Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is an effective framework for observing, describing and understanding human movement and what it expresses. Laban for Animators workshops provide a broad overview of the LMA system, emphasizing how it can be applied to Animation through designing a Movement Signature for animated characters, and through coaching motion-capture talent to achieve specific movement qualities. Participants learn about LMA through a series of lively movement activities and improvise using variations of intent, phrasing, body patterns, dynamic range, shape change and use of space. Animated and live action examples are observed to understand what the movement expresses, and critiqued from the perspective of how well the mechanical body function is serving the character’s expression.

What is a Movement Signature?

Every person has his or her own unique patterns of movement.  These patterns are deeply embedded movement habits that are integrated with our emotions and self-expression.  A Movement Signature describes the unique movement habits and phrasing patterns of an individual using the descriptive language of Laban Movement Analysis. It articulates baseline patterns, as well as what movement choices are made when the mover responds to various stimuli in their environment: interactions and relationships with others, places, memories, problem solving and creativity, play and work, relaxation, exertion, etc.

When an Animator designs a character, an entire life history is created that shapes and defines how the character interacts, makes choices and expresses him/herself throughout the story and gameplay.  Animators can design a Movement Signature for their characters, just as they would design the character’s life history and physical appearance. The Movement Signature is a natural part of character development for Animators, who create characterization through the skilled articulation of movement patterns, and the emphasis of particular movement traits.

What are the benefits of a Movement Signature for game production?

Laban Movement Analysis provides a game team with a common vocabulary for describing movement.  This enables better communication for everyone on the team regarding movement related issues.  For example, an art director looking at an animator’s work may want the movement to be slightly different, but may not be able to identify or describe what they would like to see changed.  Or, two animators may both be animating the same character but find that there are differences to bridge between their animation styles.  With out a movement vocabulary, or an agreed-upon Movement Signature, communication is compromised, resulting in time-consuming “trial and error” revisions of the animation.

A Movement Signature ensures that a character’s personality is reflected in their animated movement. It helps Animators hone in on the character’s body language, enriching dialogue and dramatic scenes. It is the “missing link” in the process of developing engaging and believable characters.

Learning Laban Movement Analysis

As moving beings, we all know and understand a great deal about movement!  Learning Laban Movement Analysis makes this knowledge and understanding consciously accessible.

It is important to experience movement in your own body as you learn about the Laban Movement Analysis categories of Body, Effort, Shape, Space and Phrasing. Within each category is a range of specific “elements” of movement.  Fun and improvisational movement scenarios enable skill development with single movement elements, and experimentation with different combinations of movement elements.  A Movement Signature delineates which elements are combined in various situations, and how they are Phrased over time.

Animators can start designing Movement Signatures for characters as soon as they begin learning Laban Movement Analysis. As you build your knowledge of LMA, new material can be blended in with the Movement Signature you are designing, making it unique, complex and consistent with the character’s personality.

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