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Animation Step 6: Execute the Animation Part 3

June 15, 2007

Having covered keys and extremes, we now move on to the pose categories lower in the chain. It’s very easy to delegate breakdowns and inbetweens to lesser importance. In 2D, the structure of the animation team tends to support this idea, since there is a specific hierarchy at work. Beginners begin with inbetweening, not keys. Some studios go so far as to divide the animation team by an ocean. Animators and keys often have to ship their work to the East where others, less experienced and far cheaper, will take care of the breakdowns and inbetweens.

Make no mistake, breakdowns and inbetweens are not of lesser importance. Are the violinists in an orchestra any less important than the first and second violin? First and second violin are key, but without a good orchestra behind them, their work will futile. We have to make a distinction between hierarchy and value. They are not the same. Inbetweens are incredibly important.

Breakdowns and inbetweens are different levels of defining and refining the performance.

Look at it this way.

Key’s & Extremes are the corner joists and weight bearing posts in the building of a house. They provide the large context.

Breakdowns define smaller framing elements, such as doors, windows, closets, bathrooms, etc. Breakdowns are often used to define large movements of secondary action and follow-through.

Inbetweens provide the remaining structure every 16 inches in the framing.

Passing Poses are specialized inbetweens. They provide a necessary divergence from the rest of the framing. Some houses have picture windows that are bump-outs from the basic framing, often a curve in shape. This would be an example of the passing pose. The larger intent is a wall, but within that wall there is this slight deviation that is very important. That is a passing pose.

What is the difference between an breakdown and a passing pose?
Passing poses are a product of traditional 2D workflow, and may present some confusion for today’s 3D animator.  In 2D the animation would pass through many hands…animators, rough inbetweeners, key assistants, assistants, breakdowners, and inbetweeners.  Inbetweeners had one task, to draw an inbetween.  There was very little thinking in this process and so, they quickly learned to stay in their box.  Sometimes the inbetweens required were deviants: not fully a breakdown and not merely an inbetween.  The bulk of the pose was inbetween in nature, but there would be a minor part that would be breakdown in nature. So the ‘passing pose’ concept was born, arising out of a need for terminology that all the hands in the process would understand. So, in essence, you can consider a passing pose as an inbetween with special needs.

A Manageable Methodology

To break this down into a simpler methodology, you basically have 3 steps. Keys (which includes extremes), Breakdowns and Inbetweens (which includes passing poses.)

In pose to pose animation it’s best to work down this hierarchy. If you don’t, you will often find yourself undoing a lot of work. When you find yourself having difficulty in a scene, you canwork back down the hierarchy to find the problem, and you will often find the problem in the keys or breakdowns. Seldom will the inbetweens pose major problems.

A Word About Inbetweens

A very common problem in 2D animation is bad-inbetweener syndrome. This is where you find inbetweeners who do not consider timing charts that important. Every inbetween they make is perfectly in the middle of the two poses. I often had inbetweeners who would not even look at my rough inbetweens to gauge how they would draw it. They tossed them aside and mechanically did the drawing.

The result was devastating. Scenes that were beautifully animated in rough form would loose life in the clean-up, primarily because of poor inbetweens. Bad inbetweens kill good keys and breakdowns. And, unfortunately, in 3D we have one of the worst inbetweeners in existence, and that is the 3D calculation. Everything is a perfectly, evenly spaced pose.

To combat bad-inbetween syndrome, animators have had to break down their animation much more methodically so that they forced the inbetweens to be where they wanted.

If you listened to the Burney Mattison interview (from a previous post) you will remember him saying Frank Thomas and Milt Kahl were very demanding of their clean-up team. They had poses all over the place in timing, and very often an inbetween would require different parts of a character to each have a different timing chart. Opposite of those guys was Marc Davis. Marc animated everything in such a way that the inbetweeners only had straight, simple inbetweens to deal with. In 3D, we all have to be like Marc Davis because we do not have the luxury of a Burney Mattison or Iwo to follow us up. We have a mathematical calculation following us.

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