When creating your storytelling poses for your animation character, the most import elements to remember are Rhythm, Clarity, and Entertainment. Think about: what your characters is doing? What is the story?
Feedback on my thumbnails from a previous lesson with animator Mario Furmanczyk:
(images of my early thumbnails)
boxing in the mirror
confident in himself, then embarrasses himself
keeps a smile on his face to show determination
Line of Action - this gives the character appeal in the pose
explore a variety of poses (think simple) - make it read
watch out for silhouette
act out poses in front of a mirror to yourself, this will allow you to understand the action and how it will behave, and solve body mechanics early on; making the process easier and faster
draw simple (it can be a simple stick man figure, just to get your ideas across)
When thinking about the personality of this cat character, Mario and I discussed the idea of the characteristic for the character as being clumsy, a bit of a fool, but optimistic and determined with what he is doing - we decided he would be an amateur boxer, for simplistic reasons to practice the thumbnail and key storytelling pose process. Every animator, before they even touch their computer, firstly, have to get inside the mindset of their character they are animating. I have always been intrigued about this area of character development for animation; and having this opportunity to observe, take note and advice given by a Disney Animator is really beneficial to me.
When animating a character it is important to take time and analysis you shot; at Disney animators either use thumbnails or video referencing when planning out their shots. Mario's advice on this is that both are very important, and serve in the process of solving problems that you will face later on.
My last task from the previous lesson was to...
refine poses, take the time to think about your drawings
have the character fall on his butt - for comedic effect
tell a story of him going from confident to humiliation
Usually, the time an animator give's themselves for thumbnailing is about 45 mins.
My Thoughts on Thumbnail
Animating a character isn't easy... I used to think that it was and I was wrong; having performed as characters on stage from an early age, portraying characters to me felt like second nature. However, what I've quickly come to realise is that acting as a character and animating a character are not so much the same thing. Frank and Ollie's quote "an animator is an actor with a pencil" is much clearer to me now... I thought I had a better understanding of this phrase before, but now I see I didn't truly understand it at all.
An actor does not worry about line of action, balance or weight shift; the actor's mindset is to focus on staging himself forward so the audience can see him, an actor will usually use broad movements on stage this is so the audience at the back of a theatre can read what is going to happen; and an actor's biggest worry is to remember their lines. An actor only rehearses, an animator creates a performance from nothing... that's why I love animating so much more than acting on a stage.
How to bring life to a character? How to create a personality out of a performance that would be relatable and understandable to the audience? This was what I was curious to know. Feedback on my work in the past, people would always point out how floaty the animation was, that there was no line of action, improper balance or weight to the character, etc. Trail and error, I would try to improve this, but I knew I was missing something... that was proper planning for my shots. Reading books about character animation and watching many tutorials, all would mention the importance of thumbnailing but these were not in-depth discussion or explanation/demonstration of the subject.
Observing Mario's methods for thumbnailing and taking his advice on board, I now understand the steps needed to in order to solve problems quicker and faster so that animating a rig will become easier. I am beginning to see an improvement on the work I draw; I am building confidence with my thumbnails which I did not have before. Also, these lessons have opened my mind to thinking about better ways to planning a character's performance, thinking about: Who is this character? What is their story? What is the character doing? These kinds of questions, I have never thought about... before the only question, I would ever ask myself when creating my thumbnails was: how to animate the character's emotion? My confusion came from thinking that thumbnails were just about the emotions of the character, not the story.
Finding a proper workflow, I know every good animator has one; this is my goal and one I feel I am getting closer to achieving.
I will upload my story poses in my next blog update, which will be soon. I am relaying these notes to members of AnimatedBuzz, solely recorded from lessons once a week given by a Disney Animator; Mario Furmanczyk. He is cool with me sharing his methods and process (which I feel are fantastic); in the hope they will inspire and inform many others in my shoes, seeking to improve and learn the art of animation. I hope you enjoy!