Is acting valuable?


I recently brought in an acting class tutor for my second year (BA(hons) animation) students. This is the first time we have tried this, so this was an experiment.

From the off I could see there was going to be a problem. The tutor thought the students wanted to learn how to act, but what they really wanted was to understand how to construct the illusion of acting from the outside. Many of the students didn’t want to be in the spotlight themselves.

I have attended one of Ed Hooks’ classes and read his book. I also carefully noted that Rob Coleman said “animators are actors” at Copenhagen this year.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Is it important for animators to stand up and act themselves? Or is it about observation of acting?


Paul Sinclair
University of Lincoln, Uk


I find it invaluble, and do it for most animations i do. I recently got a mini-dv cam just for this purpose. The whole point is to be the character, and along with thumb-nailing its highly important.

I wish I’d hired and acting teacher at college…



Acting is absolutely 100% necessary for an animator. There is no better way to get something to look right than by doing it yourself.




Acting is extremely essential to the process of animation. But yeah us animators do tend to pretty shy when it comes to acting out in groups. The Ed Hooks seminar I’d attended was great but it was mostly do to the environment I think. It was in a generally small group and we’d known each other for sometime. So yes, a working knowledge of acting is necessary but teaching it depends on how open the student is.


Originally posted by sinbad
From the off I could see there was going to be a problem. The tutor thought the students wanted to learn how to act, but what they really wanted was to understand how to construct the illusion of acting from the outside.

The problem with the latter approach is that acting is an illusion. It’s an illusion that the person performing the action is really feeling what they appear to be feeling. For example, I can look at a toy on my desk and act like I’m scared of it. The illusion is my apparent fear of the toy, and if my acting is done well, somone watching me will get the impression that I’m actually scared of the toy. So the idea of there being an “illusion of acting” doesn’t really work. At least not for me.

I did a lot of community theatre before plunging headlong into character animation, and from my experience, some sort of acting background is very helpful, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. What is absolutely necessary is observation of human behavior. Actors have to be able to convey the emotions of their characters at a moment’s notice, so naturally they’ve done their own studies of human behavior to get them to that point. Animators also have to be able to convey whatever emotions are necessary for the characters they animate, so it’s equally important to study human behavior. If an animator takes acting classes, it’ll just be a slightly different path to the same goal, and no less valuable in my mind.

However, every animator should expect that someone at some point will ask them, “Have you acted it out?” That doesn’t mean the animator needs to be a first-class actor, or have any acting experience at all. Even without acting experience, the process of personally acting out a given scenario will provide an animator with additional insight into the physical mechanics of the movements involved. What will ultimately provide those insights, though, is that all-important skill of observation.

That’s the mish-mash of my thoughts on this subject. Hopefully some of it makes sense. :slight_smile:


“The illusion is my apparent fear of the toy, and if my acting is done well, somone watching me will get the impression that I’m actually scared of the toy. So the idea of there being an “illusion of acting” doesn’t really work. At least not for me.”

I suppose what I meant by “illusion” was that the animator may not feel the emotion in their hearts in the way a method actor does, but do their best to understand what it looks like from the outside.

Thanks for all of your comments, very helpful indeed.



In my firts year of animation, my teacher had hired an professional actress to teach us how to act. She also thought that bringing in someone to observe how to act will help us act our own characters out. We, (our class) had to do all the acting, and were in the spotlight. I found that the classes tought us how our bodies reacted to certain things, we learned how to really exagerate our movements, and all in all, our class had become extreamly comfortable with one another. The acting on our shorts were very well done. Most of us even acted out what we were to do for our characters in front of each other. The classes really paid off in the end. We were able to work out whatever stiffness that was present in our acting. If the student really dont want to participate, then it IS their loss, you cant force them… like my teacher but really, it is SUPER benificial. ?I would recomend it. You really become conscience of what you are doing with your whole body, and with what your character should be trying to acomplish. Thats my 2 cents:) hope it helps.



Hi Paul. :slight_smile:

I do believe acting is invaluable. Thing is that animators need to convey emotions outside the bodies, were as actors convey motions deep within themselves. For actors its the emotion that drives the movement, were as for the Animators it’s the movement that drives the emotion.

I think the acting classes are very good, as it alows the other animators to see how people would move.

You may or may not have noticed in that class, that when the 2nd year where speaking they stopped acting, yet when they had to convey there emotions with movement, the tabilo came alive!

