‘Animation’ the word itself bespeaks loud that it has life in it. It is all about putting life into characters and models and making them look real and life-like. The story goes, to a couple of years back when becoming an animator was like a dream come true. But going down twenty years, the dream was practically impossible, for many to achieve. Then becoming an animator meant going to college, studying an illustrative graduation degree or probably if you are lucky enough you might get yourself an apprenticeship from a professional animator. It was earlier a mere diploma degree. But these days the path to becoming an animator is easier as many of the colleges are offering a certified degree course in animation.
Disney Dreams are no longer intangible. With the advent of Pixar, Toy Story 3D, aspirations soared high in dreamy eyes and the animation industry got changed forever. Consequently, the demand for animators, both traditional and 3D including visual effects got increased with the success of each 3D movie. However during the economic recession that had hit worldwide, the booming industry saw a setback. Yet the spirits of the true animators could not be canned down and they fought their way out. Adversaries should never be allowed to dominate your spirit. Your goal is to put life into every non-living character and bring them closer to the human heart and life. The challenge is to make them appear so real that people are able to relate to them and yearn to see them even after the movie gets over. They become such real super heroes, that the fans go crazy about them. Films like Madagascar, Ice Age and Despicable Me got made into several sequels because there was a great furor amongst the public for the animated characters.
You might have dreamt to become an animator all your life, but have always discouraged yourself, only because you are not very skilful when it comes to drawing. You might have heard that the very foundation to animation is drawing. He who is good at sketching or drawing sees his future as a good animator. Then let me tell you, that drawing is a crucial part of animation, but not the only thing about animation. Do not feel intimidated if you turn out to be bad in drawing? Not all are naturally gifted. But it is through practise that one can acquire expertise in his skills. Drawing is like a muscle that requires to be flexed everyday, making your will and skill stronger with every passing day.It takes a lot to become an animator. Every shot is like a new challenge even to an experienced animator. Being able to produce a good quality animation, is not an easy task. Learning of animation does not end with the animation school course. It is just the beginning. Animation of every new character is a new chapter that requires thorough learning. One has to be meticulous and observant in his work. It is like your baby to whom you put in life and allow it to breathe.
There are three mistakes that amateur animators do, and if you spot them in videos from YouTube, then you know the animator is a beginner, so don’t be so hard on them. But be warned, people who make mistakes don’t know they are doing them, and nobody is telling them, so, how would you know if you are doing things correctly?
Only Action with no Anticipation or Aftermath
Taking the example of the amateurish animators posting videos on YouTube, have you noticed the problem has to do with the unnatural movement of the characters? That happens because there is no anticipation or aftermath
For example, a martial artist throwing a punch while training. You can think of three key poses: clenched fists in guard position, then the “punching arm” extended, then back to the original position. That’s what the amateur has in mind. A veteran imagines the guard position, then the elbow going back to prepare the punch (anticipation), then the arm extended (action), then the arm going back with the elbow up (aftermath), and finally the character returns to the guard position, breathing slowly. Do you see the natural flow happening all around?
Approach every action by thinking of its anticipation and aftermath. How do you prepare for that action and what do you do after it?
Let’s face it, when you see the timeline full of keyframes you feel proud of yourself, because right in front of you is all the hard work with millions of keyframes. Well, guess what? A timeline cluttered with a lot of keyframes can harm your animation.
The problem is not the cluttered timeline itself, think about it, if you need to make adjustments, you are going to go through hell and back, making little adjustments to every keyframe. A bigger problem would be that cluttered timelines usually lead to unnatural movement: Jerky knees, trembling elbows or weird vibrations of the head, to name a few.
The unnatural movement is generated when you make an adjustment to the movement of the character by adding keyframes to change the rhythm. For example, if you have a character picking up a box, maybe you need the character to take a little longer to extend the arm, then move a little faster to pick up the box. You can either use more keyframes (easy, but risky), or adjust the interpolation curves (harder but safer and more natural).
Interpolation curves are the answer to the natural flow of movement. The best timelines are the ones that have fewer keyframes and a lot of movement of the character. It takes time but it pays off, especially when you go back to make adjustments. For example, instead of trying to alter 5 keyframes, you only have to change one pose (one keyframe) and you are done.
Have this in mind at all times: A good curve can defeat an army of keyframes.
