Thursday, August 7, 2008

Frame by Frame

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.

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!

- shortcut image source


Anonymous said...

So true...Animation really is perseverance. It's hair-pulling work, but damn if it isn't cool looking in the end!

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Toughest for me is to have the same excitement that I have during blocking when I'm in the polish phase. But like you said, perseverance is very important.

Anonymous said...

So how do you keep going in that polish phase?

When its work related theres the obvious and immeditate motivation of earning your paycheck/keeping your job/not looking like a retard infront of all your workmates at the dailies :)etc. (Yeah I know, all kind of negatives, i'm sure sometimes you think 'i'm gonna make this the most kickass animation I have ever done!)

What about when your at home working to improve your own skill?
How do you effectively convince yourself to actually finish that piece of animation or short film you intially put so much effort into, instead of saying to yourself 'bugger it for now, im off down the pub for a pint' or whatever the equvalent is in the US.

Ian said...

This is top shelf advice. Where I teach we start by drawing and drilling basic animation pronciples into the students heads, then when we let them loose on computers many just seem to forget everything and are content to let the computer work it out. YUCK!

Don't let the software push you around, decide in your head how you want the animation to look and do what it takes to make it happen.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Anonymous, that's a good question and tough for me to answer, because that's something I'm struggling with the most.

You're right that at work you're kinda forced to deliver the best thing possible, but even there you really need to push yourself and not get complacent. At least that's what I'm telling myself because I want to keep improving my skills.

At home you just need to set deadlines, just like at work. Of course it's easier to disregard those since the consequences are veyr different. One of my main problems or reasons why I start more things that I finish is because I have so much going on at the same time. Less is more and the more focused the better. But I have so much fun with everything that I have a hard time letting go.

But find a way to set your own deadlines. That works for me.