Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Brief Psychology of Head Turns

This Friday, Tea Time had the pleasure of sitting down and letting our very own Rene Salazar step up and deliver a brief, informative lecture on the psychology of head turns. Here's what he had to say:

If we consider the way a head rotates as with the rotation tool in Maya, there are three major axis to pivot upon: x, y, and z. While working, these may just seem like a means to an end -- i.e. I wanted his head turned to the left, so I rotated on the y -- but if we take a moment to consider the meaning conveyed behind each rotation, we can really start using this tool to our advantage to strengthen the posing of our characters.

"Meaning," you say? Why Body Language, of course!

While we, as a species have the luxury of language, only about 40% of communication is what we say mand how we say it. 60% of what we are trying to convey to each other is communicated through body language. While words are important,  communication is also, largely, the transfer of emotion, and one of the easiest way to convey emotion, is through our bodies! Body language in general is a much larger topic, though, so today we'll just focus on head turning.

First things first, Rotate X (like saying "yes" -- up and down).

At either end of this rotation spectrum lies emotions representing Great Glory or Great Tragedy or something vs. nothing.

i.e. Rotating the spine to face upwards through the x-axis opens up the body creating a feeling of hope or triumph -- or "something!" Rotating the spine to curl in on itself, facing the body down through x-axis, closes the character off, creating a feeling of loss or seclusion -- or "nothing."

Next, we have Rotate Y (like saying "no" -- left to right).

This rotation plane conveys awareness. Is asks questions like "Who's there?", "What's there?"

i.e. Picture someone in the military entering the room gun first -- the first thing they do is search along that plane for "who" and/or "what. OR it could be something as simple as rotating the eyes back and forth, it's much more sly, but still conveying the same idea.

Finally, Rotate Z (like a pendulum -- tilting back and forth)

This rotation plane is representative of "Aww" and "huh?"

i.e. If you find yourself looking at cute baby puppy you might find yourself tilting your head to the side and saying "Awwwww!" Meanwhile, if that puppy happens to look back at you, it might tilt its head to the side and think "huh?"

In addition to all the rotation planes, translating the head can help to emphasize the emotions you're trying to convey.

Translating Forward represents attraction or intrigue, while Translating Backwards represents repulsion or disgust.

Rene Salazar
Tea Time Animation
Spring '13

Have your own idea for a lecture? Don't hesitate to e-mail us at to book a talk.

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