Animation Workflow

Ok Peach people (or anyone who has experience animating,) I’ve got a question for you.

When you animate a character in a scene, how do you go about it? Do you simply place them in the scene and start animating, and if so, how do you integrate pre-made actions and the NLA into your workflow? I guess what I’m wondering is how you take something like a walk cycle and integrate it usefully into the scene. If I were to do things myself, I think I would just animate the character without using the NLA at all.

I’ve done a small ammount of 3d and 2d animation. Nothing too big yet, but I know how to make something move realistically, and am working on an animated short over the next year. I’ve thought about the process myself. I haven’t used NLA too much so I don’t see the use of it for walking or body movement. But I think it could be very useful some places where and exact animation needs to be repeated or add to animation. If I was animating the scene, I would decide on my fps, I like 30. Then I would storyboard work out what’s going on. Then I would block out basic poses to the timeline to get a good feel for the movement. Then I would rough out key poses of movement, and keyframe, scrub back and forth and tweak all the details such as ipo curves and adding keyframes where needed. I prefer to animate everything mostly from scratch. I like IK for legs and FK with IK posing for arms, ocassionally IK( needed if his hands are to be planted on something, but less control over the pose, well there is pole vectors now.
After refining everything, I would composite and frame my shots so that they look good, artist from the cameras point of view. I would setup different camera angles of the scene. Not too much camera movement, it’s good to limit your camera movement to static shots, zooms, pans, and dollys. Crane shots can look good but should be used sparingly. Handheld camera movement rarely looks good. Bad camera movement can destroy an otherwise well executed animation. Some nice camera effects are shaking the camera if there’s a explosion or thump, and also moving in while telescoping in, used in vertigo.

Another good thing for executing a good animation is project setup. Keep your project files nice and organized. Name things, and put things in different folders. Keep your characters, objects, vehicles, props, environment objects in seperate files and then setup a scene blend where you use instances of those objects, and setup the scene you’re animating. Then if you later want to go an change something about a model you can open the base file, edit, save, and it will be updated in all other files referencing it. The mancandy DVD has you do this, very useful dvd btw, no matter what you’re animating, shows you how to design awesome rigs, and how to animate almost like a god, to be a god, lots and lots of practice.

Anyways, hope I could offer some useful information, I’m very much like discussing thinking about the animation pipeline, as it really does help make the project be much more succesful.

My workflow has slightly changed since i use Blender (and have changed computer…).
Append-Link method is extremely ease to use. Before i was creating caracters, elements, ground and background separately (with lot of care given to the main light direction) because of very long rendering. The scenes where all mounted in postprod.
As my work is more to be compared to “moving paintings” and puppet theater, it is all less tuff and precise as it could be at Pixar!
Though i have a main canvas, i often change idea during the creation cycle. Therefore my shots are rather short and ready to be place into another context (max 25 seconds and mostly blue box or alpha as background).
Of course, all the elements must be ordered in repertories: flying characters, beings, crawling beings, with or without grounding. The fixed decorations are arranged elsewhere than the moving backdrops, etc.
While cutting, i observe if the images are balanced, or if something must be added to a scene.
I have a big advantage over many animators: my style of images and my subjects allow me to be quite “un-realistic” wich gives more creativ freedom and less headache! :wink:

In general, I’ve noticed that for “main character” type animation, you’d mostly tend to want to manually keyframe new actions for most of their actions. NLA is really just to be used sparingly, in situations when there is likely to be a lot of very repetitive motion.

That’s about what I thought Aligorith. Manually keyframing an animation makes much more sense to me than creating a bunch of separate actions and trying to get them to blend seamlessly later, not to mention trying to avoid a very ‘cyclic’ look and feel. I’ve been wanting to do a short with Mancandy after I got some animation principles under my belt, and this aspect had me worried. Thanks for the input everyone, very interesting to read. Keep it coming. :slight_smile:

There was a good tutorial in 3D world on how they animated the walk cycles in Elephants Dream. You might want to take a look at it during June Michigan Blender User Group meeting. I’ll bring it.

Sounds good. I’ll bring my ROTK dvds and show you that scene with the wispy smoke skeletons I was telling you about.