Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pose to Pose w/ Layers

Since Andrew asked me to join him and the Pixar guys who teach at the Academy, and then Spline Doctors, the one thing that I've seen most consistently asked of students is advice on work method. Now, I'm a 2D guy. Not including one shot I did on IRON GIANT, INCREDIBLES was my first experience with 3D. I'm the least tech savvy of the fellows who started this blog (and for that matter, probably of the people I work with), but I figured it was about time I faced some of my fears and ventured forth from the safe harbor of my previous posts regarding performance and address some of your questions regarding 3D work method. Bear in mind, there are people far more talented than I who can address some of these issues, but I figured if an approach can work for someone like can work for anyone.

A question that has come up in recent comments is, "How can I work pose-to-pose and still use a layered approach?" I don't claim to know the answer but I can share with you what has worked for me. First, I can't start a scene without knowing where I'm going. I will thumbnail every scene I get so I have a roadmap of the poses, beats, and attitudes that I know I am going for. I will then pose out my shot to match the thumbnails I've done. Bear in mind that some of these poses are going to be breakdowns of action that will help me map out the transition of movement from pose to pose. The biggest mistake I see students make working pose-to-pose in 3D is not thinking about the actual movement. They get lost in the poses and forget about the animation. I will then time out the shot with a series of holds not unlike on old-school, 2D pose test.

Once I feel that the overall timing and poses are working, I will immediately go into spline work polishing the main movement in the shot, working from the root, outward. I'll start off by invising geometry that might distract me (i.e. arms, legs, etc.) and bring into the spline editor the controls that define the main movement of the shot and start polishing. It may be the root. It may be the chest, neck, and head. It may be just an arm and a hand. Whatever it is, I will work from the inside out and I'll never polish any more than 3 to 4 controls at a time while I'm working in the spline editor. I will then work by tweaking and adjusting my animation and playblasting often. Even though you're working on a computer, animation is a very organic process. Work with your shot so it feels right to you. Don't let the computer dictate what you will accept. If it doesn't feel or look right, keep working at it until it does. If you still don't see it (and don't know how to get there) find someone more tech savvy than you and see if s/he can steer you to what controls you need to manipulate to get the results you're looking for. DON'T TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER.

Once things seem to be moving the way I've envisioned, I will then start re-vising geometry and begin polishing outward. Please bear in mind though, that this approach will work ONLY if you have truly thought out your shot. Your original vision may evolve along the way, but you can't work like this without a clear idea of what you're going for. For that matter, whether it's 2D or 3D, you should never start animating before you know what you're going to do. Good luck and I hope this helped.



Blogger Mark said...

Great post Adam.

I've always been a layered animator and I'm trying to do more pose-to-pose work, but miss some of the perks you get from the layered method. I'm gonna give this a shot and see if it can be the best of both worlds. It certainly makes sense to me!

Thanks for the insight.

4:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

very well said. Thanks Adam.

Reading your post about the importance of planning through thumbnails, I thought, would it be possible for you to maybe go deeper into the planning stage, maybe you could post a few pages of thumbnails for a certain shot, and also talk about what were your goals, what you wanted to achive, what the director wanted and the difficulties you faced and how you worked around the problems.

Talking about these stuff in general terms is always good but you would probably agree that nothing has a more learning value than a case study of a particular shot where you can talk about them in details.

well, only a suggestion, i know you guys are busy and of course we're already much greatful that you take the time and keep the blog alive, so thanks again!

5:10 AM

Blogger Cameron Fielding said...

This is very interesting.

I'm like mark, in that I'm used to working layered, and find the blocked approach much less natural to me.

Its good to hear of others working this way. Its obvious there is no "right or wrong" way of animating - but it seems blocking is the preffered method amongst many animators, particularly feature animators - and sometimes you can feel a little like your not doing the "right thing" if you prefer to work another technique. I guess it comes down to experience - I never worked in 2D and so taught myself to animate by layering motions, but I suppose where technique REALLY starts to matter is for getting direction and feedback on your shot - it must be much easier to work with direction if you are used to detailed blocking. This is something I would like to see covered in future posts - the impact of direction upon different workflow techniques.

thanks again. Very encouraging post.

1:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey i'm a big fan of this blog, its really helped me out a lot and given me great inspiration. I was wondering if it would be possible for one of you guys to post a simple animation along with a screen shot of its graph. I am trying to learn how the two go together and i am having some difficulty.
keep up the great work!

6:19 PM

Blogger Bobby Pontillas said...

Question about your 2D approach Dr. Burke,

When doing your rough pass, after you developed your key poses, would go and block in the motion inbetween as a main mass, sans arms like you've mentioned here as well?

6:37 PM

Blogger chintan said...

Dear sir,

Thank you very much for the amount of information you guys have put up on this blog. I would like to ask, what do you do once you have a clear idea in your mind.. you start off with your thumbnails and then the blockings... but before that do you show the thumbnails to the director and explain what are you planing or you directly show your blockings... i m not very well-versed with the production methods as i am only a student and learning animation...

Once again thank you very much.

2:28 AM

Blogger Dr.Burke said...

Hey chintan

Very rarely would I show thumbnails to a director before blocking. If I think the pose or action I have in mind will be time consuming to flesh out, I might show thumbnails or even act it out to see if I'm going down the right road before I invest the time in building the poses and timing out my shot. A good director will brief you on what is needed in the shot and already has an idea of what he/she wants to see. The added nuance of the performance and poetry of movement is what you bring so long as it serves the need of the shot.

Hey bobby,

Yeah, I'll fully define and polish the main movement and work outward as I mentioned in the post. Bear in mind though that every shot is different and that it may serve my needs better to key frame straight ahead if the shot warrants it. The key is to "define and refine" what the main movement/gestures are and work outward from there. Otherwise you're almost guarenteed to work against your self. Thanks for your questions and I hope they helped.

3:15 PM

Blogger chintan said...

Dr Burke

Thank you very much sir for your reply. And it did make things clear in my mind.

I have to tell you that this blog is very very much inspiring. Thanks for all the efforts u people have put in.


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