September 21, 2005

Plan Ahead

I have to agree with Jason on his blog.
Planning your animation before going at it makes it much more enjoyable. It's temting to just jump right in, but that's the worst thing you can do.

Thumbnail, Thumbnail, Thumbnail, get out of your chair, act it out, and thumbnail some more. Work small, I like to work small because you can get a lot of ideas down quickly and it forces you to think in silhouette. You can't draw that much detail small. The great thing about thumbnailing is that you don't have to be tethered to your desk to do it. Recently I was stuck in a long boring meeting, I took my sketchbook, instead of waisting an hour I felt like I was able to work on my shot for an hour. When I got back I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It saved a lot of time.

If you look on page 236 of Illusion of Life there's a great page of thumbnails that Mark Davis did. This is kinda like what I like to do (except my thumbnails don't look as good). I like to explore the idea firs, get a bunch of crude drawings down and don't think about the order of things. This is where I think about how a character would do something, like hold a glass, or open a door. This is also where I try and come up with the most entertaining way of doing an action. Then after I've come up with a dozen or so different ways of doing that one action, I video tape myself, so I can see the subtle things I might be doing without thinking about it. Then I'll go through the video tape and pick out the actions that work. Then I'll thumbnail again, this time I do things in order. I try and let the flow in at this point. This is where I do a lot of improv, I get the thumbnails down quickly only focusing on the forces and the action. After that do I launch Maya and pose out the characters.

Even in Maya I work in the lowest rez possible, shutting off anything I don't need. Get the poses down quickly, flipping between poses as best as I can.

I'm working on a 500 frame shot right now. So you better believe that I'm planning the hell out of it.


Lluis said...

hey Ethan .. :-)

yah, planning seems to be the only way. I discovered that when I was working in Glasgow - even though we had to get 8 seconds a day, only if I took 30 to 50 minutes to plan my shots did I get there ! I always plan plan plan plan !

BTW, I am already planning my new AM assignment, which is going to last for 5 weeks ! I've decided to make a shy 15-year-old girl, so I'm pitching all sorts of ideas ..

Question : how do you keep your scenes SIMPLE ? I find that if you plan a lot you tend to get attached to ideas and poses, and think that maybe you can squeeze them all in ..



Ethan said...

Run those ideas by other people. Sometimes just presenting the idea to someone else will tell you if the idea is any good. Other times people will tell you if they think the idea is any good. Just make sure you run the idea by someone you respect and trust. Don't run the idea by family or your mother. That unconditional love thing tends to get in the way of harsh criticism:)

Mau said...

hey ethan!

Maybe not showing work to your mom, but I usually run my shots through my fiance and ask her to be critical... and boy is she!

I ask her: "can you tell me what's happening here?" and if she can figure out not only the content but also the emotion behind it, I know I am going the right way. Of course I ask without telling her what's going on.

It works for me :P


Bobby P said...

Haha I dont the same thing Mau. I'll show my fiance my work especially If I'm trying to put over a gag. It's usually a pretty good indicator if something is really working.

Lluis said...

I can't use my mom at all .. she still thinks I'm some kind of illustrator !! hahaha

josh carrollhach said...

Planning indeed is the only way. There is a joy in straight-ahead animation that can't be replicated, but it is more than countered by the 90% failure rate when you realize that, despite the fabulous stuff you just did, you don't hit the next key and need to trash everything you've done. In 3D it's different, but even more essentialy, I think, because the constant enemy of smoothness will rob the animation of its good qualities (our friend the software trying to "help" us with robo-tweening, for example).
Thumbnails can also show some great things when you get going. Plus, they're a fun and no-risk way to discover a scene. The added plus is that they make your life so much easier when it comes time for the nitty-gritty.

Sandra Khoo said...

Planning,definitely a must must. It'll save on time,energy and money...and definitely save ya from a dreadful headache! ^^