is. The dance scene in this was also another inspirational section to me, which I used when storyboarding as well as to create my own references.

Brigitte Helm(Metropolis) was a very powerful actress. If we just study her facial animation in the above segment we can see how captivating she really is. What I want to question is why she is so entrancing. Your eyes just want to watch every reaction. Even though the majority of the time they are very slight, a slight widening yet you still want to gaze at her to discover more. Maybe thats why she seems so mysterious in these clips.

Clara Bow is another highly famous silent movie actress who also transended into talkies. She was highly expressive and comedic in her performances. As these are two qualities I mentioned in my synopsis Bow is a really lovely reference point. I am able to see what made her so humorous in her performances.


A compilation of gifs from Clara Bow and Chaplin. Chaplin was a master at using his body for comedic effect. He knew how to master his face and this impacted the films. Below is a clip from The Lion’s cage. I think in this video you can see just how much of an expert Charlie Chaplin is and how he uses his body as well as his face to perfect his art. .



Above is a set of Marilyn Monroe GIFS I have put together. Monroe is an icon for seduction and beauty in the 50s and still in modern day. Above you can see how she used her face and body to create this seductive image. In my synopsis another element of my character is seductive, a characteristic many silent movie actresses had to perfect. As I will be animating I need to understand what makes seduction. Monroe does this thing with her bottom lip which quivers out when she has say something, furthermore she uses her eyes to create a sense of mystery.

Characters objective: 

“The animator needs to capture the emotion in the movement which the audience can empathise with.”

Filmic References.

Oliver & Company (1988) Disney

I wanted to see some examples of characters who were expressive, comedic or seductive. Below are some which I found useful in pursuit of developing and understanding movement.

I love this scene, I have loved it since I saw it when I was really young. There is something charismatic about this character. I love it when she stops and adjusts her hips to exaggerate her seductive characteristics. This thing to note is that this character knows she is “beautiful” which you can tell in this clip. I want my character to be a bit more discreet with her seductive qualities as I want viola to be likeable.


Mulan II (2005) Disney


In this scene there is a lot of movement, but there is a section when the movement changes to soft and the children use there arms to create these beautiful over exaggerated waves. It really works with the atmosphere of the piece.

Big Hero 6-Honey Lemon (2014) Disney, Marvel

Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6 is very over expressive and clumsy. I like her character in this film specifically there is not really any other character like her. She is really endearing as well, because she dosen’t realise how expressive she is. This has been a really good reference for me.


Disney The Road to El Dorado (2000) Dreamworks studios



Miguel from Road to el Dorado is just an amazing reference! It is beautifully comedic and expressive. As an aspiring actress in 1920s cinema Viola tends to be expressive to demonstrate her capacity to people even in normal conversations. Miguel does this perfectly I love the cut between expressions in the second gif.

Hotel Transylvania (2012) Sony pictures animation

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Hotel Transylvania as I have discussed in my research tab have very expressive rigs which are absolutely beautiful and allow for a lot of comedic effect in facial expressions. I want my facial animation section to be very expressive. I don’t want to overcomplicate the piece so I will be doing simple but effective animations.

Jessica Rabbit in “Who framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) Disney

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Jessica Rabbit. A.k.a the Marilyn Monroe of the animation world. What this drawn character so seductive? If we look at the above GIFS what is very clear to see is the subtle movements, the slight shift in weight or the gentle stroke of a hand. The expression in the eyes never really changes and the lips are similar in the pucker pose. I will take this observations into my animation for Viola.


Deciding a dialogue-quick thumbnails

Below is several pages for deciding on dialogue. I had already planned out who Viola is. What she is. Her aspirations in my synopsis. So now it was time to choose the dialogue which will allow me to emphasise her character. (I did it this way so that the character is the driving force not the other way round after all it is the character who chooses to say these words.)


Chosen Dialogue

Chosen Dialogue:

Its shakes me, it quakes me, it makes me feel goose pimply all over, I don’t know where I am, or who I am am, or what i’m doing, don’t stop, don’t stop, DON’T EVER STOP.


Internal Dialogue/Scenario: This performance is a way for Viola to verbalise how acting makes her feel. Her intention is to show her passion and quirky personality. She lets slip that she isn’t always confident but can be carefree and seductive.

The above is my chosen Dialogue. I wanted Viola to say this dialogue when explaining what it feels like when she’s acting to someone. The piece will allow me to really play around with how Viola could express it.

I want there to be an element of: seductiveness, comedic and expressive!

My References 

Crazy dance references..

