As much as having long hair of my own is handy, it still doesn't make for the best reference when you're trying to animate hair doing something other than just falling down your back. I know animating long hair well is very difficult, and I find I can often judge just how big a budget for a production is just by how well they animate hair since that's usually one of the first things that gets skimped on when money gets tight. And no wonder, its a time consuming task! Below are some examples I've found of what I think think to be well animated long hair:
First up is the second ending theme to the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, which showcases one of the best examples of hair flowing in the wind I've ever seen (and I've seen a of anime hair flowing in the wind). The clip in question is at 0:12-0:23, and I love how the animators have taken the time and effort to show all the individual strands blowing in such a convincing and diverse manner, varying the way they waft over her face each time rather that just animating it once and sticking it on a loop which is usually the trend in such instances. Naturally this is far too detailed for what I hope to achieve, but it still makes a great reference and really demonstrates the whip-like 'figure of eight' movement the strands follow as they ripple.
Skip to 1:02 for this one; the brief clip from the Kobato anime as she spins around to face the viewer. Yes its intensely sugary and in slow motion, but I actually find the slowness helps me read the movement better, especially since this whipping of the hair is very over exaggerated. Normal hair of that length would barely move from such a small turn, considering its weight. But regardless, exaggeration and fluidity is what I'm going for, and I feel this demonstrates both quite well, albeit rather hazily on the visual side.
Skip to 0:43. More relevant to my interests this time, this short scene demonstrates Niche's (the girl I referenced for my character design some weeks earlier) hair sword in action, and for once they're animated very fluidly with great exaggerated perspective and weight. While its still obvious her swords are made of hair by how flexibly they move, they still have an appropriate density to them that shows they have a life of they're own and aren't merely strands being blown by the wind. That's the kind of balance I want to strike with by character's hair once it comes alive, as I don't want the hair to appear too soft and weak to do any damage, yet at the same time I don't want it to be too rigid as it will just appear stiff and unrealistic.
Pocahontas: were every other scene shows her hair billowing epically in the wind. Thankfully her hair is animated beautifully, as can be expected of Disney, and makes for a great reference for the follow-through and weight principles of animation which I'm trying by best to improve in my work.
A line test I found which was inspired by the Pocahontas style, this beautifully demonstrates hair whipping round as it follows a sharp head turn. I find studying it to be very useful, as I could clearly see how the hair follows an arc as it moves. A common factor I've noticed while watching well animated hair is that the strands seem to flow in figures of eight, the tips always flicking back the opposite way to the upper body of hair depending on the direction of movement. Hopefully studying these references will allow me to animate my character's hair convincingly.