Giving people a voice through digital media, animation and film

How to make animated characters swim

People have been asking how to make an animated character swim.

Like the walk cycle, the ‘swim cycle’ can be broken down into about six frames, but - as we have discovered - it can be surprisingly tricky to make your swimming movement look realistic. One effective way to achieve realistic movement is to film the movement in live action - and then pick out and print the key frames to use as a basis for the drawing.

In real life, you don’t actually see very much of a swimmer’s body, but if you try to emulate that in 2D animation, it can look terrible.

In our workshop film Splash, we simply put the swimmer on top of a wave background, and it looked sort of OK, but in The Big Splash, one of our films for the Cultural Olympiad last summer made by younger children, we added a translucent layer to slightly obscure the swimmer’s bodies below the water. Did it work ? You be the judge.

Our next movement challenge: how to make a character curtsey !

Splash Swimming2

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