Thursday, July 06, 2006

Step 1: Planning your Shot

Soooo, the long awaited "Start to finish" series of posts has officially begun! I am sorry for the time it has taken, but i have been gone, am working 2 freelance gigs (and am thankful for the work), and plainly i wanted to make sure this was as good a post as it could be. So i've put a lot of thought into it!
Let me start this post out with the comment that this is only ONE way of animating. there are as many ways of animating a shot as there are animators! So, find what works best for you and then modify it. The wonderful thing about art and animation is that it is so very personal-- make it your own! I can't say that i use even my own methods all the time. Sometimes certain scenes are very simple shots that don't need elaborate planning. I am doing a 30 frame shot for a commercial right now-- very very simple, i didn't even thumbnail it. However, i find when a shot is "lengthyer" and more specifically offers certain acting/staging challenges I NEED to explore on paper. but before any thumbnailing happens i am going to tell you to do something that a Production Manager would HATE me for, but here it is: THINK! The last thing you should do when starting a new shot is pick up your pencil. You HAVE to internalize what you are about to execute. If you can't do either one of these things you're scene will not be successful.
A: Visualize
B: Internailze
Ollie Johnston has been qouted as saying "If you can't see it, you won't be able to draw it. I believe that seeing it and feeling it (internalizing it) are related but not necessarily the same. I think they are related in that if you can't feel it, then you won't be able to invision it clearly in your head. So, think about your scene. Ask questions: who is he what's his personality, where does this shot take place in the arc of the story, who did he just talk to and what was the last emotion he/she felt, what's the arc of the scene, where's the entertainment value in this shot. BE RUTHLESS with yourselves in your exploration... if you find yourselves slavishly applying Preston Blair formulas to your shots then your scene is already dead. Yes, sometimes books like that help with technical things but right now i'm talking about conception of a shot! Get OUT of your studio, take a walk, ride your bike, read, whatever inspires you!
I personally like to take walks and really think through my shots... by the time i'm done with my walk i am ready to start writting down some ideas. Also, this is a great time for research. Now this i will say with no apollogy... everyone needs to research. I don't care who you are but so much comes from studying and researching that you couldn't possibly have brought to it any other way.
So to sum it all up-- get juiced up and excited about what your gonna do. I know that i cannot animate something unless i believe in it wholeheartedly! Have the guts to challenge and idea you think is weak (with grace of course) and be willing to be wrong. that's the big one, throw your pride out the window man! I learned that one the hard way!
So... now that you've though all about your shot and have conviction and just KNOW that your scene is going to be revered through the anals of time you can begin to plan and thumbnail! Ideally before you start thumnailing or even thinking about your shot you should have your dialogue memorized. All of the ups and downs... where the accents are. KNow it in and out. What i start doing at this point is finding some gestures that tell the main key points of the scene. It doesn't have to be many poses, in fact it's usually better when you simplify. Tony DeRosa's main comment on most of my animation has been to simplify it-- so start scribbling and finding those gestures that explain what the character is feeling and thinking.
Here are some pages of thumbnails i did for the shot i will be animating. It is here where you find your gesture, plan your staging, write down ideas... let it all out. Try things that are outrageous-- you never know where your thoughts might carry you. Oh, and don't worry about making pretty drawings-- these are just thoughts, i use stick figures a lot when i am thumbnailing. Especially when i don't know the character too well yet.
The line of Dialogue reads: Deer:"So whats the flight situation?" Bear: "Simple (pause)... there's no way on earth we're getting out of here tonight(pause and laughs). we'd have more luck playing pick up sticks with our butt cheeks that we would getting a flight out of here before midnight" ( i tried posting the dialogue put could not)








I mean come on, look at these drawings! they suck! They're not meant to be pretty, they are meant to be honest. I think sometimes it can be a downfall of animators to mistakes nice poses for "thinking". I've done it for sure-- certainly poses can evoke thinking, but i really feel like think is shown mainly in change. i.e A character is in a situation where he is being asked to make a difficult decision. He is tense, shoulders up, chest inflated, brows down-- he realized he needs to make a certain decision and is at ease with it. He relaxes his shoulders and exhales and lifts his brows. There is not a huge pose change in there, just a change of shape that shows us his thinking. You are working within a pose with something like this-- now sometimes you want to have some sort of change of line of action to make your idea clear it's just knowing where to do it. I am only skipping around these topics because i will cover more once we get into the animating portion of the posts (the FUN part).

