Research and Development – Swimming

(LO2:) For my research and development project this term I decided that I wanted to create a swimming scene in my animation. I have never attempted a swimming scene before and I thought that it would be a challenge for me. I feel that I need to improve my locomotive animation skills – as I have mostly worked on character expressions and less active motions in previous work that I have done. If I am going to work in the entertainment sector for animation, I need to improve my locomotive skills. I think it will be challenging because it’s underwater, a full body shot and will be tough to film reference for, so my research is crucial for this mini project.


I made this quick pose to pose sheet of the character’s journey collecting up the tadpole egg and swimming away. I thought about a different swim move than the final action, she would roll forward and swim to the side. It was a quick way for me to experiment and too think about the key frames of a shot before committing.


This was a very rough drawing that I made that I decided to put on here just to show the way that I work when I have need to figure out complex movements. This scene the arm falls down, I wanted to consider how the key frames and spacing- thinking about how I can break and bend the arm so the animation still looks fluid.


Above is the final layout of this shot that I planned out before committing to the final animation. I am also experimenting with the pose and how the girl falls through the eggs falling I want her to be lively and own the scene. She has just entered into this bright and new underwater world.


After creating the gesture poses I experimented with the pose of my character and how she will move under the water. Will she be playful and turn around a lot or be more practical and simply move to where she needs to go. I  also wanted to get use to thinking about underwater posing and how different it is to being on land. Her legs and hair can rise and go in all sort of directions.


I created these sketches from to explore the particular actions that my character will make when trying to grab the tadpole egg that wonders off. I want her to be precise – she is an intelligent character and kind so she carefully will grab it. I like these sketches on the right the pose is strong. I have made a small timing chart on the left bottom of the above page, where I am beginning to plan out each stage and the different effects I will need to add aside from the character such as water, lighting, bubbles, tadpoles,  and the egg,

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21Above is a pose sheet that I created from watching lots of videos online on swimming. I wanted to understand the shapes that the human body makes when it is swimming and gliding it’s way through the water. I need to have a strong pose to carry out my action.


Here is another gesture pose sheet I created. I feel like I have been able to capture the feeling of a character swimming in these sketches. A lot of these poses are very fluid looking, as the body must become stream line to excel forward. The movements are slower and more controlled than out of water.


I’ve posted thee drawings full size below but here you can see the vast many poses that I experimented with and practiced to learn more about the human body when it swims. I spent a day working out the movements to accompany these poses and the science behind swimming.

22aAbove is another gesture pose sheet I created from watching underwater swimming videos. I really want to understand how the body moves so when I come to animating I can have a better understanding. Also exploring different perspectives and movements. Each of these people were heading in different directions and trying to achieve different movements – turning around, falling in to the water, touching the bottom or simply swimming, its important that I understand how people move underneath the water.


Some of these poses didn’t work out and I think the problem was the perspective of the legs and kicking away from the camera. I tried to draw people from below and in different perspectives to see how effective this could be to translate into a drawing or animation.

19Another few pages from my sketchbook looking at the poses of swimmers underwater. I The arms are much more important underwater for giving the swimmer force to move forward. Every limb is used when swimming – which I guess will mean a big challenge for me.

After identifying lots of videos of women swimming I wanted to break some of these videos and understand how the body moves underwater. This collection of stills show the rotation of the arms to force her to stay under the water and turn to the camera. I like the arc of the movement and how lively it was. This was completely for research reasons to investigate how the arm moves in the water to create that force. The arms play a large part in determining the direction and movement that needs underwater. They keep the body afloat while the legs create the force behind the action. A lot of kicks and sways with the legs mostly.

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Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams

In water, the body uses almost every muscle to excel forward and ‘swim’. In this swimming sequence my character will be moving alot and her arms will be as important as her legs underwater in helping her move forward or turning and etc. I was worried about this large amount of movement and keeping the arms fluid and correct. I researched into the Animator’s survival kit (Richard Williams) to explore this challenge. Above is a page for this book that I scanned in, it explains how to break / bend the arm and keep the movements fluid (while avoiding the rubbery arm style animation). And how to break down arm movements – including the overlap of the hands, keeping it interesting.

