hot tips for animating blinks – PREVIEW

eye blink - Melinda Ozel design

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More Than You Think Goes Into a Blink

Blinking is such a routine act of our daily lives that its complexity and many purposes often go overlooked. On a superficial level, blinks serve as maintenance actions for eye lubrication; however, most of us blink beyond what is physiologically necessary to keep our eyes lubricated. Why? Because blinking has many functions! 

Blinking allows us to convey and interpret key social information. When and how frequently we blink can reveal context-rich signals linked to emotion, arousal, and communication.

a note on automated blink solutions 

If you are an animator or technical artist looking to build expressive characters or avatars: Avoid context-free automated blink solutions. While implementing automated blink intervals may seem like an easy fix, it will ultimately hurt your character and deprive your audience of information-rich signals.

Though it is possible to automate blinks in such a way that the nuances of communication can be preserved, I have not come across a system that has approached automation strategically.  

P.S. I have been developing a set of rules for blink automation. Reach out for consultation if you are interested in applying such a system toward your product.

Fun Facts About Blinking

    • Blinking is the most frequently occurring facial action.
    • In a relaxed state, we blink about [content removed for preview] times a minute. 
    • Only [content removed for preview] blinks per minute are physiologically necessary.
    • We blink [content removed for preview] times a day.
    • Babies blink significantly less than adults. 
    • Individuals have varying blink rate baselines.

Blink Behavior

Because blinking plays a role in various aspects of communication including emotion, grammar, language, states of alertness, concentration, boredom, etc. we subconsciously rely on blinks as signals for interpreting situations and intentions. 

The following bullets are a summary of contexts to consider (based on an accumulation of research) when deciding where to add or hold back blinks (but first, read the three notes):

NOTE 1: Blink rates are relative! As found in multiple studies, baseline blink rate varies from person to person.

NOTE 2: These recommendations are NOT FOOLPROOF. The above situations are related to behavioral tendencies – not behavioral absolutes. Human behavior is highly variable across individuals and within different contexts. Please use your own discretion when deciding to apply these concepts. Look at real references, and make informed choices.

NOTE 3: While head turning and gaze shifting are usually great moments to add in a blink, there are exceptions. If your character is shifting gaze or moving their head during a high-stakes situation or moment requiring deep concentration, hold off on the blink.

where to add blinks

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when to reduce blink rate

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when to increase blink rate

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when to add a blink burst (AKA flutter)

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when to add a long blink

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low blink rate example

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low blink rate example preview

Aziraphale, from Good Omens (amazing show, btw).

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high blink rate example + long blink

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high blink rate example - preview

Aziraphale, from Good Omens.

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Closing Thoughts

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References

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