Thursday, 5 February 2009

Planning Vs. Straight Ahead

There are three main ways to animate. Planning a scene second by second, motion by motion and drawing it out to plan. Knowing your scene and just plunging in getting wild, funny, big exciting results. Or a combination of the two. I have tried both and I really do like the second way, but the best results are always gained from doing both together. With planned movements you know where your character needs to be for the shot to make sense, then you can fill in the gaps with some over the top actions straight from your imagination. This way the scene makes sense, but it doesn't lose the fun spontaneous element of plunging straight in.

Animators working to a tight deadline often have to just crack on and churn out as much as possible in as little time. These days that means less action, more talking, more still shots and less animation. But you can make cartoons quickly and cheaply with good thorough planning and a bit of effort and imagination.

Here are some examples of straight ahead animation, then some planned shots and then some using both. Let's see which look best.


This scene is animated completely straight forward. The way Uber enters the scene was done frame by frame with no planning and I think it looks hilarious. I really like this bit of animation, its genuinely funny and if applied appropriately this kind of animation really lends itself to overacting. To counter this over the top action...which is then followed by not very much animation I made Pervert Man's lips completely over the top as he spoke. They look like flags blowing in the wind. It all adds up to a very amusing sight...but not particularly professional.


This scene was completely planned. I drew the keyframes and then put the inbetweens and in and added it all together...with a elongated exit frame for panache.

This shot is also completely planned like the above one. It makes up for a fine looking shot because nothing more is required of it. This kind of animation is a necessity, rather than fun.


In this shot I used both methods. I planned the shot, but then I drew it straight forward to get a sense of spontaneity in it. I think with them both working together you get a great looking shot overall with a lot of action and some clever use of traditional animation effects in a limited animation environment.

The argument for the best way to animate was solved years ago...but certain ways are more fun that others. Lip syncing isn't a passion of mine...but it is integral to creating believable animation...whereas making my characters do silly things is something I really enjoy, but something you might not get to do in the industry with the strict stylised looks that dominate modern cartoons.

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