Animation 101: The Animation Workflow

As an animator, you must have an organized workflow. This workflow must be organized and simple. But simple doesn’t always mean fast and easy. Here in this tutorial, we will discuss the reason for a workflow, the proper windows and settings needed to animate in Blender, and then workflow itself.

First let’s talk about the reason for the workflow. I like to think of the workflow as a conveyor belt or an assembly line. The base for the finished product is layered with different toppings and supplements to make up the final product. But why use a workflow? Why not just do the animation in one straight run? It’s because if you do that, the animation will look sloppy. Without the proper organization, you won’t have the time to polish the animation to make it perfect.

Now that we know that the workflow is the reason why animations look as polished as they do, let’s discuss the tools and windows needed to carry out the amazing workflow.

First up is the 3D viewport. The 3D viewport is the only way you can look at you scene in different angles. Isn’t that the point of 3D? This window should show all you bones and controls to animate your character. This is where you animate.

Next is the Camera View. This window should should a render view of the scene from the camera perspective. This window shouldn’t be too big, but you should be able to see things in it. If you are working in Cycles, set this window to be in Rendered view.

Next is the Timeline. This window is a small, long window going across the screen. This window is where you see all the keyframes and what frame they are on. You also see how long or short the animation is.

Next is the Dope Sheet. And no, this window has nothing to zebras. This window is basically a better version of the Timeline. This window is like the timeline, but you can not only see the keyframes, but you can manipulate them and see what they are controlling.

And finally is the F-Curve Editor. This is the most complicated part of the setup. This window shows the arcs and speeds of the motion. Remember in the last episode of Animation 101 where I talked about Ease In and Ease Out? Well, this window is where you can find it. The steeper the curve, the faster ease in and out. The shallower the curve, the slower and smoother the ease in and out.

Now that we have talked about the tools in the setup, let’s talk about the workflow itself.

Step One  – “Blocking” – This is the part where the basic poses are laid out. There is no timing in between the frames, just the frames themselves.

Step Two  – “Timing” – This is where the frames are timed accordingly. The animation is beginning to form.

Step Three  – “Basic Facial Movement” – The basic facial expressions and eye movements are being established here. If the shot    requires dialogue, there should be no lip syncing yet.

Step Four  – “Layering” – This is the part where I like to refine the animation. The movement should look more fluid by the end of it.

Step Five  –  “Lip Syncing”  –  Now it’s time to lip sync. The character is now made to talk. Shape Keys are made to fit the SOUND of the dialogue. The lip syncing isn’t made to fit the sound of letter itself. It was made to fit the sound by itself. Sometimes a “A” could sound like a “U” sound.

Step Six – “Layering Part 2 (also known as Polishing) – Here is the final step. The animation is looked over in fine detail. Every little detail is fixed. This is the most time consuming part of the process. But your patience will be rewarded.

And if you followed to steps and took your time, you will have a finished animation! You don’t have to use this process exactly. This process is a mix of many I’ve learned over the years. You can discover new ways to animate, and it can certainly impact the quality of your animation. I hope you liked this tutorial and until next time.

See you later, animators!

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