Animation is a lot of work.
It doesn't matter how fancy your computer is, or your animation program, or curve tracking tool, your cloth, hair and muscle sim tool, even the latest "Massive" crowd release or dare I say Mo-cap solver. YOU have to take control and decide how your animation will look like. Why? Because, at the end of the day, using a computer is a shortcut.
Sure, you are the one setting keys, but unless you have keys on every frame, and every key is there on purpose, used to create the most original, entertaining and advancing-the-art illusion of life possible, the computer will do it for you. And that, my friends, is a:
Don't let the computer do the work. It's up to you. And that's why animation is a lot of work. Just like every other art form.
The computer is a tool, remember that. Just like a pencil. Or whatever you are using to create animation. And with every process comes the temptation of using shortcuts in order to speed up your workflow or production. I am guilty of this as well, using hotkeys, scripts, etc. etc. But in order to really make your animation work, you need to be willing to animate frame by frame.
Or you're really good at using the graph editor. But that's another story.
Of course I was exaggerating earlier about setting keys on every frame of your animation. It all depends on the complexity of the shot. But be ready to do it. Don't be lazy. You want that moment to really come across the way it is supposed to? Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.
- shortcut image source
I'm sure everybody had this moment happen when you act out your shot, you thumbnail, use reference, etc. etc. and when you look at the final result, it's kinda like what you envisioned, but not really. After all that work though you're tempted to say "Well, it's working!". But is it exactly what you wanted it to be? Don't give in, don't let the shot slip out of your hands, go back in there and really work on it until you're completely satisfied. And a lot of times that means to work frame by frame. But it's worth it!
Speaking of frame by frame, these photos by Tom Lechner
are really cool!