Learning – Ten Things to Think About – #1 Listen

10 Things to Think About – from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school ianimate.net.  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

If you animate without a plan, you will waste bucket loads of time.
Think and Plan Your Shot Out:
  • Create and/or find reference, act the scene out
  • Take notes on what you see from these experiences
  • Draw gestures and make thumbnails for the most important storytelling poses
  • Use at least 3 words to describe the arcs going on in the scene – try to make them verbs, or action words
  • Share your ideas with others
It’s best to analyze for at least a day if you can… to figure out what the character’s desire is and what the obstacle to that desire might be.  Deadlines, may be looming, but the time you spend planning will create a more clear path for you once you pick up the mouse.
Simplicity is the key to creating a clear idea.  Until every idea is out of your system, overused and cliche poses will continue to arise as you animate.  Do not clutter storytelling poses with too many ideas.  Your first idea is usually too obvious and not as interesting as your 50th.  Try to see the entire shot in your head. before you ever pick up the mouse.
Improv actors play games b4 they go on stage to warm up.  This helps them work out all the trite and overused ideas.  Drawings also help you think about your ideas more deeply.  I encourage you to draw.  Take the most important idea in the scene and work out from there.
Questions to ask yourself…
  • Is the most interesting and clearest possible way?
  • Does the idea fit this character’s personality?
  • Am I exploring the possibilities of the scene?
  • Is my ego too involved?
  • What is being said between the lines of dialog – is there subtext?
  • What significance does the scene have to previous and later shots?
  • What is the purpose of this scene in the movie?

1. Listen:
  • Listen to what your lead, sup and/or director tells you closely.  I have sat next to many newbie animators on a show and heard what they were told for art direction, only to come to dailies the next day and see that they didn;t heard a word they were being told.  Your supervisors know what is expected fo the scene so LISTEN.
  • Listen to the dialog and observe the pauses and accented points that you might not catch when you are actually listening to what is being said.
  • Loop the dialog and listen to it over and over. Stories unfold themselves if we really listen. Detach yourself from the shiny parts and let the story tell you what is essential.
  • Stream of consciousness notes: write down trigger words as you listen to the dialog with your eyes closed.
  • If you have an improv class nearby you can take, I highly encourage you to do so.  95% of improv is listening.  You have to listen to what the other person is saying to plus or heighten the scene beyond what it is.