Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Kind of Workflow Do You Use?

Everyone has their own workflow that they find comfortable and works for them. For me, this is what I usually do:

1. Get assigned a shot.

2. Research and study. Learn about the character, the required actions, what my character wants, where he came from and where he's going. If it's just action or is a creature, then I study the physiology of that creature, figure out how he should move, etc. As much as possible, it's good to find reference of a similar creature that exists in real life. (For example, if you're animating a dragon, you can study eagles and lions)

3. Do my thumbnails and video planning (so I know which poses will happen on which frames - at least roughly, and include breakdown poses). When possible, I'll show this planning (or video reference) to my animation director for feedback.

4. Then I simply recreate my thumbnail drawings in the computer, thinking of each pose as a "whole drawing," where I'll pose out the whole character and save a key on every single controller, even if it hasn't been moved. At this stage, I'm also exaggerating the timing of the motions and pushing the poses into something more dynamic and interesting, but keeping to the same basic body mechanics I've just studied.

5. At this point, you should be 80% finished, if you've done your planning correctly. (See my very first Tips & Tricks articles about this). This is when I'll show my shot again for more feedback.

6. If they like my blocking, then I start cleaning up my curves (making sure all my tangents are correct in the graph editor, removing any redundant keys, etc) and polishing the animation, doing the hands, feet, fingers, toes, tail, whatever else needs to be done.

7. Then I do the face.

8. Then I do the mouth.

9. Then I show it again and hope to hear the magic word "Final!"

- Shawn :)



Anirudh said...

it definitely doesnt get better than this !! a blog where people truly passionate about the art of animation, can ask questions from the best in the business !!

simply wow !


Bjørn Ankre said...

Definite a blog I'm gonna visit often! Keep up the good work.

Dave David said...


This will be one of my daily cups of tea in the morning, thanks again for the great work you guys are doing for us.


Ali Jalali said...

The best blog i have ever seen.
WOw it would be fantastic being in touch with big animation artists :D .

Will said...

Very interesting process. For me once I've established a plan of attack (usually with storyboards) I knock out the lip syncing first, then work backwards from there.

I don't animate in 3D though, not sure if that accounts for anything.

Brad said...

awesome Shawn!
Congrats on the blog.
This should be a
great outlet to chat
about animation!

Anonymous said...

...a process which is so simple that it is often overlooked because of its simplicity.

But one which I often look back to after a project and wonder "why the heck didn't I follow the process right!?"

This blog is an awesome addition to my daily reading for tips. Sweet!

sdembel said...

Big thanks!!
i have just a question.
animate straight ahead seem impossible to me!
one frame one key?
is straight animation allowed in big studio,if yes what the inbetweener do?

i would like a post on St ah animation,should i contrusct my ease in and ease out,and time the scene without any planning?

Unknown said...

Really great to see this blog. But are the newsletters stopped?
I would love this idea of getting my questions answered. Thanks Shawn.

The Goozer said...

Thx for opening a animatonblog.
I'm new to animation buut I want to grow in it!
This will be great and give everyone the chance to share there knownledge off animation! And for me to learn from other people!

Thx Shawn!!

Daniel Huertas said...

Good to see you blogging shawn!! i will be here very often bothering you :P hehehe

all the best!

yt said...

Hi, Shawn, congrats first.
One of my questions is how do you do video planning? Do you shot your thumbnails using digital cameras to figure out the rough timing during blocking stage?
The other question is that how much amount of time do you usually spend for each of the workflow steps. Thanks.

avneriginal said...

Brilliant Shawn, absolutely brilliant!

Looking forward to checking this blog frequently. Cheers mate, keep up the great work.

Rob:-] said...

Great new blog. I've subscribed even though I'm not an animator I want to understand the process and learn what I can.

I've got a couple of questions:

1. Who is the author of this post? I see that Shawn Kelly is the host but I also see we can expect posts from staff members too. It might be useful to know who the authors are on each post.

2. You said, "Get assigned a shot." What is your organizational environment? I'm assuming your working for an animation company working on a sizable project to be "assigned a shot" kind of out of the blue. Please help me put all of this into some context.

3. You said, "Research and study." I think in this section you're talking about figuring out how the character will move and behave. In addition, is there a script? Is there recorded dialog? Is there a storyboard? Does your character interact with other characters? Are there props? Again, to understand this I need a bit more context.

4. Are you doing cell animation, 3D computer animation or something else?

5. Do you design the character from scratch or is there a design done by someone else on the project that you use? Does it have rigging or do you have to rig your characters? (This assumes your using 3D computer animation, not cell animation.)

I hope I'm not asking too many questions. Thanks for taking the time to share your process with out.



Animation Mentor Staff said...

Hi Rob!

Thanks for reading our blog! It sounds like you're exploring the art of animation so we hope this blog serves as a good resource.

As the blog says, Shawn Kelly, a cofounder of and a senior animator at ILM, is the host and will be posting animation tips and tricks. Animation Mentor staff and other working animators will be posting tips and tricks as well.

That said, this blog is resource for animators who have questions, input, or ideas. It sounds like you've just embarked into the world of animation. As a newbie, we suggest that you read these two books which are used in Animation Mentor's curriculum: "The Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and "The Animator's Survival Guide" by Richard Williams.

You can also sign up for our free Tips & Tricks ebook that was authored by Shawn (check out the side nav to download). But the ebook, again, is for people who have been animating and are seeking some tips and tricks.

Good luck with your animation journey!


Animation Mentor Staff

mac said...

Hi Shawn
i wanna know that to become a sucessful animator is it also necessary to learn rigging?

Virgil said...

congrats on opening this blog, I'm sure this will become one of the coolest animation resources on the web ;)

Aparna-Appie! said...

u don know how big a smile i had on my face when i saw this blog!!! :D!!!
i think this is going to become my favourite hangout zone...

cheers!! :)

Anonymous said...

thank you for this blog, and this post especialy.
i am suree all of us (readers) will adopt something from your experience.

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