Do you use the same workflow for scenes that are more acting focused versus scenes that are more action oriented, or do you have a different process for each?
Fundamentally, yeah, the workflow is pretty similar because it all comes down to preparation. But in this case, I start by listening to the dialogue....over and over and over again. I look for anything that might give me a clue to the best way to approach the shot. I'll write down the dialogue and start marking where the beats are, the inflections, the pauses...any breaths, lip pops...anything that can add an additional layer to the character. This is also when I'll start some sketching and I'll rely more on my video reference initially to catch the subtleties that I wouldn't otherwise sketch out.
One thing that I've really come to enjoy is editing different pieces of video reference together to see how certain things in multiple takes play together. I'll shoot a minimum of 5-10 takes on any particular shot. There's always the possibility that more than one of those will have bits and pieces that I want to incorporate into the final piece. Looking over the video reference, I'll start to break down the actions, trying to find out what part of the body is the driving force behind the movement. More often then not it's the hips that are motivating the movement.
One of the things I do after I've gone in and done my blocking is to start splining out my hip controller. It helps me start to feel the timing and the weight. I also hide geometry that isn't needed on the character. There's a tool we have in-house that is a shortcut for "isolate selected" in Maya. If I'm focusing on the core of the character, I'll hide the arms and sometimes the legs so I can focus on the simple shapes of the torso, kinda reminds me of the flour sack animation tests. The thing I have to keep in mind when I'm "turning off" geometry is to make sure I keep in mind what those hidden parts are supposed to be doing. I have gotten to pre-occupied with what is on screen that when I show all of the character, things can feel somewhat unconnected. Once again, it all comes down to trying to have as clear an idea of what I want before I even start setting any keys in Maya.
Guest Blogger Matthew Russell