Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How to Block out and Plan Creature Animation


This short video ten minute explains how to block out and plan an animal or creature animation shot.  What do animators mean by "blocking"? We mean the process of establishing the main key poses in a shot, using stepped curves (i.e., single poses without any smooth transitions), so that we can test whether or not the shot will work. Having a good, organised workflow is an essential part of the animator's toolkit. Long before you start making key poses in Maya, you want to plan the shot out in your head, on video, with thumbnail sketches and/or storyboards.

On a high-end feature film, such as a Disney or Pixar movie, an animator might get a day or two to block out their work before showing it to the director. For a TV animator, with much tighter deadlines, you might be expected to block out a shot in an hour or so.

Once you have done your blocking, you show this to the director and, after the director gives notes, the animator adds breakdown poses (the Tween Machine is a great free plug-in for Maya that helps with this) and adds detail.

The director is then shown this version, sometimes called "blocking plus", and gives further notes. By now the shot is taking shape and the direction is clear.

The next stage is to move to spline your curves in the Graph Editor, and add the in-betweens. At this stage it's a question of tidying the curves and adding detail like overlapping action, eye darts, and any other small bits of business.

The basic process is

  1. Look at the storyboards, watch the reel/animatic, and think about the shot
  2. Film yourself, or someone else, acting it out, or find reference online.
  3. Draw thumbnail sketches to plan out the shot.
  4. Turn your thumbnail sketches into key poses in Maya
  5. Show your blocking pass, and get feedback for your peers, and/or the director
  6. Blocking Plus - feedback
  7. Spline and refine - approval

---Alex

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