As we all know, bodily communication, or non-verbal communication (NVC), plays a central part in human interaction and can be very effective in conveying an attitude or an opinion. There are many types of non-verbal communication ranging from the more blatant expressions (happy, sad) to much more obscure body positions where both parties are unaware of their communications between each other. Although there are many different forms of non-verbal communication in this essay I will focus on, hand gestures, and how to best represent them in three dimensional animations.
For Clarity reasons I decided to split my research findings into three main sub headings.
Firstly, I thought it pertinent to start my research on gestures themselves. There is a great deal of bodily movement during social interaction, though movements of the hands are usually the most informative. By ‘gesture’ one normally means voluntary bodily actions intended to communicate. The Oxford dictionary definition of a gesture reads: ‘A motion of the limbs or body made to express or help express thought or to emphasize speech.’ However in this essay ‘gesture’ will also encompass emotional expressions communicated through the hands, e.g. gripping the hands tightly together revealing anxiety.
Unlike animals, who make very little use of gesture, humans can make very clear gestures to communicate and even speak with (sign language). Biologically human hands have evolved for grasping and manipulating objects. The complexities of the human hands mean a complexity of communicative gesture has formed. Human infants use gesture to communicate at an early age. By nine months they can usually already use several kinds of gesture :
- Reaching, later partially reaching combined with gaze at an adult. - Giving, showing, and pointing to objects out of reach.
- Social routines like bye-bye, etc.
- Imitation of eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.
Later on in life gestures can become less imitated and more abstract. Signs of personality can also be revealed in gesture and just as we can recognise people from their face and voice, we can recognize people from a distance or behind because of their bodily expressions. Allport and Vernon carried out an extensive study in 1933 of twenty-five young men’s measured movement at particular tasks. Their findings indicated that gestures were very consistent from one situation to another and had a considerable generality between body parts. Subjects that walked in larger strides had larger gesture movements and firmer handshakes. This personality transfer to gesture is worth taking note of when it comes to the realistic portrayal in animation.
Just as much as a correlating gesture can emphasise the point made a wrong gesture can be perilous in confusing its receiver into getting a completely different message. This is outlined in Rick Steves’ article ‘Favourite Gestures’ where he explains that wrong gestures can not only be confusing but also get you into trouble. This is no truer than in his witty anecdote where he mistakenly called a woman a prostitute because of the wrong gesture.
(Left: an example of a well known hand gesture.)
A Brief History Computer Technology
In the 1950’s and the 1960’s, the early years of computer graphics, technology the computer system required to produce images were rudimentary and very limited – especially by today’s standards. The field of computer graphics was so new that most of the technological innovations from this period are not very spectacular in terms of the visuals they produced. During this period very few artist even knew that computers could be used to create images and those that did know ruled it out as an unnecessary expenditure.
The 1970’s and 1980’s saw an increase of professional graphic artists using computers to produce their work....