In essence, mime is the best acting for animators. Both viewing and Doing!




Thanks Simon. Yes I do think the students need to realise that acting out a sequence is always going to part of what they do, so they will need to overcome their shyness at one stage or other- unless they plan to lock themselves in isolation every time they have a go. These sessions also enable the breaking down of barriers within the group - and leads to a greater team spirit.
Hell… and they’re funny too!



Hi paul

Would you recomend that a student should take a…acting crash course of some kind…I understand the importance of acting in animation…but do you belive that taking a short course in acting will help improve essentials like timing, antitipation and empathy…


I wouldnt think that a student needs to go to acting classes. They need to understand that character animation is acting, but through another character. Acting out the scene is so important though, and they should not feel embarrased about getting up there and actually doing that stuff!!!

So say for instance you’re animating a scene where the character climbs up a rock-front. I think it would be good for the animator to get out there and climb a wall, go to a climbing center etc! Acting in front of a camera is ultra important. Video reference is a must I would say. It should help you to breakdown movements.

Animators sure actors, but we hide behind a character. I think it’s important to take inspiration from various things, pull in reference, and use it in your characters. EG - I cant do a backflip, but I can sure as heck get video footage of people doing 'em!

As for the acting class, cool idea, but maybe an animator could do the same job as the acting tutor!?!?! :thumbsup:

… If this makes no sense it’s because I’m trying to multi-task here… Type, watch a movie, and talk at the same time… hehe!!!


some interesting point rasied… heres my 2p worth:

i think the acting lessons are important. it can really help overcome this shyness thing. I dont have a problem acting out a sequence in front of complete stramgers. which has been quite funny in meetings :slight_smile:

i think the more you act things out and the more you watch other people act i think you get a better idea of what is good and bad in terms of acting. My current job is working with mocap data and i watch some of it and the acting is dull and un-interesting. people are twinning and moving with no real sense of purpose and sometimes the acting is great you get a sense that the characters are thinking for themselves.

i generally don’t video my own acting. I dont have a video camera and it seems a little too close to rotoscoping for me. but i act out a sequence over and over and over again and make thumbnnails based on what my character is doing…

Vyn, i think you’re right that a student should have to go to a traditional acting class but they should get used to doing things in character and not be worried about being laughed at.


now, that is an amazing quote i completely agree:

and just to add more 2 cents, i do think acting classes help a lot, but what is most important in them is they help improve an animator “body awareness”. that becomes really helpfull when you are constructing a movement. and obviusly acting classes help to visualize what emotion you may want to create. you need to have the goal and a way to get there. the goal is to see the emotion, the way is the movement.

i would also add that a “character animator profession” is not a “sitting profession”. you always have to get up and act yourself this movement, or make a reference file, or ask someone to do that backflip ;), etc.

so if you are an animator letting the shyness get in front of you in an acting class, i would say you are loosing the big deal.



i’m currently taking acting class …and it is 100000000000000% valuable

you could learn so much from it.


would you consider rotoscoping a cheat though Im aware that disney used it but then claimed they didnt fearing they would be called cheats…but is it realy cheating…as a animator were trying to create a proformance in our characters…the best reference for this is the world outside our doors…but if you record and analyse that to get the best proformance you can does that make you a cheat…


I was talking to my professor about whether martial arts and dance were helpful and he said yes, it’s not only helpful but almost necessary, as was acting. He recommended that I take both martial arts and acting classes as both would help tremendously for an animator.


Thats what I love about animation…especialy cgi…what ever your working on you become a authority in…I meen the man who did golum is now a expert in the workings of the human face…on how the muscle and fat interact…


Golum was a team effort, but it was Bay Rait who did the facial research, modelling in Mirai and setup in Maya. For two years he studied the work of Dr. Paul Ekman, the guy who rereleased Darwin’s “Expression of Emotions in man and Animals”. Look him up, he mapped and codified the human face. Much modern hyper realistic facial animation is based on this system I believe.

Its funny how this thread has been dug up from the archives. My last post was 25 November 2003!:eek:



Nov 03? That’s funny!
Maybe you should give us an update on how did it go with the acting tutor. Was it a good idea? any feedback from students? Did the students become better animators?


Nice avatar paul…didnt the actor thing work out…I havnt heard anythin in the studio