Unleash Your Character's Creativity: Keys to Successfully Planning an Animation

A good idea for an animation can sometimes be difficult to conjure up. Sometimes animators can experience creative blocks that are annoying and challenging to break through. You should think of these kinds of hindrances as opportunities to be innovative! If you endure and strive to push your creativity, you can leap over these hurdles that often seem insurmountable. This article will focus on ways you can plan an animation so your performances to make them ooze again and to make them as entertaining as possible.

Coming up with an Idea

How should you plan an animation when any chance of a good idea seems impossible? It's almost as if all of the creative ones have been taken. This is when it's time to dust off old comic books and sift through your movie collection for new ideas. Many times, a simple break to take your mind away from a challenging task is all you need to refresh your creative thought process. Ultimately, you must let your personality shine throughout your work; and that is how your animation can and will stand out from amongst the crowd! Never hesitate to let your personality drive your art direction. Yet, it also takes stepping out of your comfort zone and taking action. Instead of waiting for motivation to step in and stir up a hidden energy you've been craving to tap into, you often have to initialize a task before you find yourself in the "productivity zone". You can also jot down any ideas that come to mind. Don't treat any idea as a bad idea, and be flexible. Allow one idea to form from another, and experiment with merging your concepts until you have developed the ultimate story point!

Planning out Your Idea

By now, you're probably getting goose bumps and can't wait to get started on your next animation. But don't rush it! After you've managed to create a story, it's probably still in its preliminary stages. Spend time thoroughly refining your idea until it's completely clear. This may not sound too thrilling, especially after finally being struck with the spark of excitement to animate to your heart's content. By investing the time to iron out your plan you can actually save time in the long run since you'll have a detailed guide to keep you focused and committed. As you're planning, you'll have room to take this process a step further with reference and thumbnailing.

Gather Plenty of Reference Material


Reference is not only useful for overcoming challenges like time and spacing or achieving natural poses for believable performances, but you can also use it to gather subtle nuances that can be added to enhance your character's personality. An example of this in action would be adding a slight tilt to your character's head that only should happen when he or she listens to a friend, or perhaps it's a nose-rub that is noticeable when your character is irritated. These nuances, though subtle, can help shine a spotlight on your work because they're natural and relatable, yet not familiar to the point where they would seem cliché and dull. Remember when searching for reference it's a good idea to gather as much material as you can in order to choose the most effective way of portraying your story to an audience. It's common to take the best qualities of the reference you've acquired so that you can development the most entertaining performance possible in the time allotted.  

Thumbnailing Your Ideas


Reference material and thumbnailing go hand-in-hand, because your thumbnails are ultimately another form of reference for your animation. Think of thumbnailing as a form of note-taking, only it's a bit more visual. If your character needs to hit a specific gesture that might be challenging to capture with reference, a series of thumbnails can be sketched to help you choose to pose that would be more ideal. There are some animators that incorporate the thumbnailing process in their animation workflow and there are others that do not. Find the workflow that best suits you so that you can develop a proficient game plan that will guarantee success.

Ready. Set. GO!

Start-Animating After you have a solid plan and are sold on the reference and thumbnails chosen for your character's performance, it's time to start animating! However, before you jump off to animate your character, let's have a look at a few points to consider that'll make it a bit easier to bring your animation idea to life. First, verify that you're using the approved shot camera. Although you should check all angles of a pose in 3D animation, the shot camera's view is most important since that is the camera the audience will view your story through. It's always a good idea to make sure your animation is highly polished from the approved shot camera. After you've verified the shot camera, you should check your frame rate. Animating with the wrong frame rate can throw off the timing of your sequence. This creates a type of discontinuity that interrupts the flow of the entire story. As you can probably imagine, this isn't a good thing. Finally, make sure there's nothing else you need before getting started. Are there any props your character needs to interact with? Is your character's scale correct? Does your character just want to dance? Well, maybe not that last one...but you get the idea. Don't hesitate to ask clarifying questions. It's not too difficult for something vital to get overlooked, especially on larger productions. With these points in mind, you can rest assured that you've got all necessary items and information to get started on your assignment.
To recap on what we've covered in this article, there's a few steps that should never be overlooked.
  • Plan, plan, plan!
  • Acquire reference and make thumbnails when necessary
  • Double-check to make sure you have everything needed before getting started
Remembering these basic points can help you to develop a very proficient animation workflow; one that will, ultimately, let your work stand out from others as you create performances audiences will find highly entertaining. If you're ready to dive in and start practicing some animation techniques right away, you can learn how to create the animation in the playblast above by following along with the Animation Blocking Techniques in Maya and Animation Polishing Techniques in Maya tutorials to create the animation in the playblast above.