Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Love Rolling Holds

In animation, takes get all the love; those big, broad, comedic reactions that Tex Avery mastered and the rest of us try to emulate.  Standing out like the class clown, takes win all popularity contests with animators and fans of animation alike.  But for every class clown,  there's a quiet kid representing the class with dignity and grace; in animation terms, the rolling hold.  

When I watch pencil tests and see rolling holds, I get a feeling not unlike drinking a Guinness really fast.  It's good.  I've felt this was since my student days, before I could afford Guinness, watching countless pencil tests of my classmates' films.  So what is it about the rolling hold that has a hold on me?

If you've ever animated a rolling hold, you know how tedious they are to get through. It is very tight work, and if you do a sloppy job, the character will just look nervous. A good rolling hold gives a character that spark of life, like it exists beyond the big performance.  I don't know if it is possible to convincingly portray introspection without rolling holds to keep the character alive on screen.   Rolling holds require a level of craftsmanship that separates the great animators from the rest of the pack.  I guess that's what I'm reacting to when I see them - the craftsmanship. 

I don't get that feeling watching CG.  In fact, I usually find myself wishing the characters would be still for a second.  Where some animators used shortcuts while working in 2D to save labor,  they've gone hog wild with rolling holds in CG, giving characters a fidgety, floaty quality, like an astronaut with too much coffee.  And then there's the aptly named Flash software.  I've seen nice, flashy stuff  done in Flash, but their rolling holds still hurt my fillings.

Now I think I'll watch this Milt Kahl pencil test while drinking a Guinness fast and see what happens.


  1. I'm with you. I think the illusion of space and volumes happens in 2D when flat shapes move in relation to each other. In 3D, the illusion is already there, and the moving holds just get floaty. No?

  2. I don't exactly know what a 'rolling hold' is...?