Above you can see some of the best bits from a reference I filmed. I put on some songs and really just tried to expressed myself. Previous to filming this reference I had watched a lot of silent movies and analysed how they moved so I tired to incorporate these moves into this reference. Alice was able to help me as well, I showed her some of my inspirations but it was really useful to see someone else’s take on expressive dancing.

*Watch it on fast speed for a 1920s air about it.

Above is a dialogue lip syncing reference. From doing the jump i really understood how important using reference. I decided to film myself with a mirror so I could see the profile of my face as well as the front for a useful reference when animating.

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Above is an image of my screen when working on storyboarding and understand how I could take apart these references.


Pose Sheets

Below are my pose sheets that I created from my references and watching silent movies and dancers from the 1920’s. This was immensely useful when storyboarding and helped me convey how I wanted to pose my character .

considering silhouette.





After researching and developing my character I moved on to, creating my storyboards. I spent time thinking about the different ways I could have went about creating the piece. After doing this I created my animatic.




Final storyboard and Animatic

FSTBO copy copy
Final Storyboard

Above is my animatic for this project. I actually did several animatics in the end as I changed around some elements. I chose this animatic and storyboard as my final. The animatic shows how I want to play around with chopping cuts – However I decided to keep alot of mid and close up shots as this was something alot of the films I was looking at did. The finished animation should be around 16.5seconds. I wanted to aim for 15 seconds (but going one second over should be okay!) Mike suggested working on a shorter animation to perfect that section well instead of trying to be over ambitious.

Some of the things which could go wrong: The rig.

When I did the jump test the rig did occasionally go a bit weird..By that I mean bend and twist in abnormal ways.. Hopefully I can rectify these problems before it becomes an issue.

Revisions to the animatic and moodboard changed. I decided to change the first pose as the rig’s arms were shorter than Viola when I designed it. It shows however if I was going to rig my character I would ask the riggers to consider the length of the arms as an important factor as Viola is very expressive with her arms. 

Some references I filmed after created my animatic and storyboard. This was to understand how the character moves.


Getting the look of the Rig

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Headshot sketch of my zbrush design of Viola
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I wanted my rig to look like my character that I designed as much as possible. I edited the rig to do this changing the hair, skin colour, eye colour redefining some of the structures of the face such as elongating the eyebrows. Also I tried to mimic the black lipsticks that actresses and actors were made to wear on screen. I want my final animation to be in black and white to reinstate that cultural context. I kept checking the skin tone in order to get the right colour when it was black and white. You can see my skin tone tests as well as the eye colour test.
One of my inspirations of my character development is Myrna Loy. You can see her dramatic eyes and black lips. You can see how her eyes below are very enchanting. This is one of the reasons I made the eyes so light in the rig I wanted them to stand out so I could emphasise them further.

Lighting moodboard and Style shots

Here is a moodboard I put together to show the lighting I was considering for this animation. I wanted it to suit the time period it was in therefore I was looking closely at German expressionism maybe playing with shadows to give it another playful element. There will not be anything in the environment as I wanted to focus on the character and not to distract my viewers.

Style Shots

I tried out several style shots to see how I could input the above moodboard. The below images are my tests. I like the lighting below as it is kind of dark and mysterious however I don’t know if I need to lighten it up so there is a light heartedness. However If I change the angles around it could allow me to blend these two together! I had a lot of fun testing the lighting and playing about with how the light could affect the atmosphere.


I want my final animation to be in black and white to give it an authentic twist. Above you can see how I have manipulated the eyes so they stand out. i really love how the eyes stand out. I want to work on the eye movements – see research tab. (saccadic, dilation etc)

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Animation Tests

The above clip is a short piece of animating I did, it is meant to show viola trying to be seductive but breaking out of character. She is naive in being seductive so it fits her personality. I like the lighting in it as it creates an air of mystery to the piece.

Here is another test I did in an afternoon so it is not the best polished piece. However it shows some really quick lip sync test. This is a scene that I will be doing again. I think it works well especially the lighting.


Animation in progress

Below are the videos which shows my progress during the animation stages. Its really nice to look back and see how far I had come or if there was anything I might want to put back. I made the mistake of posing the character first and lip syncing after. Note to self don’t do this next time! block out lip sync first as it was hard to keep following the character around.

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I created buttons again for my final project this is one of the first things I did after importing the rig and audio. Setting up these buttons would save me a lot of time. I ended up changing the mouth button for mouth and jaw during lip sync. So during the animating I did change the buttons slightly to improve the animating conditions.

I also set up cameras to allow me to see profile of the character and the front. Setting the camera up meant I could see what I needed to animate to and not waste my time animating something which was not in shot. This is why I felt the storyboarding stage was very important in order to have better organisation withe time.

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