How to Improve Your Animation Skills with the Olympics

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The Olympics is a worldwide event that unites the best athletes in what we believe to be the climax of the sports. The whole world is watching and following each new medal and achievement.

What about you? Do you watch the Olympics? You should. Even if you aren’t a big fan of sports, the Olympics can be a great resource for Animators and Illustrators.

Tip: If you don’t like sports, just discover where you can find the footage of the winning Athletes or use Youtube, for example, to find old footage of previous Olympic Games.

The reason why I believe the Olympics are such an amazing research is that the best athletes in the world are being captured all the time by many cameras, from multiple angles and thanks to technology, in slow motion :)

For us animators, each one of those slow motions is a blast of inspiration. My eyes barely blink when I see something like that. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a professional in the animation field, you should definitely keep an eye in the Olympics.

One of my favorite sports in the Olympics is the Gymnastic. It’s a huge combination of elegance, strength, and motion in a sport that absolutely takes the human body to its maximum.

Just pay attention to any of those competitions. Watch carefully each one of those slow motion, and extract every frame of those videos. It’s the best way to learn how they are doing those movements, and eventually how you could apply it to your animations.

Transforming the competition into a learning experience

Something I like to do and that I recommend to you is to take other professional’s work, movies, animations, or any kind of visual reference and try to replicate it as a way to improve your skills. I constantly search for the people I appreciate and spend some time figuring out how they’ve achieved a certain effect or movement.

I use a lot of video references as well. It can look like a tedious work but rotoscoping is a great way to learn animation and basic of movements. During the Olympics, my “studies folder” becomes full of inspiration. Getting those slow motion videos and animating over them is some of the learning methods I use.

Just take as an experiment this amazing guy in our blog post illustration. Yes, Usain Bolt is the man. The fastest man – Sorry The Flash – who can even smile for the finish line picture. Have you ever tried to understand how he can run so fast? What if you’d like to make a character to run as fast as Usain, or even faster than him? (It’s your animation, you can do whatever you want)

Taking a look at the recordings from his sprints, especially in slow motion, you can analyze how his body aligns, how he switches between legs on his run, and how he pushes himself from the ground.

Always look the world around you

An animation is all about analyzing and understanding the movements of the real world! If you take a look further, your animations have a lot more in common to the Olympic Sports than you imagine.

Let’s take some examples. If you take a look at the different modalities you’ll find this kind of movements:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Fighting
  • Jumping
  • Acrobatic Movements for Fights
  • Stretching
  • Twisting
  • Swinging
  • Lifting
  • and much more…

It’s all there! Made by high-performance athletes with perfect and muscular bodies, tons of extreme poses and strong movements. It’s the perfect reference if you are an animator or even an illustrator.

Absorb the essence of the each action, each movement, and translate them to your characters.

Take the Olympic Games as an inspiration for your creations. Take advantage of the technology we have today. Watch it, replay it, and even draw on it, as a way to learn more about the human body and its movement.

The key to growing as a professional is to look for inspiration to your work on daily things and small details. Put your Animator head to work!

Now, enjoy some videos we chose for you as a starting point :)