Animation Workflow Tutorial and Advice

Quick Tips Before You Begin

When I start to work, I gather the character’s personalities, setting, music (if applicable) and setting to formulate a story that can be concise. The storyboard helps keep track of all this and more.

Animation Gif
Spidey Board

For one, the story/project idea does not get lost and messy as I complete the project. Sometimes, a project requires more than a day’s work and a storyboard provides a constant flow of quality. Second, as an animator, I know my part in the process but it won’t always translate the same to the client and audience. If the client has an idea, it’s my job to create a visual that allows their idea to come to life. A storyboard does not have to perfect which leaves room for any changes. It opens the communication between client and animator to create the ideal project. 

A storyboard is a way for you to look back and redo these changes compared to when you have finished colored/line work. 

Animation Workflow Tutorial and Advise
Fnaf Freddy

Animation and Workflow Process

I animate with adobe’s flash collection so this part is particularly for that animation software. My animation process is a four step process first I storyboard , line-work, color and sound, then backgrounds. For the story-boarding process I usually use a brush paint red at opacity 50 the reason for this is it is very clear to see plus I can tell where line cross and that tells me when i need to pay attention to placement and position for example when I see a part of the storyboard that is more boldly red I need to either omit that line meaning it goes into the background or draw it out meaning it is in the foreground. A good friend told me that when story-boarding to put less priority in erasing lines and leave mistakes unless im planning on completely scrapping the frame. I now understand why a lot of stray lines have led me to realize different angle mistakes and opportunities that I hadn’t considered. It also gives me a chance to experiment with spacing and anticipation between frames. I usually do this by only redrawing the part of the frame that will change will really bring attention to the motion in the scene.

Of course when it comes to motion in animation practice makes perfect but if you ever feel stuck and need some inspiration for a scene I would recommend taking a quick trip to youtube and searching sakuga and a general  description for what your looking for for example the youtube search “sakuga run” is a great way to find inspiration for a running scene. Although do keep in mind rotoscoping is not what i’m talking about. All art is not 100% original, and most of the iconic animation sequences we see are actually a different interpretation of an inspired animation or motion sequence. For any slow motion or walk, run or idle sequences I usually create a general outline with an arrow for motion if necessary and turn it into a group. That way if I know when I come back to create that specific graphic I have a good idea of what I need to do and things don’t come out backward or off scale.

Linework

Animation Workflow Tutorial and Advise
Fnaf Chica flip over Baldi

For line-work I use the pencil too mainly because it keeps my lines smooth, clean and very distinct. An extra bonus is that the lines are very flexible and split into parts when crossed, this doesn’t sound like much but it’s actually extremely helpful. Remember when I said that I only storyboard part of the scene that moves well if I’m moving forward a frame and there is a space on one of my characters that means that I only need to go back select the lines which weren’t redrawn and paste them in place in the next scene. Another added benefit is that if the shape of said limb or objects stays the same or rotates I only need do the same thing and rotate to the new position or location.

Now line work doesn’t have to exactly trace the storyboard which is why the advice I received to not erase all the stray lines or worry about cleanup is important because the line work is were you will want to keep only the mandatory lines of your work and they may or may not line up perfectly with the storyboard. When story-boarding I usually draw nubs for the hands and feet you can detail this out in the linework. This is just a recommendation but it helps speed up the process for me but if you feel like hands and feet are a struggle then maybe slowing it down and detailing them a bit during the story-boarding process is right for you. I sometimes get the question about the pencil tool and “smears”, and the truth is smears also work with the pencil tool but in my opinion the smears that look really good are a combination of both. Remember to keep the characters consistent for example (tails, accessories and/or deformities). Another plus is, if applicable you have any background objects that are interact-able or breakable, the storyboard will remind you to work them in.

Coloring

Once all your line work is done it is time to move into the color/ sound part of your project. Before coloring its best to have your character sheets open or in your current library. The reason for this is it helps speed up the coloring and you have a reference on hand for consistency. The paint bucket tool in the flash software has a cool feature that allows you to fill in gap spaces and this is a major life/ time saver. When using pencil a lot of the time gap seems closed to the naked eye but aren’t to the program this feature helps to skip over having to find these invisible spaces but if you ever HAVE to fill them in then a easy way to do it is to press the outline mask in the layer tab and look for the spaces.

Sounds

Once you’ve got your line-work nice and colored its time to move into sounds. I like to Make two folders in the layer space, one for sounds/music and another for all the animation layers. It’s not mandatory and honestly it’s mainly for organization. Before placing sounds into the project you’ll want to go into the publishing settings and change the output quality of streaming and event sounds. Now the difference between streaming sounds and event sounds is how they work. Sounds are placed on key-frames and they play according to their placement now event sounds play once the initial frame is passed regardless of what happens next. For example if a sounds has been placed on the fifth frame to place and the animation is paused at the seventh frame it won’t matter, the sound will play to completion. Now stream sounds are attached to the timeline when you place a sound it shows the sound lines in the timeline, this is the attachment I’m referring to the sound is as it shows each hertz has been assigned as shown meaning if the animation stops in the middle so does the sound. This is mainly useful for projects that will have a play and or stop button maybe a menu. I just find it easier to work with sounds set to stream.

Backgrounds

Animation Workflow Tutorial and Advise

I would say backgrounds are my weakest link but on the bright side they are the most versatile. This section will be short mainly due to the fact that everything background wise that is helpful you will have to reference an art tutorial on landscape and spacing. Although there are some animation tricks for backgrounds that I can share. For backgrounds gradients are my best friend they usually help me portray a specific mood through color scheme, another plus is that with gradients it looks good to get close and what I mean by that is because the color mix without a bold outline the human eye automatically adjusts if the blend is close enough. For example floor space separated with a bold line is more definitive that a gradient separation. It’s easier to see than explain so give it a try and experiment.

Don’t be afraid to add in objects to make the background less bland, it adds character and live to any animation. Scale is important to remember as well just because to story-boarded something somewhere doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Size scale your background items to make sense. Also this is a good place to add emphasis if you need any to you animation. For example if some body were to step really hard or suppose to make a hard impact anywhere. You can add floor cracks or have an object in the back grounds shake or even break depending on how impact full the effect is you are trying to create.

Hopefully this is helpful to anyone using Adobe’s animation software, some of these tool properties do translate to other programs but all software has their pro’s and con’s. My last tip for anyone out there that decides to give flash a go is REMEMBER TO SAVE!

Check out Anim8 for some great examples or check me out at, https://anim8.io/users/quinsilva.

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