Impulsive Animation, No References
Amateurs are the best practitioners of impulsive animation. “Yeah! Finally, after all the preparation I can just go for it and bring my character to life!” Sounds familiar? I know how tempting it is to just go head and start animating, but the best way to approach it, is by having references.
What references do professional animators use when working on big projects? Short answer: Anything that moves. It can be a leaf floating in the air, a facial expression, a walk style, anything, even tiny details.
If you check any behind the scenes of any animation you will see that animators often do field work, like getting a camera to record nature, people walking or just record themselves doing silly actions.
The trick is that if you are willing to do it, references are the secret ingredient to get the perfect number of frames needed for the anticipation, the action and aftermath.
Try it out, if you have an action in mind, record a reference first, and try to imitate it with your animation. Do you want a tip? Search on YouTube for “Animation References for <action>” and you will get what you need. Trust me, it will be worth it.
An interesting way to spread education, to explain some key concept or to make abstract theories easy is to explain through a video. One of the most popular ways to do it is to make animated videos. These videos are not only fun to watch but are more engrossing than a book or paper would be. Besides, they can encapsulate a lot within a few minutes. For this reason, the top video sites are full of such creative content which is not just amazing for its audio-visual quality but also tends to make the most difficult things appear extremely simple.
But it is not easy to create such a video which needs to be short and crisp without keeping vital information out. This is really difficult to achieve as most people find it nearly impossible to keep it short without leaving out information. So, corporate houses as well as academic institutes are hiring services from an explainer video company. The task of such a company is to create videos which are both appealing to watch and easy to comprehend. At the same time, such a company makes sure that it is not making it too lengthy. Lengthy files are often bypassed by surfers who prefer short videos to save time and energy. Patience is wanting in most people these days.
In this age of technology, an explainer video has become a tool which is being used successfully by businesses to put across their ideas, plans and strategies. It is also used by marketing experts to market their products. Advertising in this format has proved to be more fruitful since the product gets more eyeballs. It is to be noted that a video is catchier than a written content. A lot of people will not care to read through a five hundred-word article but will not mind watching a five-minute video.
Besides, if the video is made in a funky way, it can get surprisingly high number of hits. So, how can this be achieved? Just because you are making animated videos does not mean that you will succeed in pulling in the crowd. It is to be remembered that there are plethoric numbers of businesses making videos day in and day out. Most of the high-end businesses put resources into use and hire professionals for getting the job done. There are technical matters to be considered as well.
Even if a video made by a non-professional is engaging and creative, it may suffer from some technical inadequacies. Such an inadequacy can prevent search engines to show the link in the search bar. Just like a written content has to target keywords, likewise a video needs to involve some technical requirements and desist from prohibited strategies.
For this reason, it becomes imperative to opt for professional services by an explainer video company. They are wise in more ways than one. They recruit creative-minded people who can sit over your project for hours and come up with the most striking and even thought-provoking videos. Plus, their technical inputs will help you to build a larger audience base and hopefully make your video go viral.
One of the most important things ever in any project is the ability to save time. Perfectionists need to save time, so they can improve their work. Directors need to have the project ahead of time to review the work again and again and handle any changes before the deadline. Big studios need to be ahead of schedule.
So, here comes the bummer. Who is the one with the responsibility to deliver an animation on time? Well. Bad news. You. Yes, you, the Animator. The fate of humanity rests on your shoulders, think of yourself of a Hero on a journey that needs a couple of tips to make the adventure more enjoyable and short.
I. HAVE A HIGH APM (Actions Per Minute)
To be faster at anything, you need to have a way to measure Actions Per Minute. There are two ways to copy and paste anything in the virtual world. Navigating to the EDIT Menu, and select COPY, then move your mouse again all the way to the EDIT menu, and then click on PASTE. Or! You can press and hold the CTRL key on your keyboard (CMD on Mac), and rapidly press “C” then “V”. Right? Using your keyboard can get a higher APM than navigating through menus.
Use Shortcuts! I’ve seen some professionals navigate through menus to get things done, it’s embarrassing. Believe it or not, just by using shortcuts, I’m 20% faster than other animators. So what? Well, when I do freelance projects, clients hire me because they know I deliver ahead of time, because, even though we do the same things sharing the same process, I do it faster (using shortcuts).
