Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Why Animators Need Thumbnail Sketches

The secret of good animation is in the planning, and good animators always plan their work.

The single most important skill that animators learn at Animation Apprentice is how to develop a reliable workflow for animation, so that our students can tackle any animation task with confidence.

One of the key tools our students learn is how to thumbnail their work. Thumbnail sketches are quick, expressive, simple drawings that are used to plan the action and tell the story of the shot in a few simple clear poses.

Why Thumbnail?
"Mrs Copperbottom" thumbnails from "Robots"
Because planning is important. You wouldn't start building a house without architectural plans, and you shouldn't start animation until you figure out the structure of the scene. Thumbnails are a great way to help plan the shot. You don't need to draw well - if you can draw an emoji, you can do a thumbnail sketch.

Good planning is key
The secret of good animation is in the planning. If you get your thumbnail sketches right, and plan the shot thoroughly, you'll generally find that the animation itself goes smoothly.

Victor Navone
Experienced animators draw simple but clear thumbnails to plan out their work. One animator who has kept most of his thumbnail sketches is Pixar's Victor Navone; you can see his thumbnail gallery here.

Thumbnail Gallery
Victor Navone's thumbnail gallery is a useful resource because you can see how much planning he has put into his shots. Each one is carefully thought through long before he starts making poses in Maya. It's a great way to work - takes a little extra time up front, before you get started, but it will save you time later on as you wrestle with your key poses in Maya.

Rodney and Fender thumbnails from Robots
The "Stranger Test"
Ask yourself, if you showed the thumbnail sketches to a complete stranger, who knew little about animation - would he or she understand what was going on, without having the action explained?

Thumbnail sketches should be so clear that they require no explanation. Make sure you know what the timing of the thumbnails are - how long do you plan on holding each pose? A rough rule of thumb is one pose per second.

"Boog" thumbnails from "Open Season"
Thumbnail Resources

Planning animation

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

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