Monday, July 17, 2006

Step 1 and a half: Before you rough out your shot (Tips and Tricks)

Welp, here we are again on the second post of the "animate your own shot" saga! This post will mainly be a sorta of common sense kind of lesson. There are some helpful Tips and Tricks that i employ while getting ready to animate a shot. and by the way, these are in no particular order. OK! you've got your road map, you've got your conviction and your gusto, and a lot of coffee! your almost ready to start your amazing shot that young and old will admire for centuries to come! The very first thing i do AFTER conception of a shot (this sounds like Health Ed), is write up your X-Sheet. Richard Williams does a fine job of explaining this in his book, but using your X-Sheet is a great way to think through your timing. Sometimes you want to do funny little hand gestures ontop of your main pose and aren't sure if the hand will settle in enough time for your main pose to read, this is where you start to gestimate whether it'll work or not. It's hit and miss. The more you animate the more your know what'll work and what won't. And also, number your X-sheet all the way to the end on the odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc... I've had animators tell me that at ALL cost keep things on odd numbers. This never made complete sense to me, what they meant is "if you keep it on odd's then you can keep it all on 2's and make less work for yourself". As long as that works for your scene fine, but if something needs to be keyed out on 3's just do the work! If you don't want to work hard why are you in animation for heavens sake? but also more practically if you plan things on 2's and they stay on 2's it's easy to throw things on 1's without having to renumber like made. Plus, it's easier to find where your at in the shot if you have a problem arising. Your drawing number IS the frame number on this system and makes things easier on everyone.

Another tip for ya is to blow up or down a xerox of the model sheet to match the size of the character your animating and tape it to the top of your disc (as shown in pic above) so all you have to do is flip to the back to check on how your drawing the model (a turn around is ideal). Trust me, no matter how big or how small your shot is DO THIS! There is a great story i heard from animator Derek Thompson. He worked at DreamWorks on Prince of Eygpt... one day he walked into James Baxters office and started small talking and asked him how he got his work "so solid". James didn't say a word, stood up, walked down the hall to the xerox machine, tapped on it as if to say "like this" and walked back into his office. All with a smile on his face. He meant that he uses the xerox machine in ways like this to maintain the model. If James finds it useful, i think WE ALL need to be doing this.
Also, and this is a matter of opinion, do turn off your music, radio, dvd, whatever it is. I LOVE to "watch" or listen to movies while i work. I do it all the time, but NOT while i am doing my first pass. Your first pass is really your heart and your soul and if your like most you need concentration to find the scene somewhere inside you. It may not be the prettiest version of your scene, but it sometimes is the most honest. Personally when i know the shot is working acting wise, i put on a film that helps me zone out but not until i have it.
I know this post must seem slightly boring and thin compared to the last, but this is just a simple tips and tricks post. The NEXT post (in 2 days!) you get to actually see what the roughed out shot looks like and i'll talk about how i approached it. Until then be thinking about questions you might have and i'd be happy to answer them!


Q/Minkyu said...

Yeah, I always feel hasty when I try to 'plan out'my scenes in frame terms, kind of like prophesying how your animation is gonna turn out frame-wise. I think it's partially because I don't have a good grasp of timing yet. And the concept of keeping it always on odd numbers was kind of confusing to me. When I animate I always go with the primitive way: just..key pose them, then inbetween, and then inbetween some more, then shoot it, then feel what places need more inbetweens or less, then do whatever. But I really want to learn more about charts and stuff. I think next semester I'll just approach you when I'm just starting out a scene(before even animating it, maybe with just some key pose sketches), opposed to doing a scene by myself then showing it to you for critique.

Ali said...

Great tip about xeroxing the model sheet. That's the kind of practical stuff you don't learn in books.

Jamaal Bradley said...

hey Matt ..these last posts have been on the money. My last shot at work..I really got on the drawing board into the character and thought about his personality. I drew thumbnails..shot reference..and made more thumbnails...the shot went so smoothly after that. I have really been getting back to what I used to do at my first job for the Cartoon Network...its like I can breath again.. keep grinding!

Jeremy said...

Hey Matt, great post and I fully agree with doing a character rotation before starting. I've been working on 65 frame vanilla rotation of one of my characters for my film and it's a great indicator where problems exist. It's a great way to start thinking dimensionally about a character too and not just draw one angle.
Your post about planning was great too and I think production managers would still appreciate the good practices your advising. Makes the work look better and everything gets approved faster when work is good. Keep coming out with the great lessons, you're doing something nice for many folks!

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