Customize Shortcuts. Some software like After Effects doesn’t allow you to customize your shortcuts, but if you can, DO IT! The best Keyboard Profile is the one that handles your most used shortcuts near your right hand. The less your right hand has to move from left to right on the keyboard, the better. That’s why you should try to have all the major functions close in your keyboard “mapping”. Examples could be: CTRL+F, CTRL+G, CTRL+TAB, CTRL+SHIFT+W, SHIFT+3, ALT+SHIFT+3, etc. They are all close together.
Consider using a Gaming Keyboard, Gaming Mouse or Gaming Keypad. The one I recommend the most is the Gaming Keypad (like Razer Orbweaver or Logitech G13) because when the software doesn’t support shortcut customization, you can customize your Keypad to have all the major functions next to each other, and better yet, instead of pressing 3 keys (like CTRL+SHFT+P), you only press one single key on your keypad.
Automate using Macros. You can do this if you have a Gaming Mouse, Gaming Keyboard or Gaming Keypad. A macro is a sequence of key presses that can be automated into a single press of a dedicated key on your keypad. For example. In after effects
II. OPTIMIZE YOUR ANIMATION PROCESS
Optimizing means to make the best use of the resources at your disposal for your project. So the best way to approach your animation process is by handling the 2 most important things in any project. Your Pipeline and your starting Keyframes
Optimized Pipeline. The folder structure of all your files is vital to handling the project with ease. Have folders separately for your sounds, music, pictures, video references, characters and project files (toon boom, after effects, etc.). In our studio, if we do a bit of motion graphics, we have them in a folder named AFTER EFFECTS, and the main project in a folder named TOON BOOM, then the edited animation on PREMIERE. So if any changes have to be made, we know what folder to look, and if we need an audio file, we know exactly where to find it. Every Animation school is teaching the importance of this, and is not just because it looks cleaner and more beautiful, but because it works.
Set Up Key Poses first, handle details later. Yes, yes, you want to impress your boss or your friends, with how expressive your characters can be. It’s better if you block (pose your character) the important keyframes first, the starting position, the middle of the action and the aftermath. And then add additional animation later on.
III. USE A GOOD RIG (Avoid unreliable ones)
Using a good quality rig is essential, having to modify keyframes and poses only means that the rig is not good and is making you waste time. A good rig allows you to be free and more creative, because you can make your character change it’s posing with ease, so your animation process is more dynamic. If you are unable to come up with a good rig, then outsource (have someone else do it for you) or use the rig only to get the key poses, then, forget about the rig and handle additional animation (like hands, tail, hair) manually.
One quick way to know if the Rig is good, is by understanding Inverse Kinematics, and having them in your rig. If you don’t know what inverse kinematics means,
IV. RECYCLE WHAT YOU CAN
Recycle Keyframes. Don’t waste time blocking the character again, when the pose is very similar to one previously blocked, you can copy and paste keyframes and tweak them. For example, if you have a fighter giving a low punch, and you later need a high punch, copy and paste the pose, and then modify it. You will have the correct hip rotation, foot position, and will only need to modify the height position of the fist and maybe the torso. That’s faster than having to block everything.
Recycle Animations. I’m referring to a sequence of keyframes here. The most common example is eye blinking. Instead of manually opening and closing the eyes in the timeline, you copy and paste keyframes across it. Another example would be a walk cycle: if you need to have the character walking and doing something with the hands, like giving orders to other characters, you can recycle the animation, but delete the keyframes for the torso, hands and head, and animate them. This way, half of the work is already done.
Use Older Animations as Reference. Sometimes the timing is perfect and the animation curves (for the interpolation) give you the smoothness you were looking for, but now, you are working on another project and are having problems, you just can’t figure out what you did. This is when a previous animation can help as a reference. All you do is check the number of frames between keyframes, to get the timing right, and check the animation curves.
Instead of wasting time trying to achieve the same result, you can save time by getting the correct calculations checking a previous project. Like the timing and interpolation for the keyframes of the legs in an Angry Walk Cycle, in which every step was so energetic that made kids burst into laughter.
Businesses nowadays use animated videos to grab customers. Gradually but surely, animation has surfaced as a crucial marketing tool. However, the task of bringing sketched characters to life is one that requires hard work and of course, skilled hands. This is the reason why people seeking for 3D character animation services need to be careful and choosy while selecting animation studio. However, with so many studios claiming to be the best in the market, it is not easy to pick one. So, how are you going to find one? Here are few tips that will help you to get the right one.
