3DA - When one animator get his shot the camera, timing,...used to be set so, which are the more common problems an animator have to deal with?
Alan - Often times I think inexperienced animators jump too quickly into the computer. Computers are a dangerous medium. You can "feel" like you're animating when you really aren't. What I mean to say is, it's easy enough to make something move around, but what about your acting in the scene? ?Who is this character, and where is he in the emotional arc of the film? Are you handling this shot in the most entertaining way possible? You know, there's a whole slew of questions that you need to ask yourself before you begin a scene. I think keeping yourself very disciplined as an actor and an artist is the most important thing to keep in mind. Anything decent I've figured out in a scene has come from doing a lot of homework up front. Nothing is going to come for free, especially on the computer.
Of course all this is far too true. I see a lot of animation, much of it sent to me by younger animators and even folks who are making a living from animation. So often I can see the evidences of this "Illusion of Progress" (to borrow and pervert a book title) in the work I'm shown.
To the best of my knowledge the computer is the first animation medium that allows animators to see things moving without any real work. You can literally see something move within a minute of opening and working on a scene on the computer. By contrast in hand drawn the animator has no timeline and no realtime rendered puppets. They must plan their scenes before they do anything. I mean really, really plan. Think of the timings, the poses, the actions, the acting- all of it must be planned. That's because every single key frame must be physically drawn to define the performance. You can't draw something of any use without a plan. It's not until after a bunch of planning and then a bunch of drawing (which forces thinking) that a traditional animator can go shoot the drawings and time them in a pencil shooter to even begin to see the characters in pose and in time. The magic of seeing their decisions play out in glorious movement in front of a 2d animator is delayed by hours, often days! And even then there's no 'tweens, just held drawings- no cheap and easy spline interps. All this manual effort and delayed gratification absolutely forces thinking and planning. And that's a good thing- probably the best thing.
However with a computer it's as easy as grabbing and moving a control, setting a few keys and hitting "play". If you have a fast graphics card, a light rig and are a big fan of autokey you can slop in a lot of movement and see it played back within minutes. Speed! But at what cost? Not much thought is required to do that. We're impatient. I know I was in the beginning. But I am thankful that I learned Cg animation on slow computers lo these many years past. It forced me to have the discipline necessary to think my scene through. And even then I didn't think enough. So yes, we CG animators are an impatient lot. As a result, we tend to get a bit lazy. We see results that don't have much thought behind them and we're mesmerized by the movement. Loooooook. It moves! Cool! Here let me fix this little thing. Play again. Oooh! It looks so pretty when it moves. Here, lemme tweak this bit here. Play. Ooooo! Repeat ad infinitum. Next thing you know it's 3 days later and we've laid in a ton of work on top of a horribly weak foundation. We get sucked down a rabbit hole, tweaking poorly planned motion on un-thinking acting choices. We polish tin. This is the horrible thing about tin- no matter how much you polish it, you can polish it so you can see your reflection- it's still cheap, thin, tin. But gold is found by digging deep, and the digging is in planning your scene.
First spend time thinking about your character's motivations, their story, their drive, their negotiation. Then think how that looks for the key frames (a tragic language casualty in the computer age, but that's a post for another day). Then think how to get into those key storytelling moments. Break it down. Think it through. Sketch. Find the poses, try alternates, push them, try variations. All with a pencil. I don't care if you think you "can't draw". Do it anyway. It'll force you to think, and that's the goal. With time you'll get better, so just stop hemming and hawing and just pick up a stupid pencil already. (I swear if i read one more thread in some forum on whether it's important for a computer animator to know how to draw I'm gonna go to the corner store buy a gallon of bleach and drink it). Then think of the breakdowns- yes, try and plan/sketch the breakdowns. Think, dig, search, plan, explore, decide, analyze, deconstruct, express, execute. In that order. Perhaps some of the best advice I've heard from an old time traditional animator (and I forget who said it) is this: Spend half your time planning, the other half you time doing. The first reaction to that is "Half?! I can't afford half. How about ten minutes?" I'll be honest, for many of us we don't even take that ten minutes and it shows in the work.
I dunno. The longer I have been animating the more I see that planning is doing. The best technique, the finest polish, the tightest arcs and sweetest technicals in motion are all for nothing if you spend your time pouring all that energy into acting and performance that hasn't been thoroughly searched, pushed, explored, explained and planned.
Anyhow, something to chew on.