Making the Leap from Stills to Animation

Sep 14, 2017 at 08:02 am by Warlord720

You've been creating Stills (single image renders) for quite a while. In fact, you've become very comfortable with scene layout, composition, aesthetics, and character posing.

You understand drama, comedy and more importantly, you've learned to tell a story with a single frame of artwork. You know there are protagonists and antagonists. You embrace or are ambivalent about the Rule of Thirds. You doggedly follow convention or throw it all out the window but either way, push your medium to the point of frustration and now you want to do something else.

The single frame image is still a wonderful work of art but you are thinking about something that quite possibly has been in the back of your mind since you started doing 3D/2D compositions.

About taking that next leap... animation.

No... it's not a move up as you already have a lot of the skills you need to animate. Animation, in itself, is not the crown jewel or superior to rendering still images. Basically, they are on the same level. Requiring a lot of the same skills that are required in a great single frame illustration. So, it's really not a move up so much as it is a move OVER to another segment of what you have been doing.

Trouble is... it's a big move!

Instead of implying something, as a single image does, you are now going to have to actually do the action a single image implies.

Think about that.

Instead of appearing in a doorway or having the door behind, the character you now must animate that character moving through that doorway or at the very least trick the viewer into thinking they did.

This last part is critical... new animators always want to animate too much. Camera cuts, establishing shots and scene intros can accomplish the same thing with less effort so the first item to combat is overcoming the urge to animate EVERYTHING! Don't do it. Do enough to sell the scene... to get the point across.

Don't do it. Do enough to sell the scene... to get the point across.

If you are going to animate then you got bigger fish to fry than spending two days getting a character to interact properly with a doorknob. Cut to the character walking through an already open door unless it's critical to the story to do otherwise. And please... do not animate picking up objects unless there is a reason too. These mundane things can still be implied through other means. Another good habit to get into is using those incredible still image skills to create storyboards for your animations so they are tight and well-paced. One plus is the time spent creating the stills for the storyboard serves as a basis for the animated scenes that come later.

Another mistake new animators tend to make is to show off their skills instead of telling the story. Remember... everything in a story should move it forward. If it doesn't then you need to seriously consider cutting it because it's just fluff and that gets old as time goes on. Fluff is not bad as this author spent years in freelance turning out fluff and filler for scenes but it was combined with points in the script that advanced the story.

There is also the cost of animation. Even though there are low cost and free animation applications out there... very little animation is free. You'll want characters, props, sets, motions, special effects and all that cool stuff everyone else is using. Yes, you already have a lot of stuff for still image work but there are always things you need outside of your current inventory so plan for it or the frustration of stagnating projects will doom some of them and crimp your creativeness.

In future articles, we'll look at applications, assets and other things needed to be an animator whether you're doing it for fun or profit.

We'll look at what's needed, what some consider critical and what's involved from making the leap from still images to animation and quite possibly squeeze some motion graphics in there somewhere. What? You thought motion graphics were the same? Not hardly, but they are close cousins so stay tuned as we'll explore that realm too.

M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.

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