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Animation Step 6: Execute the Animation Part 1

June 5, 2007

Stephen King said about the writing process, for the first draft write with your door shut, and for the second draft write with your door open.  I think the same is true with animation.  Whenever I first tackle a scene I high guard my time so that I will have no interruptions (which seldom happens).  I need to be so focused so that I can ‘enter’ the scene and feel my way through.

No animated shot is simply a matter of inbetweening the key poses that you have worked out.  You still have to mentally and emotionally ‘get in there’ and work the performance out.  After all, you are really performing in slow motion which presents unique challenges.  You are also imagining how your execution of the performance will actually play once complete and moving at the correct speed.

As a beginning animator, you will find that your mind is concerned with a great many things that make the process overwhelming.  You must not only be concerned with performance, you are also concerned with physics. Does the character have weight? How will this movement follow through?  Is this arc high enough? Is the character moving organically or mechanically? Is this how a soldier mounts a horse? Does the sword have weight in this characters hand?

You will also be engaged with the XSI interface and it’s limitations and demands. But, the good news is, over time, many of these basic issues will become second nature and require less thought, and you will begin to be able to see your way clearly to performance.  There is no easy road to this level.  It takes time.  And the more frame mileage you make, the sooner you will arrive at that point.

Back to Stephen King’s comment, your first animation pass will be one that is more subjective than objective, more emotional than logical, and more spiritual than physical.  All of the steps up to this point are designed to prepare you for this first performance.   They should give you the tools to solve the problems and difficulties beforehand.

It’s not unlike being an actor.  Film crews don’t just put their cameras and lights up in a haphazard fashion.  Everything is planned out.  When the actor arrives on set he has been prepared.  The director has discussed the scene with him.  The actors have rehearsed.  The director has blocked out the mis en scene, sometimes to the inch to get camera focus.  Marks are placed on the floor.  The actor has learned how to dance, load a gun, carry a sword, etc.

Everything is done to prepare for the point of performance.  That is the goal.  And that is your goal in preparation.  You want to be free to focus on performance at this first attempt of executing the animation.  You don’t want to be encumbered by technical issues, special performance details, or anything that you can work out beforehand.

Plan well so that take one can be a bold take.

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