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Overview between game animation and feature animation

Many believe that animation from film and gaming is the same because they share the same set of tools, and use the same principles of animation. Watching a film and playing a game is not the same, as well as creating the animations for them. There are a few things to consider when creating game animations, and many differences and extra techniques required. In games you need to create animations that respond to gameplay, storytelling, mixing both together and dealing with a few other things. Most animations are short and as they are combined to each other they make the character move with attitude and conviction. In brief, the animations created help translate what the player would like to do in the world as well as help support the story. Here are a few elements that stand out in games.

Important elements about games

The Story telling

You get to live and “Play the main character”
You can play multiple characters and chose the relationships
You can chose how much you want to invest, live through the characters versus film you follow the characters story.
The player gets to make decisions that could alter the way the story is told (ex: Mass Effects)
The story could be considered yours

The Game

You see your character 360 degrees
You do more than animate, you learn how to design animation systems
Animation timing is often dictated on the needs of player’s inputs
You are exposed to many more types of animation than film. Ex: Creatures, Giants, Cinematic, Scripted events, Scripted gameplay, Combat, Grappling …
You animate many choreograph animations
You might need to animate in 160 frames
You do many different type of cycles, and not just run and walk
Most games are heavily driven by body mechanics
You are exposed to many technical things and required to learn much more
You do your own layouts and cameras
You deal with planning, blocking , designing, and integrating animations
Planning and brainstorming are done within minutes
Responsibilities are high, and ownership in developing a game system is extremely important if you want to succeed
You can live and die by placeholder animations

Trying to keep this short, there were some extra points we thought could further be explained without making this a long and heavy read.

I will prudently say that in film, you have more time/ passes /iterations to finesse the animation. Working on multiple shots or a sequence, your animations could go through many reviews and receive a lot of feedback from your Character Leads, Supervisors and Director's. As opposed to games where you most likely have a leaner review process and limited number of passes, you need to have more confidence and initiative to move on with your animation knowing feedback/direction might not come until later, not come at all or come when it’s too late.

There is less time to refine your work but the job also includes a greater understanding of the purpose behind your animation. This isn't about making an Oscar winning performance but making a performance work for a player rather than an audience member. A film audience doesn't get to push a character's buttons and direct their actions; they sit through them and watch as a somewhat passive participant. In a game, however, the player (the audience) controls every movement, every experience, and every moment. It's more important to make them FEEL those moments through controller inputs and motion output rather than through inactive segments of storytelling.

I know some might be shocked, but storytelling is still an important factor and will be more so with the upcoming titles, improved software and new hardware. Storytelling is still a key component for games, we are expecting animators to produce great performances when they are working in cinematic or giving the chance to do so in-game. The story is the player’s motivation to continue to play the games, but this might not be the case for all games.
Again, the viewer is not passive, they're interactive, and it's your job to meet a whole new set of expectations to satisfy them. You have the same concerns film has regarding their emotional and story based performance, but you also need to sell immersion and intuitive interaction to the player.

The iAnimate Game Workshops will focus on teaching animation as well as game design relating to animation, which is expected knowledge from any major studio.

So there you have it, a quick overview of the differences between Film and Games. -- Ric Arroyo