Wednesday, 21 August 2013

How Do Animators Plan a Shot?

Working with Maya: How to Begin? - The Curse of the Blank Screen
One of the hardest skills for an animator to learn is how to build and block an animated scene from scratch. After all, everyone animator starts their work with a blank piece of paper, or a blank computer screen. With animation, you get nothing for free. So how do you get from nothing, to something? Or, rather, how do you get from a blank screen to a piece of well-crafted beautiful animation that combines technical ability with story-telling, personality and craftsmanship? The secret is, it's all in the planning.

Every animator has their own method. Some go into a dark corner and act out their shot, filming themselves in action. Others imagine it in their head, planning the motion. Others use stock reference from YouTube or elsewhere. Many use small thumbnail sketches to plan out their work. In fact, as it turns out, most animators use a combination of these methods.

Here's a link to an excellent webpage by Pixar animator Carlos Baena on how he planned out a beautiful shot from The Incredibles. I particularly like the part where he says: "this is work that I want to be as good as possible for years to come". It's a big responsibility, working on a Pixar movie.



(Editor's Note: For more secrets of animation planning, check out this blog post from June where we explore how Glen Keane uses animation thumbnails to plan out a shot)

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