Have you ever heard of an animator finish a project without planning a single thing? If you have, do let us know the trick. If not, that is because it has never been done.
When we hit upon a new idea, we are tempted to start right away. But sooner or later we are lost without a clue as to where the project is headed. Successful animators follow some simple rules to ensure that they can achieve their aim in an organised manner within a certain time. We bring you five thumb rules that will help you plan your project & stay on track.
#1. Create a workflow & a project plan
So you have a brilliant idea. And you can’t wait to get started. Wait. Breathe. Sit down. Think for a minute. Plan. Yes, plan. This is the basis for all your success. You should have a clear idea of what work you need to do for your animation and in what stages. It is great to wait for that Eureka moment. But setting yourself a proper workflow will make sure that you don’t spend your entire life working on one project alone.
Determine the order in which you will complete each stage of your project & your methodology. Stick to that plan. Set a timeline, especially if you are working for someone else on a deadline. Decide how much time you will need to complete each part, and then break down how you’ll allot that time over the total number of available days.
#2. Know your story
We remember Frozen as the story of two sisters, Finding Nemo as the story of a father looking for his missing son, and Inside Out as the story of the voices inside our head. Can you see the pattern? What is your story about in just one line?
Many animators, especially beginners, fall into the trap of impatience. They start animating as soon as get an idea; without any real story. It is alright to draw sketches or doodles before you forget. But these are only rough sketches. The final frames will be made once you clearly write out the story. It is very important to get everything on paper; starting from the actual story to the required research & notes. Minor changes to the script will be made along the way but it is important to write out a proper narrative.
#3. Know your characters
Shrek, Simba & Mufasa, Pikachu, Tom & Jerry, are iconic characters. This is because of the effort put in by the animators to make them believable & lovable. Animators often begin with just one quick sketch of their characters and move on. Avoid this mistake. It is important to sketch your characters from numerous angles, in different situations, and in various emotions. Create full character sheets. We know what our characters look like in our heads. But it is only when we bring them to paper is when we can polish them to become memorable characters.
#4. Plan your scenes
It is easy to imagine one scene at a time. But a movie is a coherent combination of all these scenes. Animators often fail to stitch different scenes together to make a complete animated movie. This is because they hadn’t marked where one scene ends and another one begins. It becomes important to identify the requirements of each scene and bring them all together into a coherent story. This is connected to #2 above of writing down your story. If you have completed #2 properly, without any shortcuts, you will have less trouble when planning your scenes.
#5. Map out your timing
Your animation film can be as short as 5 seconds to as long as 2 hours. But for the audience it should be a timeless experience. Proper timing is essential to animation. Everything does not move at the same speed. Planning is required to determine whether your characters will walk or run, and for how long will that stay on screen. You will also have to decide whether a certain action will play in slow motion or in fast forward. This will also impact the speed of the overall movie. The final timing of your movie will be crucial while creating dope sheets that will map out the frames you’ll need to animate. Take your time to complete #3 & #4 above, and deciding the final runtime of your movie will become a cakewalk.
End of the day, it is all about telling a story that everyone remembers & wants to watch over and over again. Don’t believe us? Hear it from Mike Morris, the storyboard artist for The Simpsons. Enjoy.