19 April, 2011

What Kind of Workflow Do You Use? ~Nelson Brown

That's right kids.... more posting about workflow. If you've been following this blog, you're probably sick of me talking about it. This will be the last one (I promise)... maybe. One thing that's awesome about Nelson's post is how it's broken down. Real simple to follow and there are some great tips in there. Thank you so much for your notes. On that note, huge congrats to Nelson, who just had his one year anniversary at Dreamworks. Way to go man!


What Kind of Workflow Do You Use?

You've probably heard it said that being an animator means being a lifelong student. That couldn't be more true. My workflow is constantly changing. With every shot or task I complete, there's almost always something I end up liking or disliking about the way I went about it. Or, sometimes the technical requirements of a shot will dictate what kind of workflow I'll use. Also, observing the workflow other animators use allows me to pick up new things that I want to try with my next shot or task. The point is, finding a good workflow means trying things out until you find what works for you. I, personally, am still trying things out. However, I'll write down the workflow that I tend to use most often.

Step 1 - Research:
- Talking through the shot with the director or supervisor
- Checking out the storyboards
- Checking out the surrounding shots for continuity
- Researching any available information about character personality
- Gathering model sheets or other character resources

Step 2 - Planning:
- Shooting video reference, trying various takes and editing the best together
- Gathering online video or photo reference
- Studying reference
- Sketching rough thumbnail drawings of major poses to find the best silhouette

Step 3 - Blocking (on the computer):
- Blocking major storytelling/acting/action/key poses, most often in
stepped curves mode, and most often keying the entire character
- Blocking in extremes and changes in direction
- Blocking in important facial expressions
- Blocking in important hand poses
- Pushing poses around in time to find the right rhythm for the shot

Step 4 - Breakdowns:
- Putting in breakdown poses between major key poses, often still in stepped
- Defining rough arcs, overlap and spacing
- Repeating for the face and hands
- At this point I'm usually trying to put every major idea into a pose
- At this point if it's a dialogue shot, I will go through a similar
process on the mouth and face that I went through with the body

Step 5 - Spline
- Hitting that dreaded button to convert to spline curves (or clamped,
or linear, or auto-tangent, whatever you prefer to use)
- Usually making some slight adjustments to overall pose timing
- Shaping and cleaning curves to more accurately define spacing

Step 6 - Polishing
- Focusing on details
- Finessing contact points, often frame by frame
- Offsetting keys as necessary to refine overlap
- Layering in minor secondary action, like breathing or eye darts
- Doing anything required to make the shot as clear and refined as
the deadline will allow

Step 7 - Watching the shot get pried from your fingers and forcibly taken away
- It's rare to feel like a shot is as finished as I'd like it to be
Often deadlines come quicker than we obsessive animators would like

One final thought to keep in mind: this workflow is rarely linear.

Getting notes and changes from a director or supervisor can often mean
going back a step or two to blocking or even planning stages. It’s just
another part of the crazy process!

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