Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Blocking Stage

I have been animating this week and its like I have instantly found boundless energy. I am excited to get up and start thinking about my ideas. I run over the characters movements in my head and try to picture the scene as much as possible.

I am aiming to get my animation blocking this good!

This is my favorite stage. I am not sure if all animators feel like this but my favorite stage of any animation is the planning. I enjoy the planning even more than having a finished product.

I love delving into the characters psyche. Working out what they are thinking. In fact almost everything I animate is a result of an alternative ‘thinking’ script I have written. I then animate their thoughts instead of their speech.

I also love looking at what their character is like. What quirks they may process. To be honest I go into far too much detail. Obviously in a studio environment you don’t have all the time you want to plan but on my own stuff I have a back-story. I know their allergies, what they are afraid off, that they had a football injury when they were young so now walk with a very slight limp or that they smoke so are use to talking out of the opposite side of their mouth.

Here is a sheet of paper I have been carrying around for 8 years. I made it in my first year of uni to put on my desk and remind me what I was aiming to do. It’s served me well. (The character was a model I built to represent Larry David).

I even love filming reference (as long as no one ever sees it!)

I love trying to reflect what I can see in my mind. Unfortunately for me I struggle to act like I see in my head so thumbnails are normal what I rely on.

Thumbnails are invaluable during my beginning process. I think that your eye is so use to seeing movement that if a pose is wrong you will see it instantly.
Once I have a stupidly detailed back-story, have decided my characters adrenaline moments, power centers and animals likeness (yes I really do love this stage) then I will start blocking. This sounds like it takes a long time but I’m normally so excited to start that I am ready to go after about a day.

One of my favourite animators blocking phases
Then I block. I love blocking. If there was a job where I could plan and block I would be the happiest bunny. I would only block if it didn’t make my cg animation look like the media player wasn’t just jumping.

I block and stay in step mode. Then I put in my hold poses and the keys that aren’t quite key poses but still very important. A new addition to this is doing the face and mouth for these poses as I use to leave these till right at the end of the tweaking stage.
Everything is going fine until right about here.

After I get out of blocking I’m ok through 1st pass. In my current animation the 1st pass is going very well and to be honest it seems to go well as long as I have a reliable rig. I need to be able to select every control to carry on my keying process but this is normally when you discover that although it seems everything is being keyed, its not at all and you spend forever making elaborate selection sets.

But if a rig is good and built for an animator you can carry on having a lot of control of things.

Up until here I’m by the book. I have listened to endless pod casts, interviews and ‘making of’s’ to get to this stage but after the 1st stage I start to lose track of things. This is where you have new ideas that sometimes complicate things.

From watching animators at the same stage in the process as me in their animation growth I think we all suffer with the same problem. We do too much. We get excited that we aren’t newbie animators anymore and know our way around a rig so we start to throw every idea we have ever had into the mix.I have posts all over my screen to prevent this. ‘Less is more!’ ‘Why are they doing that?’ ‘The body’s main focus is to be efficient’.

All of these thoughts are aiming to keep me focused on the planning I’ve done.I am hoping that this new animation I am doing will be a stepping stone into the next stage. I am a strong believer that there are defined stages of becoming an animator but I’ll talk about that another time as this hair brained theory and rant is enough for one day.

So in conclusion, if anyone wants me to plan their animations for them and needs help tweaking ideas….I’M IN!

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