I am a firm believer that work flow can play a big part in your success as an effective and marketable animator. The amount of planning that I do for a shot varies as widely as the shot content itself. Usually bigger shots that involve several characters talking require a good knowledge of staging and composition.
It's really important to know where to lead your audiences' eye; where you want them to look while each character is speaking. Or, if it's only one character, spending time on staging and composition might not take as long, so you might have more time to finesse and explore the acting. If a shot requires video reference, I usually allow at least a day for that and thumbnailing. It's important to use as much time as you feel comfortable making mistakes or changes in planning, so you won't be doing as much of that when you are actually animating. I think about my shot when I am driving in the car to and from work, or I might pull out old HoneyMooners episodes or watch other things that inspire me and try to get my mind to picture the shot as I might see it animated.
Don't be afraid to go back and reblock or re-thumbnail a portion of your shot if it isn't working -- even if you have started animating it. But generally knowing when to stop planning and start animating goes with having a plan, and then animating it. Simple? Maybe not, but my advice is just to know your deadlines and plan accordingly; don't ever try to start a shot without a good plan of attack.
- Guest blogger Keith Sintay