From Base Frame To Full Animation

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by Stern

Note: it is strongly recommended that you read the Basic Animation Tutorial before reading this page.


A solid method of moving base frames forward towards full animation and a compilation of quick and easy tricks to help bring the animator's creations to life.

Learn how to take a standing base frame: goblintrumpeter2.png

To full animation: goblintrumpeter24.gif

The magic of animation is "capturing" how your character moves and reacts through a series of frames. To animate well, we must learn about a concept called...

The Network

One of the most important concepts of animation is that of the "network." Your character is comprised of a "network" of many parts which are all hooked together. In theory, when your character swings a sword, the entire rest of the character must move in response. Why? Well, for a variety of reasonsbut principally to keep the character balanced, and/or to maintain/increase the force behind the movement.


To illustrate a "network" in a character, below is a base frame of my Goblin Trumpeter and an edited version.

goblintrumpeter2.png goblintrumpeterjoints.png

  • Green: Core
  • Blue: Bones
  • Red: Joints

It is valuable to understand the linkages within the anatomy of your character. The position of each of the Goblin Trumpeter's joints are dependent upon the character's core. By animating the core and head of the Goblin Trumpeter first, it was simple to imagine where the feet and knee joints would be placed to support him throughout his attack. Also, determining the swing of the Goblin Trumpeter's spear early on simplified the placing of his elbows and hands. In conclusion, by utilizing the "network" concept we can bring our creations to life.

Animation Methodology

To make an animated character, you will need:

A base frame of the character -> Creating a scratch built sprite

A graphics editing program -> Art Programs


Some artists try to create their animation by outlining and then fully shading each frame one at a time. Generally speaking, this is a very bad idea. You may realize when you have completed your fifth frame that the animation that the movement of the character is too jerky in places, or that the character ends up facing in an incorrect angle for him to be able to actually hit whatever he's attacking, etc. "Blocking" is a method of pre-animation which allows you to quickly visualize the entire animation from start to finish with minimal effort. By dividing the character's moving parts into distinguishable areas of solid colors, you can simulate and adjust the full movement of your character without spending time re-doing tiny details or having to re-shade large areas. For example, I have modified the Goblin Trumpeter's base frame into solid, distinguishable colors based on the character's different limbs.

goblintrumpeter2.png goblintrumpeter.png

Animation Script

Just like any good blockbuster movie, your character should have a written script or description of what it will be doing throughout its frames. By writing a brief description of what you want the character to do in each of his frames, you create a logical series of actions for a convincing animation. Another helpful tip is to draw a rough draft of the animation with stick figures to show how you want your character to move. By drawing stick figures ahead of time, you are actually "mapping" out the "network" of your character in preparation for animation.



A script for my Goblin Trumpeter's attack animation and corresponding blocking frames.


Base Frame: Character is at rest.


Frame 1: Character is charging up for the attack, Begins to raise spear and begins shifting bodyweight backwards.


Frame 2: Character is fully charged up for the attack. Bodyweight is fully shifted back and spear is fully raised.


Frame 3: Character initiates attack. Lowers spear while bringing body weight forward.


Frame 4: Character is in full swing. Spear impacts target.


Frame 5: Character follows through, Weapon reaches full extention. Ends in a "lunge" stance.


Frame 6: Character pauses to regain balance. Withdraws spear.


Frame 7: Character regains balance and steps back to rest position.

By using the stick figure drawings and following the written script, I created the finished blocking animation of the Goblin Trumpeter. Through the iterative process of moving the character's core and all of the corresponding joints frame by frame, little by little, you will soon have the blocking for a full animation.


Fine Tuning

It's nigh on impossible to make a perfect blocking animation on the first try. That is why it is important to continually observe the effects that your changes have upon the entire animation as a whole. To finely tune your blocking animation, it is a good idea to be on the look out for the animation issues discussed in Jetrel's Basic Animation Tutorial.

  • Moving only the active element
  • Misaligned frames
  • Hidden and turned surfaces not redrawn

Another great resource is to discuss your animation on the Wesnoth Community Art Workshop forum.

See Also

This page was last edited on 30 January 2012, at 19:22.