#1 Ask for the Work
It is easy to get lured by the show that studios put up on their website. Hence, you should not take that as a complete, relying factor. Ask the prospective studio to show some of their work. You can watch a few animated videos, if they have made any, or you can also ask them to show few characters that have been animated by them. By looking at the work, you will be able to at least make out whether the concerned company will be able to comprehend your needs and can work accordingly or not. Do check on quality of the work too.
#2 Check Testimonials
Testimonials are good ways of cross-checking genuineness of any company’s work. You can check out LinkedIn profile of the company. Check its reviews, ratings and recommendations along with testimonials on its website. Reviews and ratings will help you to get credibility of your prospective studio. Verifying testimonials will help you to decide whether to go for it or not. Any good company wouldn’t be hesitating to provide you information about the studio.
#3 Get to Know the Process
3D character animation is not a child’s play. It takes skilled hands and extensive knowledge, not to mention mastery of the complex process. A good animation studio won’t mind the pain of explanation they need to give to their prospective clients. The problem is that most prospective clients do not bother to go into the process, which is a blunder. 3D character animation process involves several techniques namely character modeling, rigging, texturing, etc. You don’t have to cram yourself with all knowledge of 3D character development. But if the company is able to explain the basics, at least you can be assured that they know their thing.
#4 Check Your Wallet
At last but not the least, do not forget to settle down with the money. After all, you will be the one paying so you have every right to get all information you can about the company’s development price tags. The notion is that 3D character animation often comes at a huge cost. But, do not take anyone’s word until you find it out yourself. Comparing the tariffs would be a good way to find a good deal. However, do not go for any company simply because it is cheap. If you get quality work at a bit higher cost, then the price is worth it.
The complete process of animating cartoon characters for a feature film, or just a quick 2D animation for YouTube is a process that, depending on the project, needs a lot of time and effort. A 5 min animation can take from 1 day to 2 months. Really? How do I know if my project is going to be 1 day long or 2 months long? Well, you have to answer, how good do you want your cartoon animation to look? Simple = 1 day, Amazing = 2 months.
Either one needs to go through the complete process.
It all starts with an idea. An idea turned into a script that can later be transformed into cartoon characters affecting each other in a 2D animation story. That idea is visualized in the head of the producer or director (usually the same person in NO BUDGET projects) who then decides what style is the project going to have.
The style can be cut out characters like Cartoon Network, more Classical like Disney, or maybe you want Anime style. Then you have to design the main characters and decide what best suits your project. How are your cartoon characters going to look like? How do they look from behind? Front? Above? below? How do they look in different poses?
After that, according to the budget and the style, the producer decides the software where all the animation is going to take place. If the style needs a cut out feeling, with lots of 3D and traveling cameras, maybe After Effects or Flash will be the choice, or if the series are more classical, or anime, in which cut out is not what is wanted, but a more organic look, like anime or Disney, then Toon Boom or Anime Studio can be the choice.
Then you bring in the voice actors to record all the dialogs, and, basically produce your story for a radio show, in which you listen to steps and sound effects. This will give the animators the correct timing to perform actions with their cartoon characters in an organic way.
After all the necessary decisions are made, then it’s time to visualize the cartoon animation story into a series of drawings. Storyboard. In there the animator and director put their knowledge of cinematography in practice, they decide the shots and from where the cartoon characters are best depicted for what moment of the story.
Then after the storyboard is complete, then you make an animatic of the storyboard, in which you put together the storyboard and the audio together with correct timings and then, you take important decisions like, maybe change a few lines, or see the character from another angle and so on, remember, the most important thing about your 2D animation story is to make people feel something. So these decisions are KEY.
After that important milestone you begin preparations. In a big studio, one team handles the cartoon character rigging and the other draws the different backgrounds and sets for the story. But in a very low-budget project, it’s usually the same person who does the character rigging and sets.
Finally, after all of that, which is almost 70% of the work, comes the fun part. The animation. In which you bring the story to life, you make your cartoon characters be affected by each other, they get mad, they cry, they laugh, they fall in love, whatever your story is about, this is where you breathe life into it.
