12 February, 2010

Work Flow ~Jeff Gabor

This is a post from Jeff Gabor talking about work flow and the importance of consistency when animating. I refer back to this usually when I'm starting a new animation (but, I think it's invaluable). Coming up with your own unique work flow is one of the most time consuming parts of learning animation, it takes so much time (a little guidance) and a lot of falling and getting back up to get your own flow down. But once you do, your animation will go so much smoother and you'll be much more efficient. A thousand thank yous Mr. Gabor!
Here's a workflow outline I did for a few of the animators at Blue Sky a couple years ago:

I go through a very consistent pattern in going through a shot.

Watch, Listen, Think and Ask, Act, Record, Edit, Block, Spline, Polish. (WLTAAREBSP for short)

Watch -

      • Watching the boards several times trying to note the work others have done is always my first step.

Listen -
      • I love to loop the audio several times just to make sure I can hear each beat or clue.
Think and Ask -
      • For dialogue I listen to the beats, note the ups and downs, apply emotions and intent to the tone of the voices, and if there is time I love to involve set pieces or props.
      • Action shots are a bit different. To me action shots are begging to be unique. I ask myself what “new” thing can I add or combine? What action would surprise the audience? This is where asking fellow animator's is most useful.
Act -
      • Once I have a group of thoughts or ideas it's mirror time!
      • My first acting attempts I try to leave loose and natural and let new quirks or gestures come in randomly.
      • I'll take note of the changes and write down each of the quirks.
      • Eventually, I'll make a tree branch of different scenarios for the acting choices.
Record -
      • I don't think there has been a shot yet where I didn't pull out the camera for something.
      • My drawings don't show me poses very well, so I work them out on camera and then caricature them in 3D. I use thumbnails specifically for broad actions.
      • For action shots or tasks that have delicate movement that I just can't seem to remember how to do them in real time, I'll act it out in slow motion and speed it up later.
Edit -
      • I capture the material in Premiere and layout the selected takes, and one by one weed out clips 'til I have single good clip.
      • If there are parts from one clip I like over another I'll edit the two together, but the idea is to get a single reference clip to export so my idea is concrete.
      • For action shots I almost always speed up my reference, at least a bit.
Blocking -
      • I use my reference to pick out all the main storytelling poses and do my best to run through the entire animation without any detail work.
      • I ask myself several question in order to know how to precede.
        • What's the attention on?
        • What's driving what?
        • How much time do I have?
      • I start by blocking out the main character or speaker, but in the case of extreme object dependent shots (ie. Scrat Flipping shots) Objects take precedence over characters.
      • For the flipping or vaulting sequences I did, I found it far easier to work out all the beats animating the driving object first. Not just blocking it, but going straight to splining it.
    • I often find it easier to work out timing ahead of poses. Sometimes I'll have a bouncing ball or square animated and fully splined to determine my timing before heading to my character's poses.
    • The “how much time do a I have” basically tells me how much blocking I can afford to hide before showing a supervisor. If I can get a way with it, I'll hide my blocking work until I have got through the entire animation once, then go back to add 1-3 breakdowns per key frame to demonstrate the movement.
      • Conscious Blocking
        • When I block I'm very conscious of how this will spline. I add my keys for holds that sups won't see but will be notes to me on how long poses hold.
        • ex. I have a pose at 101 and new one at 130. I know I want 101 to hold until 125, so in blocking I'll take the time to put that key down now so I won't forget during splining.
      • OverBlocking
        • Thanks to Hans' Vulture work on IA2, I now “over-block” my shots. I generally make it a rule to have a new pose fully worked out every 3-5 frames during motions.
        • The idea is that there isn't a single un-answered question or confusing part about the motion to be “explored” in splining.
      • Facial Blocking
        • I feel like to sell a shot to a director over blocking the dialogue helps a ton. While talking I usually make a new facial pose every 5 frames and add one inbetween afterwards. I like the toolbox but never just plug and play.
      • Hitting Early
        • I usually like to see how early I can hit a shape before it actually makes the sound when doing dialogue. I love it when a sup says, “I think you may be too early on that shape,” as opposed to, “it's hitting late.”
Splining-Ahhhh, sleepy time. If I did my blocking right I get to turn my movie up and turn off my brain. Specifically, I work 15-30 frames at a time starting from the beginning. I work from the inside of the body out. Hips, Spine, Legs, Head, Arms, Toes/Fingers, and then face.
        • I rarely actually grab tangents and move them around any more. I simply grab keys and hit my short-cut for autotan/autoconv to set up all my moving holds and eases.
Polish-This usually means asking fellow animator's what I could to do to finish up the shot. By this time I've lost my eye for the actual motion so I'll often flip my flipper horizontally to check my motion but I do this sparingly so I don't get used to the flipped image as well. I almost never leave a flipped image looping cause I loose my eye for it quickly.

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