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Exploring 5 Basic Steps of Animation

Common Animation Terms

This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi) العربية (Arabic)

Short and compelling animated videos can easily explain concepts or any message they are trying to convey. In order to create a good animation, it is essential to know the production process behind it. While every animation video project may be different, they all follow these 7 fundamental steps of animation:

  1. Gathering information
  2. Concept and Script
  3. Voiceover Recording
  4. Storyboard
  5. Visual Style
  6. Animation 
  7. Music

In this article we will follow the steps involved in animation, the 6th step in the above mentioned list.

Animation Process

The animation process can be a long and sometimes even tedious thing! For every 1 second you see, 24 drawings are flashing before your eyes, and when you consider that they all need colouring and quality controlling, that’s a lot going on in the blink of an eye!

To make things easier there are tools to help streamline the animation process and to make it more palatable and time-friendly for animators.

Almost all animation processes follow the following 6 steps:

1. Shooting reference video

Pre-planning a shot is an important step that animators tend to forget. Things like camera angles, character position with respect to the camera, storytelling poses, and the character’s thought process becomes a subject of whims and moods. Hence, shooting video reference is one of the most important tools at your disposal to add believability to your shot.

Many times people think they know what certain actions look like and how long they take, but in reality, they are often wrong. Physical action is something you need to analyze before animating, especially if you’re a beginner. 

For example, you have a shot of a guy throwing a ball. Better search for some reference videos of players throwing balls. Don’t assume you know what action looks like just because you’ve seen it before. Looking at action as an animator is completely different than looking at it as a regular viewer.

2. Key posing

Before understanding the process of key posing, let’s first look at two main concepts in this area. These are key poses and in-betweens. To understand the concept, let’s consider the example of a bouncing ball.

Key Poses: These are the key moments that your character must show in the scene. Without these key poses, the actions or story may not be as strong or even lost in translation. Key poses are the most important action in your scene. If done right, it will properly show the audience the character’s emotions and actions of the scene.

steps of animation
Key Poses

In-betweens: In-betweens are what fills in the empty time between the key poses. For a character to get from key pose A to key pose B, there are in-betweens; not as important as key poses, but still affects the timing and spacing of the action.

steps of animation
In Betweens

3. Blocking

Once we’re happy with our key poses, we start breaking down the movement from each pose to the next by adding ‘in betweens’ (also known as breakdown poses or passing poses). These are the poses that connect the key poses. We keep adding more poses until the movement looks as good as it could.

steps of animation

Blocking is a technique used in animation in which key poses are shaped to set up timing and placement of props and characters in a given specified shot. There are many different ways in which blocking can be performed in which Stepped and Spline blocking are the two most important.

Stepped and Spline blocking refers to the way your keyframes are interpolated in an animation. Stepped blocking means that there is no change in values between two keys while in the spline blocking method, the computer automatically adds in-between values between two keyframes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWEdNMnVPrQ

4. Smoothing and Offset

Now that all your keys are on spline mode, you have to work on them. You need to clean up all the curves and make sure the movement looks smooth.

It’s also a good idea to offset some of the actions so it doesn’t look so ‘stop and start’ as if the character is doing all the motion at once. By the end of this step, your shot should look pretty and almost finished.

5. Adding life

This is the last step in the process of animation. You’ve already finished with the work of animating and it’s time to add the fun stuff. In this step, you add small imperfections that bring life to the character. Maybe an extra blink or a mouth twitch here and there. The difference between the last 2 steps is small but very noticeable.

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