Chapter 3: Animation For Dummies
Just as the strip of film or videotape records 24 individual images per second, so can each story or action be broken down into sections, which we can call sequences, scenes, shots, actions, bits of action, or poses. When you are planning your movie, you will gradually break it down into smaller and smaller bits. You can do all of these things by acting it all out with a stopwatch; doing it over and over again until you are sure that it has just the timing you want. When you get it right you must write down the timings into finer and finer bits. This usually is done on forms called exposure or "dope" sheets, with lines representing each phase.
You can then create the images of the key positions of the character or object you are animating. The key positions, or "poses" are the main "way-stations" along the line of action, from the beginning to the end, of the scene you are animating. The phase numbers assigned to these key poses are attached to specific film or tape frames, and establish the basic "acting" and timing of the scene. To connect those poses, "in-between" images must be filled in, so that there will be a phase or position on each and every filmframe. This may seem simple, but improper inbetweens can completely destroy the best animation. Invisible arcs connect one pose with another. The inbetween images must follow those arcs. But that is just one aspect of proper inbetweens. The spacing of the inbetweens is where either "living" or mechanistic movement is achieved. It must be the animator who indicates the spacing, with little pips marked along the arcs. Wider or closer spacing will make the action faster or slower, because the projection speed is constant. The deftly spaced phases of action become a counterpoint, a shifting obbligato to the rock-steady ostinatto of the projection speed. Therein is the illusion of life!
There is another way to animate - actually the original way in the development of cinema animation, and that is "straight-ahead" animation - just making one drawing at a time, without predertmined poses along the way. An individual animator, making a movie alone, may get away with this, (an indeed it cam be more fun), but it is not practical in a studio situation, involving assistant animators and inbetweeners. Straighy-ahead animation requires a lot of advance thought to be sure you know where you're going! It is useful in purely fanciful animation, with changing shapes and bizarre graphics. Which method would be the best for you will require experimentation and experience, and will vary according to the requirements of the project at hand.
How to animate? How to build a house?
Every job can be broken down into steps.
Have a plan. Think ahead. Make sure every action is in accordance with the plan.
When you animate a scene in a story film, know what comes before your scene, and what comes after it. Make sure your action fits into the continuity. Know the character. How he, she, or it is supposed to think, move, act. Find the action idiosyncracies; how would the character walk? Are there some special gestures, body attitudes, quirks, disabilities, facial expressions you can build on? The recorded voice — (if there is dialog) — is a strong impetus to an animation key. Make sure every move is in character.