One of the cardinal rules of animation is that good poses make for good performances. An animator once told me that good animation must be interesting to look at on every frame.  He should be pull any drawing from a stack of animation  and find that drawing filled with personality, emotion and appeal.  If the drawings/poses are not interesting, neither will the animation be interesting.

You might be thinking, “Well, we’re dealing with motion capture data, so how can posing help us?”  Thinking in poses will help you analyse the mocap data and find those key posing elements that you can either massage or support with secondary action.

In 2D animation drawings are classified.  The animation process demands it. The animator would spend only enough time to draw what was necessary to convey the action and guide the clean-up department in completing the animation. The animator would spend most of his time on creating strong, personality-filled key poses, and those poses would then seep into all the other poses.


These are the main poses that convey the character and tell the story. They play the lead roles among all the poses. Every other pose is made to support these keys. The entire scene can be understood simply by looking at these keys.  As you analyse your motion capture data you should be able to identify the key poses that are carrying the scene.


The eye needs time to read a pose. Any pose less than 8 frames long will be felt rather than read by the audience. The EXTREME pose in it’s most basic function will follow the KEY and extend it’s life so that it’s story can be appreciated and told.  The EXTREME also contributes to the caricatured nature of animation. In timing, given that we can only feel 8 frames or less, the extreme takes a KEY pose and pushes it to it’s breaking point, giving it strong movement that we feel rather than see because animators seldom will settle into an EXTREME.  If the character is required to settle into a pose it will be a KEY or a KEY VARIATION.


BREAKDOWNS are the poses that describe how a character moves from one pose to another.  They help the action and acting move from key to key.Rarely will they be a straight inbetween. At the very least they will be poses that carry a lot of anticipation, follow-thru, overlapping action and successive joint movement.  At the most they could be filled with enough character and storytelling that they might also be considered KEYS.

If your keys, extremes and breakdowns are filled with personality and story, your inbetweens (or splined frames) can’t help but be filled with story and personality.