Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What is Your Workflow to Polish a Shot? What Makes it Polished?

When I'm polishing a shot, that means that all of my timing and movements are working and approved and I'm just adding the very finishing touches to the shot before I'm finito. So when I start my polishing pass, I am certainly not going to be making any big changes to action or timing.

The first thing I do when I'm going into polishing, is a little "good shot hygiene" as one of my former lead animators used to call it. I select each and every control, and go through the attribute curves one by one in the graph editor, and smooth out any bumps or tangent strangeness. You'd be surprised how many things you can catch by scaling in and out horizontally and vertically that you wouldn't see upon the initial examination. This generally gets rid of all kinds of tiny hiccups that have been accumulating as I've been editing my animation in previous passes.

Only after that is done for every animated control, do I continue on and just double-check all of my arcs and finesse overlapping action and perhaps even add tinier details. I will playblast often, and look for anything that catches my eye when I'm watching it on 'loop'...usually if something catches my eye, it means it's not quite smooth enough - so I'll check the eases and the overlaps to make sure nothing 'hits.'

Then, after I've polished all that up, I go through and look at the curves again on everything I've polished, to make sure they're all smooth so I won't give the director any excuses to send the shot back to me again for any more touch-ups. :)

Playblast again to check...fix anything that's still catching my eye, make sure the curves are smooth, playblast again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until it's squeaky clean.

Handing in sloppy files is very unprofessional! One thing I've learned is to never expect that you'll fly anything by the director...they *always* notice the teeniest little bumps! And they'll call you on it...oh yes they will.

Guest Blogger Dana Boadway


Jonas said...

great post..
just one question..
how do you know that it is time to polish your shot?

marie said...

Hi Dana!

This is really helpful.
I have a question, though. Let's say you're given a very limited time to do your animation, how do you divide your time doing the blockings, inbetweens, and the polishings? Do you have to polish it already when you present it to the director/client, knowing that there is a possibility that you might revise it?


Philip Crow said...

Great post, just wondering though, aren't tangents just behind the scenes. If the on screen animation looks great, do the tangents even matter?

Bruno Andrade said...

great post Dana, alaways good to hear from you.

Hey Philip, interesting point, guess if there´s no hick up should be ok, but then again you will still be handing in sloppy tangent work.

Aldo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aldo said...

Hi Dana. Very useful note!

Last thing you said is so true! If there is anything you're not completely convinced about your shot never submit it just thinking you'll fix it later, because if you can notice it already, the director will surely not miss it either.

As for tangents - my personal opinion - of course they are a "behind the scene", but well "drawn" animation curves and a clean and well ordered graph editor can always be a slight plus. If anything, it will normally make way easier any further tweak keeping you away from odd things to happen and a waste of time trying to figure out what is going on.

Dana- I was wondering.. when you say "going into polishing" you mean that the stage immediately before polishing is still a blocking with step-ed curves, or there's something in between? In other words.. do you go into spline just when you start polishing?

Thanks ;)

kjb said...

I'm going to try to address all of your comments... :)

When I say 'going into polishing', I mean just about to finish off the shot and make sure all of the tiniest details are addressed. So if I had started in stepped keys, I would already have been in splines for quite a while. I use copied pairs however, so I'm in splines from the very beginning. But polishing means that all of your shot is pretty much 'done', and you're just making sure that you've paid attention to all the teensy details... like, do i need to add some 'ease' into that finger movement, or do i feel anything 'hitting' anywhere?

And this is where fixing up the graph editor comes into play. I guarantee there will be parts of the motion that will have tiny 'hits' that shouldn't be there if you don't go through and clean up your curves. I used to think that messing with the graph editor was a waste of time until i worked on my first feature, and the director saw EVERY LITTLE BUMP in the movement and called me on it, and of course when I checked the graph editor, I could see exactly what he was talking about.

I learned by his keen eye that those things that I *thought* were unnoticeable... actually glared. Lesson learned... I never handed in a shot for review without passing over the curves for whatever parts I was working on that day again. And giving the curves a very thorough going-over before handing in the 'finished' shot is just something you DO when you're professional. You're not wrong, it really IS all about how it looks and not what's in the graph editor in the end, but just don't kid yourself that those things won't be noticed. It does take some practice to learn how to see those things, but they really do jump out at you once you have the knack.

As far as reviews and changes go, your shot will have been reviewed regularly through all of the stages of animation, so there shouldn't be any big timing or action changes at all by the time you are in polishing. Those big changes will happen much earlier in the process.

kjb said...

missed the first two questions...

When I've been approved through all of the other stages of animation.. blocking, subsequent passes, and all of the information for the shot is there, then it's time for polishing. That's just the icing on the cake stuff, making sure that everything is just right before handing it in.

And for Marie: I spend about 60% of my time on blocking/timing, 20% on subsequent passes, and 20% on polishing. So in actual amount of time it takes me, well, that depends on how much time I have for the shot itself. I have to divide up the amount of time that's allocated for that animation and attack it that way. In tv animation, I would have to put out 30 seconds of finished animation every week, and in features it was more like 6 seconds per week. So that translates into a huge difference in the actual amount of time you spend for each phase.

Aldo said...

Thanks Dana :)

marie said...

Thanks Dana! I guess, I'm sort of on the right track, although I tend to go back and forth between blocking and subsequent passes, especially, when I realize that I'm not satisfied with my initial blocking(after doing the inbetweens).

Thanks again! :)

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