What Kind of Workflow Do You Use?

 You’ve probably heard it said that being an animator means being a lifelong student. That couldn’t be more true. My workflow is constantly changing. With every shot or task I complete, there’s almost always something I end up liking or disliking about the way I went about it. Or, sometimes the technical requirements of a shot will dictate what kind of workflow I’ll use. Also, observing the workflow other animators use allows me to pick up new things that I want to try with my next shot or task. The point is, finding a good workflow means trying things out until you find what works for you. I, personally, am still trying things out. However, I’ll write down the workflow that I tend to use most often.

 Step 1 – Research:

– Talking through the shot with the director or supervisor

– Checking out the storyboards

– Checking out the surrounding shots for continuity

– Researching any available information about character personality

– Gathering model sheets or other character resources


Step 2 – Planning:

– Shooting video reference, trying various takes and editing the best together

– Gathering online video or photo reference

– Studying reference

– Sketching rough thumbnail drawings of major poses to find the best silhouette


Step 3 – Blocking (on the computer):

– Blocking major storytelling/acting/action/key poses, most often in

stepped curves mode, and most often keying the entire character

– Blocking in extremes and changes in direction

– Blocking in important facial expressions

– Blocking in important hand poses

– Pushing poses around in time to find the right rhythm for the shot


Step 4 – Breakdowns:

– Putting in breakdown poses between major key poses, often still in stepped

– Defining rough arcs, overlap and spacing

– Repeating for the face and hands

– At this point I’m usually trying to put every major idea into a pose

– At this point if it’s a dialogue shot, I will go through a similar

process on the mouth and face that I went through with the body


Step 5 – Spline

– Hitting that dreaded button to convert to spline curves (or clamped,

or linear, or auto-tangent, whatever you prefer to use)

– Usually making some slight adjustments to overall pose timing

– Shaping and cleaning curves to more accurately define spacing


Step 6 – Polishing

– Focusing on details

– Finessing contact points, often frame by frame

– Offsetting keys as necessary to refine overlap

– Layering in minor secondary action, like breathing or eye darts

– Doing anything required to make the shot as clear and refined as

the deadline will allow


Step 7 – Watching the shot get pried from your fingers and forcibly taken away

– It’s rare to feel like a shot is as finished as I’d like it to be

Often deadlines come quicker than we obsessive animators would like


One final thought to keep in mind: this workflow is rarely linear.


Getting notes and changes from a director or supervisor can often mean

going back a step or two to blocking or even planning stages. It’s just

another part of the crazy process!


~ by animationslider on March 15, 2012.

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