What makes a good Second Life animation?

When photographing people, one of the more important items for creating emotion in a image is that of body language and facial expression. Deep and rich as SL is, there are understandable areas where it is lacking. This is one of them. So, our intrepid creators, along with the framework by the programmers allow us to play animations. I’m sure that in the beginning that this was intended for large gestures such as waving and such, but over time, people have adapted to it convey more subtlety and nuance to our characters. Enter the domain of animations and of animation overriders (AOs)

For the sake of completeness, I’ll point out that in common practice, that animations, the things that make us move are like a small file. It does nothing on it’s own unless you preview it manually by 2clicking on it. Thanks to the world of scripty goodness however, we have animation overriders, the most common, and free one being the ZHAO II at the time of this reading. It’s pretty much available everywher on SL, and usually distributed for free at most animation vendor shops. What the AO essentially does is to sequence animations that you acquire and put into it automatically. So when you walk, the walking animation kicks in. When you stand, if you have several stand animations, they’lll cycle though. It’s not the scope of this article to teach how to use an AO, but you can find a good article here, on the NCI Blog

So what are the criteria, IMO, that makes an animation a good animation? Please note I’m very open to hearing about your criteria. Note that when discussing price, that I find it’s always relative to the quality of a product, the better a product, the more I’m willing to pay, so for me, it’s not part of my criteria. What I’m interested in, is what helps me take a good photo, and what makes me feel great when I’m wearing it.

All animation makers have their own particular style. Abramline Wolf for example has very casual stuff, full of motion. Others have very striking and glamourous poses, such as 5th Order’s Urban poses. Which ones you personally consider good are a matter of taste and still, I think the one’s we can commonly agree upon as “good” will have the following attributes (in no particular order)

  1. It is natural. For humans, that means pretty much that it observes the limits of natural movement.
  2. That as such, that the movements be of the same rate and speed as that of human movement. An excitement anim should be faster, a casual one, slower.
  3. That weight distribution movements accurately reflect physical location in space
  4. It is complete: What I mean by this is that it is a longer animation, with lots of very small shifts in body position, arms, legs, weight redistribution
  5. That the movements, be believable. Most humans are constantly in motion, it’s just that they are subtle motions. Flicking hair is one thing, but I don’t really want to be seen doing a giant stretch and yawn every 30 seconds.
  6. It is not screamingly repetitive. So, *flick*, how *flick* do you *flick*like *flick**flick* my hair? *flick* *flick* *flickity* *flick**flick*
  7. That is is smooth, that the start end end motion terminate in the same position. I have some very glamourous anims that make jarring transitions from one to the other. Not good, unless you are taking the same shot over and over again, looking for that one subtlety.
  8. That the head and oftentimes upper body be low priority, that means that when I look at someone or something, that my body will move. These are subtle and important social cues.
  9. That it looks food from ALL angles. Dear animators: You have a very tough job, and a demanding clientel. What you do is difficult and requires skill, and we appreciate it very much, and so understand that I mean well when I gently remind you that our avatars are seen from all angles. Please keep that in consideration.
  10. That when possible (and this is not easy) that the anims don’t cause strange distorion in our bodies, clothes and skins.

Difficulties: No AV is the same size and proportion (or even species!) as the next, so it’s hard to find just the right measure. Often, another attribute in personal choice is, do the movements cut into your avatar? Do the crossed arms sink into your chest? Hands into hips? That’s a common one.

And of course a tortois will have a different set of movements than that of a giant sized robot, or a human.

If I could make one request to my animation building friends, I think it would be this: Please, don’t make anims where the head is frozen looking down, it gives us the evil roll back in the head eyes. Thanks!

More later.


  1. Milana Henley said,

    November 24, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I put animations in an empty Zhao for my AO. What I’m having a hard time figuring out now, is whether or not there is a way to set the timing between animations. My AV seems to constantly be moving. I’d like to slow the movement down a bit. Do you know if there is a way to do this?

    • Quite Oh said,

      March 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

      Well, for one thing, animations have their own speed, so that might have a bit of an effect on it, but I do believe that if you are using the ZHAO II that you can set the timing. It should include a read-me file, check it out. I haven’t had the opportunity to go in-world for about a month now, so I’m not 100% certain. Find my post about the locations of New Citizen’s Inc, go to Kuula, it’s usually full of some of SL’s greatest experts. I’m sure someone there will have the answer before I have a chance to log in a check it out.

  2. Roni Scarmon said,

    March 3, 2009 at 3:22 am

    I have been using both QAvimator and Poser (4.0). I have two big issues that confound me:

    1. When creating an animation using QAvimator that requires movement across the ground (say a flying attack, for instance), the avatar returns to the original location when done. How do I get it to stay where it is when the animation finishes instead of sliding backwards to the starting point?

    2. When creating an animation in POSER that involves vertical motion, say crouching, the avatar appears to raise its legs so it is hovering in the air rather than dropping into the crouch. This looks odd, to say the least.

    I know both of these types of animations can be made realistically, but I have not been able to find any hints on how to get past these obstacles.

    Any clues for the clueless?


    • Quite Oh said,

      March 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

      I haven’t really done a lot of work in Poser, but when it comes to Qavimator I’ll make the same suggestion that I did Milana, go to Kuula. If you can, find my friend Zi Ree. She’s Qavimator’s primary developper. Also, New Citizens Inc. give classes on basic and advanced animations (using Qavimator) and the teachers of the animation classes should know the answer. Sorry I don’t have more detailed info for you until I can log in. Good luck!

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