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Animation Survival Kit, Richard Williams

This page from the same book, made me start to consider where the action derives from. Which part of the body drives the rest of the movement. In the example above, there are arrows to where he movement occurs, the body leans forward preparing action. I would like to consider what part of my character leads in the swimming – underwater it could be any limb therefore I should think about the movements thoroughly.

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Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams

The elbow leads in these first set of examples, and the rest of the arm follows. This will determine the entire movement and overlaps. Broken limbs are used to continue the flow of movement to the arm and big movements to create that exaggeration that is so wonderful in animation. Researching through these pages and more from Animator’s Survival Kit is so helpful when I get confused it’s clear and helps me to break away from the shot I’m working on – I’m attempting locomotive moments so I need to consider body actions and putting character into the actions.

Unfortunately, I was able to film myself to gather reference underwater because I don’t have the facilities or tools. However, I researched on YouTube to find research on the swimming movements I require and stumbled across this reference video an animator had recorded of  similar looking shot as mine. It was create reference because there is so much emotion and movement in the shot. One part of y swimming scene I got tuck on was the turn of the body to swim forward, and I used this reference to help me.

The Song of the Sea (2014) is an animated film that features around the folklore of Ireland. Above are three GIFs that I could find from this film, they feature characters swimming under water. In the first gif we see the brother and sister swimming in different patterns. The boy uses both of his hands and legs whereas the girl swims similar to the deals , treamline  and confident. I also really like the perspective of this shot, swimming towards the camera offscreen. You get the sense of depth and movement. The bottom GIF also has this similar sense of depth as the characters swim round toward the camera. This swim has little movement (limb wise) the characters appear to flow around. The second gif (with the boy falling) is very flat on and long

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Ponyo (Source)

(LO1:) Underwater we move completely differently than on land. We move slower because water is denser than air molecules. It is a liquid and so the water molecules are closer packed together compared to air –  therefore when an object passes through water, it passes through the close water molecules and there is more drag and friction, leading to that object moving slower. (Source) Above is a gif from the Ghibli film Ponyo (2008), in this shot we can see how slow Sosuke is travelling pushing the boat. The water is more dense and so he trends softer but slower with less impact.

What I really like about this pencil rough animation from The Little Mermaid (1989) is the personality and character that Glen Keane can capture in such a short amount of time and with the action of swimming. The expression and shoulders driving the emotions into the performance. I also how she swims past the camera and her face looking up to the surface where she want to be apart of. Her character completely drives this scene – I’m worried that I will not be able to do this with alot of locomotive and action, so I would like to look at this video to give me inspiration to always keep in mind the character and how she expresses things and why?

These pose to pose drawings of this animation really shows the exaggeration and movement of the character. She may not be performing the act of swimming like a human but her movements sell the character and this sheet shows us all the key-poses well. I think laying out the shot like this is helpful and clear seeing it on one page of the arc and slow.

Another rough animation test from The Little Mermaid. I love the arcs and flow of this simple shot. The overlap of the hair that continues to move forward in the water, and her capturing it is so perfect in animation underwater.


(LO1:) I’ve collected alot of different swimming research as seen above each brings something different and I have seen some helpful observations from. I created a playlist on Youtube to keep them all together.

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Atlantis (Source)

My character’s hair will help to create the illusion that she is underwater. I want to consider being playful and creative with the look of it. Although in this concept art from Song of the sea, this character is actually underwater I love how her hair rises above her head with these pencil details and swirls. It looks impressive and stunning.

I love how the hair can have so much movement and life to it underwater. The motions and shapes follow the actions of the body. The shot above from the Little Mermaid (1989) shows how her hair falls in this large mass before slowly falling back into place. I hope to capture as much life and body in the hair of my character.

(LO1:) Although this is just a piece of concept art from The Little Mermaid (1989) pre-production. I like the flow of the hair in this image, it suggests movement under the water. And it makes the shot more interesting to look at. It looks fluid and curves with the water.


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