Saturday, July 30, 2011

On getting your posing just right

I was asked about how to really get your posing right so once you start animating you aren't totally lost. That isn't really the question, which was more vague... but here is my also vague answer. ;)


Tough question! I'll see what I can do.

First, the disclaimer, everyone tends to find a worklow that works best for them so one approach isn't best for everybody.

Shoot video reference. Even if you don't end up using it, it helps you explore your ideas and can be a lifesaver if you are having a particular problem with some body mechanics. It always give you something to refer back to when you need help. Some people use it for body mechanics, I personally use it for acting. But definitely most people shoot reference in this industry. Just remember to shoot your reference authentically. If your character is standing, stand up! If your character has a heavy prop, find a heavy prop. Don't act cartoony even if it's a cartoony shot. You're looking for realism so you can caricature it later.

Pay attention to every single control and axis. It's hard to get things right if you miss some important controls. But if you do some rough blocking and then go control by control, axis by axis (mainly on the spine, head, and wrists for axis by axis), second by second, and pay attention to what everything should be doing to improve your rough posing. Start with the base, butt, upper spine, and work your way out to the limbs and face so you don't waste time compensating for big changes.

Take this approach to analyzing your video reference too. Limb by limb, axis by axis. And then improve on your video reference as only an animator can. :)

It doesn't have to be perfect in blocking. You want to strive for perfection to avoid problems down the line, but it will not be perfect as you will learn as you progress through the shot. Probably every pro animator, when they spline their shot, experiences a brief twinge of panic because the timing and body mechanics are suddenly not quite working as they envisioned. Most animators hate this step. Save a playblast of your blocking so you can always refer back to the timing and posing you had there. On the plus side, once you spline or start refining, suddenly new possibilities will open up about how to improve the motion and the blocking that you couldn't see in the earlier limited version of your shot. Have fun and be creative with it. :)

Get feedback from others as much as you can. They'll see things you missed. Professional animators sometimes have to show their work every day to a supervisor, sometimes twice a day. I'm working on a shot right now where almost every single pose has been changed due to supervisor feedback. It's way better because of it. Obviously you have to do all the hard work, but the work you do can inspire someone else to give you inspiring feedback.

There's an awesome video online of Glen Keane drawing over the poses for the CG blocking in Tangled that is pretty amazing. Even Disney's best and brightest need to explore their way to a better shot. - the Glen Keane bit is somewhere in the middle of that video.


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