Methodology of Animating

Sometimes I wonder if there is an easier way of animating my characters than how I do it. I watched the step by step tutorial on doing some cutout animation…

…and I liked the idea of collapsing all the layers in the timeline and then setting the keyframes for the keyposes while everything is collapsed. That way you don’t have to hunt for a particular drawing layer but just can grab and move it in the camera view. I tried this method but what I didn’t like was that many times you create keyframes on all your layers as you go along. Later on, when you’d uncollapse the layers there would be keyframes all over the place and when you wanted to tweak something it was hard to distinguish which ones were for actual movement and which were just byproducts of the process.

Therefore, I have preferred to animate by having my layers in plain site and setting the keyframes layer by layer. In this way, only the parts that are moved have keyframes and it is easy to see what is doing what. I know a lot of this is personal preference but I’d be curious to know how others work in hopes of finding better working models to adopt.

Another thing that I have questions about is the following. The basic formula, as far as I can tell, for an action into a key pose goes something like this.

1. Current position
2. Antic (or anticipation) movement prior to the key pose usually in the opposite direction
3. Overshoot - where you go slightly beyond the key pose
4. Key pose - finally the character arrives at the desired pose
5. Move into a hold or resting position

So this is the first step. Each part of the character that needs to move has to be set and then you can add frames between each keyframe to get the timing right. Then, you might set the Ease on multiple layers so that the moves are less mechanical. And last, but not least, you may want to shuffle the start and end position of each layer so that all the parts don’t move in perfect synchronization. So you stagger them by a frame or two each.

Whew! By this time those reading this post may be totally lost or are saying, “I do the same thing!” Perhaps this is just the way it is and that’s what animating entails. But, if someone were to show me a faster, more efficient way, I’d be all ears.

As you said, I definitely think it comes down to personal preference. I’ve seen animators that like to work with everything collapsed, and they definitely do have keyframes on every layer when they work that way. Then they’ll flip through the keyframes and make adjustments manually. These types of animators usually do their ease manually as well, instead of using curves, so they don’t have to go hunting.

If you do need to search for a layer, to swap something, then they would select the layer in the Camera view and then in the Timeline, hit O, or Shift+O, and it’ll bring you to the currently selected layer.

That being said, there’s totally nothing wrong with working with everything open. Some people don’t create the keys either, they’ll just leave the Animate button on for auto-key, but then you run the risk of getting some results where it interpolates differently when, say, you have a keyframe on layers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on frame 1, and again on frame 5, but only keys on layers 2 and 3 on frame 3. Then you see the interpolation on layer 1 starting from frame 1 all the way to 5, and you might get confused by the result you see in the Camera view, until you go back and figure out that you never put a keyframe on that layer on frame 3.

Did that make any sense??

And for the process, absolutely. Just remember Overshoot and Settle back before coming to the final resting position.