Animation Tips

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Over the course of making Tin Woodman of Oz many suggestions were made to improve the process, quality and enjoyment of animating. While not all may be universally agreed upon some may work for you.

Note: Tips have been edited. They are ONLY suggestions.

  • Keep animation as assymetric as possible. Learn the value of being productive and don't get stuck in "refine mode". We all often do this in the beginning. Keep with the flow of the story and deliver the best shot you can to finish your assignment within the allotted time. (D)

Recommended steps to take upon assignment:

  1. Find out what your assignment is (and where possible what it isn't).
  2. Determine what it is required for the sequence.
  3. Make a note of how many frames you have to work in.
  4. Check to see if there are any logs others have entered about the sequence.
  5. Check the animatic or storyboard (Note: It may not exist or may be out of date).
  6. Check the script (It may be out of date too).
  7. VERY IMPORTANT!! CHECK previous sequences others have worked on that pertain to your sequence (Note: It may not be the shot just before yours. You might have to go back a few shots).
  8. Check the sequences that follow your sequence (Note: It may not be the very next shot)
  9. Open up Project and Choreography files and determine what you already have to work with. Your scene may already have a layout, blocking animation, dialogue,etc.
  10. If there is a lip-sync, listen to it several times to get an idea of what you need to do. (G)

  • Lead with the eyes by a frame or two. Follow with the head. Then animate the body last. (SF)
  • The head should have an arc to its movement (you can do this not only by animating the head, but the body also). If you can actually SEE the arc then the arc is probably too big. If you can FEEL the arc (its not a robotic straight line movement) you probably have it close to working. (SF)
  • Soften the end of a movement and don't have it come to a complete stop. The head might come to a stop but the body may continue to move marginally. It may not necessarily follow along the same path but still should have some movement to break it up. (SF)
  • Have overlapping movement on the head. For example, have the head tilt first (perhaps a frame of two only) and then turn. (SF)
  • Add some anticipation to a sigh. Do this by perhaps moving the body and shoulders up first (while tilting the head down fractionally), and then as the body comes down, tilt the head up and the down. This should give the effect of a sigh. Hold the anticipation a bit too as you can use that to emphasise the breath in. (SF)
  • Dont have all the movement follow along one path. If necessary use a whiteboard marker on your screen to plot paths frame by frame. If you find the path following one line without any arcing movement figure out a way to put that movement in. (SF)
  • Add a bit of shoulder movement (perhaps as part of an anticipation) to break up any robotic stiffness in the move. Get the appropriate timing, posing and then add overlap and anticipation to each movement. You will really start to loosen up and work much more effectively. (SF)
  • Add some minor eye darts to bring life to the character. Eyes are CONSTANTLY moving even if only via imperceptable movements. Adding in eye darts (very minor ones which you would not automatically register) will make a character really wake up and come alive. (SF)
  • Film yourself as a refernce doing the action you intent the character to perform. Then watch the reference film FRAME BY FRAME to note what moves first, last and simultaneously. (SF)
  • Always think about the weight of the object. Thinking about weight in each shot helps to sell the believabilty of the movement of a character. In a sigh the head will drop, and the weight of the head will cause it to drop a little too far and then recover slightly. (SF)
  • I was assigned a scene (Tinman juggling his axe) and found I really liked Tinman's pose done in the following scene by another animator. I wanted to use this pose for my last keyframe as a means to maintain continuity and elimiate the need to redo what was already done so well. I exported the desired choreography action to an action file, opened that action in my project and copy/pasted the frame where I needed it to be. This method saved me from having to add a new action in the choreography and I find it works even if you switch beetween IK FK. (M)
  • In SVN, make a "movies" folder outside the action folders. For cleaning up shots you may have to download whole sequence folders to include movies which really increases the download time. (KH)
  • Cycles for each character should be made early on. Then each character will be more likely to walk/run the same throughout the movie. (KH)
  • Where possible assignments should be given out in batches of sequences. Among other things this will minimize the adverse effects of suddenly different animation styles. ( C )
  • Set up a 'storyboard' / 'bible' for each character with animated examples of special features for that character. ( C )
  • Animators often learn well via progression through cycles. That is, a cycle of blocking out a scene, a cycle of rough animation, a cycle of clean up animation and a cycle of dialogue. They may even do a cycle of do it all yourself. Let people do enough work in one cycle to exercise that skill and then move on. (DH)

Inevitably while cleaning up shots someone will have to do several basic things:

  1. Close the eye lids of characters a bit to get rid of the glassy eyed manequin look.
  2. Lower the hips so their knees aren't so rigidly straight.
  3. Curl the thumb and fingers so they look more natural.
  4. Turn on eye targets to give the eyes more life.

If characters have all these things built into a pose already or defaulted to ON via their constructed rigging the characters will look natural from the start. It will often eliminate the need for adjusting this kind of thing in cleanup. (KH)

Have a workflow method

  • Plan out the shot (pre-planning is essential in animation). This includes video reference, thumbnails, etc.
  • Block the shot
  • Refine (TN)

Things that make cleanup easier:

  1. Keep dialog animation in a separate action. It makes it easier to modify (pick out the appropriate keys) later.
  2. Keep emotion animation, blinks etc. out of dialog actions. Reduce the clutter in the action and it will be easier to have emotion outside the length of the dialog action in the choreography. (KH)

See also:

Modeling Tips