Key concepts

Straight-ahead (review)

The pose-to-pose approach was really useful for our bouncing ball exercise (helping us with timing, transitioning from squash to stretch etc.). However, animating straight ahead can yield very nice results when applied to the right subject. Particles and effects (i.e: smoke, water, fire etc.) tend to be very fluid and a bit unpredictable -two good reasons to apply the straight ahead technique! Some aspects of a character can also benefit from this approach: animators often use pose-to-pose to animate the character’s main limbs and features, and use straight-ahead for secondary action such as hair, clothes, tails, ears etc.

This sequence from Disney’s Pinocchio (1940) is a beautiful example of traditionally-animated effects animation (likely created with the straight-ahead approach).


A loop is an action that repeats seamlessly. The first and last frames of a loop are likely to be almost identical.

Loops can be very useful:  instead of drawing a walk cycle or blink cycle several times, an animator can create it once and repeat over time. Looping GIFs and animations also make for powerful web and social media content (look at this page for inspiration).

A loop with some elements (the swirlies and fly) created with the straight-ahead technique.

Assignment: Looping effect


Create a fluid effect (such as smoke, fire, an explosion, water etc.) by using the straight-ahead approach. Your animation should be able to play in a continuous loop.

Do some research before animating. Do a Google search for slow motion videos or GIFs of the effect you want to create. Analyze these videos and use them as references for your work (i.e: how do the shapes shift overtime – do they become narrower/wider? Are there secondary particles that appear at some point? etc.). This doesn’t mean your animation should be hyper realistic – apply the exaggeration principle to make your effect more fun/dynamic.


Use the following file format: 24fps, width: 1000px | height: 1000px. Save your .fla file and export export your animation to an animated GIF (in animate, go to File > Export > Animated GIF).


Create a new post on your Open Lab portfolio. Your post should include your animated GIF (make sure you select Full Size when inserting your file) as well as a short description (reflections on your process, challenges, goals etc. are also welcome), and a link to your reference video(s)/GIF(s).

This assignment is due next week. Submit the following files on the following platforms:

  • Blackboard: .fla file and a link to your Open Lab post.
  • Open Lab discussion board: Reply to the “Study#4: Looping Effect” discussion post with a link to your Open Lab post

The grading rubric for this assignment can be found here.