Squash and Stretch – commonly abbreviated as S&S, is the process through which animators apply the contrasting change of shape. Usually, this involves interchanging between a stretch and a squash pose. S&S is undertaken in order to bring fleshiness, life, and flexibility to animation. Without it, the motion looks stiff and rigid. It is this act of transition from one pose to another that breaks the inherent solidity of CG animation.
S&S in action
In addition to flexibility and life, S&S brings a lot more to the table. It can depict the material that the object is made of. For instance, if you are trying to show a bouncing ball, little S&S will reflect a material that is firm such as a bowling ball or a ping-pong ball. By contrast, a rubber ball would display more S&S. Application of S&S is a sophisticated and detailed process that cannot always be accomplished with the help of a thick brush. Sometimes, less is more.
Why is S&S necessary?
S&S adds flexibility to animated objects or characters, breathing life into them. It can be applied to an entire animated object or to just a small attribute of it such as the eyeball of the character.
S&S is an integral aspect of the process that involves bringing rigid objects to life. In fact, most animators have to prove their skills through conventional tests such as the Disney Flour Sack, etc. by displaying their proficiency in S&S.
One of the most common mistakes amateur artists pursuing animation courses in India make is to use too much of S&S. They are unable to resist the temptation. Unfortunately, overkill could make your object look out-of-place or lose realism.
The keyword when attempting S&S in animation is subtlety. There is a thumb rule that digital artists swear by – when your animation plays at 24 fps, you should be able to feel your S&S but not see it. The only way you would be able to detect the S&S is when you step through the frames. When playing back, if your S&S is readily visible, it is one of two things. Either the timing is too long or you have used S&S in excess.
Contrary to popular belief, you can achieve subtlety in broad S&S also. Simply ensure that you are able to transition from the extreme S&S poses back to the neutral shapes promptly. This does not distract your audience and helps them to keep the focus on the narrative. Furthermore, it also lends agility to the overall action.
When performing S&S, it is imperative that your animation does not come across as gaining volume, i.e., increasing in mass and size. To achieve this, the animated object should not stretch or squash too much. Mathematically, the volume can be preserved correctly with the help of CG rigs. Unfortunately, this may come across as odd to the naked eye. In that event, the animators will have to make adjustments based on style and taste.
All said and done, there are occasions when rules have been broken with results that vindicate the move. Successful blockbusters such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs are testaments to this. Of course, for you to be able to break a rule, you need to know it in the first place. Fortunately, if you enrol with top-notch animation courses in Kolkata, you will develop into a proficient animator within a very short time.