How to Teach Myself Character Animation

I believe in tutorials. I use them often. But here’s another crazy idea for trying to teach myself character animation. Let me know whether or not this is a dumb idea or not.

Step 1: Write the story.
I wrote a full-length movie screenplay about an 18 year old daughter who needs to save the world and her mom from her evil aunt. At this phase, I just concentrated on stuff like screenplay format, story structure, stuff like that. Here’s the link if interested.

Step 2: Pick a small piece of the story and make a personal project of it.
The screenplay has over 90 shots in it if you factor in all the cuts. I feel that I could just pick one shot and do sketches, models, rigs, animation, and so forth for just that bit.

Step 3: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or input.
This isn’t to say I should be doing a call for artists any time soon. But I figure it doesn’t hurt to post often, help others, and ask questions as I progress in my self-education.

Step 4: When done, go back to either step 1 or step 2.

The whole gist is that maybe it’s okay to reach for the stars while at the same time keeping both feet firmly planted. So is this 4 step approach realistic or should I change tactics?

Part of your post reads as a method to produce your screenplay as an animation. It might work. The current model:

Come up with a story concept or a cool model
Jump to creating more models around a half finished story
Call for modelers, riggers, lighting and texture artists, animators to do the work you don’t know how to or don’t want to do
Ignore advice about going back to writing the screenplay, developing concept art, and making a storyboard
End the effort in mutual recriminations about who was most at fault for the failure

doesn’t seem to be working well.

For step 2: pick a small, exciting piece of the story, one that moves the plot forward a lot. (IE: a scene that’s likely to make the final cut.) Make the characters, learn how to rig and animate them, do the lip synch, make the scenery, learn how to light it, and so on.

Meanwhile, keep refining the screenplay: get the Celtx community or the screenwriters community to give you feedback and suggestions for improvement. Writing’s just another art form, good writing is just as involved as good animation. As you develop your characters for the small scene you’re working on, put them into storyboard stills for the other scenes, and start refining the storyboard as well.

By the time you’ve finished with step 2 and have one 30 to 90 second scene animated, you’ll also have a kick-ass story, already storyboarded, with timing and concept art worked out (for the storyboards). If you decide to go for a full blown production at that point, you can call for additional help on the movie with the assurance that other’s work will actually show up in the finished production and not be a waste of time and effort.

And, you’ll have learned a lot about character animation in the process.

Thanks for you input.

Only one thing strikes me as odd though. Are you sure the first shot picked should be “exciting”? My current skill level has me at hopping elbow macaroni and Ludwig lip syncs.

I’ve been doing something similar:

  1. I’ve come up with a really ambitious storyline and ideas for scenes.
  2. I’m looking for quality level similar to that of project orange.
  3. I don’t care about the time it takes.
  4. I work on each stage until perfection.
  5. I never, ever, skip, or rush - direct path to failure.

So far it’s been working very well. I’ve learnt loads. Want to see?

Hope I helped :wink:

Edit: The current skill level you’re at doesn’t make a difference. However, what I learnt is make sure you make backups of your files, and if you think that something isn’t going anywhere, don’t be afraid to completely redo it. You’ll learn loads the next time.

A lot of material in first or second or even third draft screenplays doesn’t ever make it into the finished film. “Exciting” might have been a poor word choice.

In storytelling terms, you’d be looking for the initiating incident, an escalating event or even the climax of the story. Character introduction, character development or time and setting scenes are the most likely to change or be cut, so effort spent there early on is most likely to be wasted.

Also, if you do eventually want to interest others in helping to tell the story, the scene you show them should highlight the story that you want to tell. So many people start these efforts with a great model, or a great setting, but leave the question of, “Ok, so what happens next?” hanging.

To engage people in doing the work, you have to motivate them, and the motivation of finding out (or creating) “what happens next?” is basic to storytelling. If you don’t get your viewers asking that question early and often, your story will flop.

[edit]Oh, and noidtluom’s advice about not being afraid to redo something is excellent advice, as well. You’ll probably find yourself doing a lot of it. [/edit]

I would love to see my screenplay become a full length animated film. I don’t deny it.

Also, if you do eventually want to interest others in helping to tell the story, the scene you show them should highlight the story that you want to tell.
I know of one fight scene between the main protagonist and villian that says a lot about the overall story. I guess that should be the first scene I take on then.

I’ll admit it’s a little scary for two reasons.

1.) I’ve never even done a successful walk cycle let alone a fight.
2.) I don’t want to deceive people into thinking this project is all action. It does have a significant love story element to it.

Well, here goes nothing I guess. Wish me luck.