Wow. This is a tough question. The first thing you need to realize is that this is something that students and professionals alike all struggle with to some degree. The reason for this struggle is that animation is not only slow, but you have to keep your mind on the same goal as best you can, throughout the course of your shot. You need to have a vision for the shot, and then spend the time it takes to consistently and diligently move toward that vision without straying too far from it along the way. This is made even more difficult by the fact that your vision is most likely in your head.
The best way to include anticipation in your first blocking pass is to spend more time or effort in the planning stage. Draw thumbnails. Watch video reference. Make notes as to what will require anticipation, and write that down. If you try to keep it all in your head, you will probably forget some of it along the way, so make some notes on paper. Perhaps you need to act out your shot and study your own anticipation moves in the reference video.
The next step, in my opinion, is to get as much information into the poses on your blocking pass as you can. Try to come up with poses that not only describe an emotion or action, but also imply what has just happened, and what will happen next. This isn’t easy, and if you have a chance to watch a really talented animator at work, you will be amazed at how they can keep all of this in mind as they pose out their first pass. It truly is an art form. It usually requires a very detailed pose on each of the key blocking frames, right down to the fingers and the toes. Getting a good, solid first blocking pass will tell your director not only what is there, but what will be there when you are done, including the anticipation you are searching for.
But don’t stop there. Keep anticipation in mind as you add or refine your breakdowns. A lot of anticipation is in those breakdown poses, so really nail those crucial transitional poses. And keep your initial vision intact the entire time. Only if the director redirects you should you change your mind. Don’t let your inner dialogue send you down the wrong path.
Animation Mentor Staff