Thursday, May 26, 2011

Put a Lid on that Iris

Last week I learned a very fascinating fact about eyes and I haven't been able to stop looking at eyelids since.

When looking at eyes, generally the upper eyelid will keep in contact with the iris. Unless you're going for a specific expression; frightened, crazy, disgusted, dopey and hopeful etc. Something where the eyes are locked to a target (usually angled down) and the brows are pulling up, taking the lids for a ride.

Otherwise, in most cases you won't likely see any white of the eyes above the iris.

Now this might seem trivial, but it's just an extra step in giving the audience something they can relate to... even if they don't know they're relating to it. A step towards believability. Personally though I find this a very important aspect to be aware of, since the viewer pays attention to and connects with the eyes the most. Even more so at AM since we're dealing with a character that has such huge eyes.

Kevin Koch's Article on Saccades / Fixations

Check out the video at the top of this page and see the eyelid moving in sync with the eye darts (actually everyone should read all of Kevin's stuff about eyes, he's got a few articles that focuses just on eye movements). One interesting bit is that when the eye moves at the very end, the eyelid reacts pretty accurately to maintain it's relationship to the iris. There's sometimes a frame of drag or overshoot, but they're pretty spot on.

I've never taken that close a look at this before and when I heard about it (source being my Class 1 mentor David Weatherly, relayed by my study mate Michael Amos), I went around looking at AM assignments and animation at the 11 second club, the white bug eyes are rampant. So go study some eyes, read Kevin's articles, and infuse that gold into your animation!


  1. Yup! Couldn'na said it better meself!! I haven't made any animatable eyes, but I learned this principle in drawing. It really does separate the beginners from those who know what they're doing. Also I'm so glad to see you've read Impro!! That one is an absolute goldmine for me - even though you wouldn't think animators would need to know anything about improvisation. And I agree... it enriches not just your art but your life.