In this step, all the hard work pays back. And, of course, when the project is low-budget (less than $10,000 bucks) or even NO BUDGET, the writer, producer, director, storyboard artist, character designer, background artist and animator, is a team that consists of 3 people, or sometimes it’s the same person, one author. But even then, when your cartoon animation has your heart in it, the hard work is worth it.
Even though it may seem like there are more and more CG animation movies every year, there seems to be a dwindling number of 2d animated movies, adverts or short films out there. Even the Disney Studio, where it all started, has said they won’t be producing drawn animation for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully it is still going strong in Japan among the Anime community, and a growing number of independent filmmakers and artists are rediscovering traditional animation techniques as a wonderfully expressive and fantastically accessible medium.
Add to this the fact that the digital revolution has meant that you no longer need expensive, heavy equipment, and anyone can now produce animation from their bedroom using just a tablet or laptop, and upload it to the web in seconds.
However, before you rush out and grab the first piece of animation software available, there are a few things you need to think about if you want to find the right one for you. Here’s my top 5 suggestions.
Free or paid?
First of all, the important question to ask yourself is your budget. Are you willing to spend some money, and if so, how much? An animation program can cost anywhere from nothing up to a couple of thousand dollars. While there are a couple of decent free programs out there, I believe a reasonably priced paid package delivers the most features and support.
Professional or beginner?
Have you ever animated before or are you a complete beginner? Are you looking to animate professionally or just dabble a bit in your spare time? Answering this question will help determine not only your budget but also the learning curve you’ll be able or willing to tolerate when using a software, as some are more complicated than others depending on your skill level.
Related to experience level is your age. Are you an adult looking for a piece of animation software for yourself or a parent looking to get your child involved in some cartooning? Some animation programs are specifically designed for children and teenagers so the interface is a lot “friendlier” and has an easier learning curve.
Frame-by-frame or Flash-style?
What kind of animation are you thinking of doing? Do you prefer traditional frame-by-frame drawn animation like the old Disney movies, or are you more interested in the stylized Flash-style animation found on the web and cartoons like South Park and Peppa Pig? No 2d software is the same and many are designed with a specific style in mind, or in some cases will give you the option of doing either.
Partly related to the style of animation you’re looking to do is the question of whether you have or will be buying any external equipment or purely looking to do it all digitally. Some animators like to work initially on paper with a lightbox in the traditional style and then scan and colour their drawings in the software program. Others prefer to draw directly in the software itself and will often do so using a tablet and pen.
This is actually a side effect from our caveman days when colors actually played a big role in survival. It was an essential life skill to know which color berries were safe to eat and which kinds of animals were dangerous. Even now, certain colors make us feel certain things which is why you’ll find particular colors always associated with a different thing.
How many fast food chains use red and yellow for their logos? That’s because we relate the color yellow with speed and happiness, and the color red can trigger stimulation, such as hunger. It may sound far-fetched but it’s the reason behind so many companies using these same colors.
The color you select for your explainer video will depend on what kind of message you’re looking to get across. Read more for what different colors convey to find the best option for your explainer video.
We associate white with hygiene and cleanliness. Too much white though can remind people of hospitals which is not usually a happy association.
Black can be risky as it can be associated with boldness and control or it can be associated with sophistication. It depends largely on the design and which other colors are used.
Red is the color of power. It creates strong emotions and stimulation so should be used sparingly as an attention grabber.
Blue is red’s opposite. It creates a sense of calm and trusting, especially when dark and light is used together. That is why so many banks use the color blue.
As you might guess, green makes us think of nature and balance. It is the best color to convey a message of health, especially when combined with orange.
Pink is most often associated with femininity and gives a soothing effect. It’s most often used for products that are targeted exclusively toward women.
Yellow is optimism and friendliness. It is suited to products that want to convey a message of fun and youthfulness.
Grey can be associated with boredom but getting the right tone or combination can turn this color into a message of anything from professionalism to relaxation.
We associate purple with spirituality, meditation and relaxation which is why it is a commonly used color in aromatherapy products.
Brown can be a good alternative to black as it’s quite serious but in a more soothing way. It is also associated with nature and warmth and can be effective when used correctly.
Color selection is one of the most important factors when it comes to relating to your customers on an emotional level. An explainer video production company like Clear Explainer can help you find the best color combinations to suit your business and convey your message in the most effective way possible.