I hope that's a fine start for everyone! Please please feel free to ask question if you have them either e-mail me or just post it and i'll reply. So get excited, get inspired and have fun everyone!

24 comments:

Hoggan said...

awesome, wicked start!! Lookin really foreward to the next post.

Bobby P said...

Great start Matt! I guess one of the things I'm always curious about other animators personal workflows is: How much information do you look to work out beforehand?(thumbnailing on paper for instance.)
Because I know for myself, before I go in, I seem to only see the broad strokes; a main pose here, another pose there, and that's really it. The details almost always seem to come while I'm animating the shot.

But I've seen examples of planning that have plotted out a pose almost every couple of frames, complete with the frame number it is supposed to fall on!
Just curious as to how much business is premeditated or if you just let that stuff "organically happen."

Matt Williames said...

Hey thanks guys! Bobby: That's a great question! I'm not like Duncan Marjoribanks who basically animates his shots twice. once in thumbnail and then again for real. My thumbnails are a little more broad-- I do like to leave room for some sort of spontinaity while i'm animating. Sometimes i'll be roughing it all out super quick and emotional like, and then i find something better than i had thumbnailed! I like to leave room open for change-- especially when it's a better choice. So yeah, in particular i don't really thumbnail facial stuff like eye darts, eye brow stuff or anything... that's pretty easy to do straight ahead and nail it on the 1st time. However it i'm using an appendage (which you will see in this pencil test) as a part of the gesture, like nervous hand movement, I do thumbnail that out. Specifically the hand shapes.
hope that helps!

Victor Ens said...

Hi Matt.
Very cool start.
I always catch myself getting a thousand ideas for the shot while already animating it. I mean I do thumbnails and so on, but it seems sometimes like you can never give enough thought to it. But this is really the most important part in doing a shot.

I like the little funny story in "The animator's survival kit" on page 100

"He told me that in a week's work he'd spend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday thinking about it and planning it in his mind. Then on Friday he'd do it. The only problem is that it then takes three weeks for somebody else to make sense of it".

Aaron said...

Whoa, dropping some serious knowledge here. Good stuff, but should we all start sending you some donation money? This is like a free education, no?

Matt Williames said...

Aaron, I'm alays happy to take your money! ha! naww man, people have been generous with me and i want to do the same for others! Animation will die unless we keep passing on our knowledge and shared experience.
Vic i know exactly what you mean-- it's tough to sift through what the best ideas are huh? Cuz there's infinite ways of doing a shot, what always pulls me back is thinking about what the point of the shot is. That tends to narrow things down a bit-- other than that i always try to trust my instincts.
Thats a funny story too-- take it easy!

Bobby P said...

Hey Matt thanks for the reply! Yeah I remember reading somewhere Norm Ferguson or Ham Luske( one of those earlier pre nine old men disney guys)said that he never really knew completely how his scene was going to turn out, and that you should be suprised with your result.

Ali said...

Great start. This is only going to get better and better. I'm absolutely useless at 2d animation. I can draw but I can't seem to find a system for animating. You're doing me a huge favor.

That's a great choice of dialogue. One of my favorite movies.

Shannon said...

Matt,

Could this be you?? You won't believe how I found this! How the heck are you and the wife???

Shannon Gervel

Will said...

Thanks Matt, great stuff. Looking forward to the next one!

polymover said...

Awesome! can't wait for the next phase, really kind of you sharing your knowledge with us! have a great day!

Robin Hall said...

I like that you've commented that if you can't visualize and internalize it first in your head, before picking up a pencil, then you won't be able to feel it on paper as clearly as you would like to.

I think that really needs to be driven home to people, me included. I have no question to ask you just yet, but I want to thankyou for writing that, because I always love others insight into the way people go through the process of animating, start to finish. It always gives me more to think about, and better ways to make starting not seem so daunting.

Thanks Matt!

Julián höek said...

awsome post, please keep the coming!

andy said...

Wow, this is awesome Matt, thanks so much for doing this. For me anyway, planning is always the part of animating that I find the hardest to spend the time on to get right. It's easy to forget why you're doing a shot and how it's going to communicate and instead just try and get it all to move well.

It's great to see how you go about getting everything figured out in your mind before touching a pencil, and having the conviction of your ideas to go ahead and animate confidently and with excitement. I know for me and I'm sure for others it's a basic but critical part of the process that often gets overlooked and glossed over, which does no one any good.
Thanks again and God bless!

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