5 Steps to Making Your First Animation Shine

Becoming an animator is not easy. It is a unique art form that requires time and patience to get right. This guide will help you to start your animating career the right way.

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Write a Synopsis

Whether you plan your animation to be a structured piece with a coherent narrative, or you want to produce something more abstract and avant-garde, it will help a great deal to have a synopsis. When you are devising the overarching narrative, you can take a more improvisational approach. But when it comes to the animation itself, you need to know what you’re doing.

It’s up to you how detailed your synopsis needs to be, as long as it is easy for you to follow and work from, that’s what counts.

Block Your Scenes

Once you have a clear idea of exactly what your animation is going to involve, the next stage is to produce a storyboard. A storyboard consists of rough sketches of each ‘shot’ in your animation. In a regular film, these frames would reflect the camera setup you intend to use. While animation doesn’t use a camera in the same sense, the same principles apply.

After you have completed your storyboard, the next part of the process is to block your scenes. Blocking your scenes involves breaking them down, so that each one has a ‘mini-plot’ detailing exactly what will happen. By breaking your story up into smaller chunks, it is easier to get an overview of it and to adjust specific elements as necessary.

Use Reference Materials

Reference materials include anything that you plan to use to guide your choices as an animator. These might be examples of other animations which you hope to emulate, or they might be pieces of art that display the kind of aesthetic that you want to achieve. If you are stuck for inspiration, try having a look at what other animators, like the guys over at Spiel Creative, are doing.

Many animators find it useful to have reference materials for specific types of movement, particularly where animals are concerned. For example, if your animation is to involve horse riding, it will be helpful to have some footage of horses running to refer back to.

Focus on Your Timing

One of the hardest things to get right in animation is the timing. When things are too fast or too slow, movements look unnatural and are not pleasant to watch. Reference materials will help you to create the right movements, but you will need to synchronise everything yourself. Many animators find lip-syncing the hardest part of the animating process to get right, so pay particular attention here.

Think About Your Transitions

When storyboarding, many animators fall into the trap of viewing their work simply as a sequence of different scenes, with little thought given to how to transition properly between them. However, the transitions you use between scenes will have a considerable impact on how the overall animation feels to the viewer.

As with any art form, it takes time to develop your animation skills. However, by following these steps each time, you will soon be producing the kind of animation you had always dreamed of making.