If I were to give you a stack of post-it notes and say, “Make a flip book,” would you have any trouble figuring out how to do it? Probably not! If that sounds like a fun way to burn an hour, you’re in the right place!
My name is Austin, and I’ve been teaching animation at Digital Media Academy for nearly a decade now! A huge reason why I have been doing it for so long is because of my passion for inhibition-free creativity. If you are anything like me, creating flipbooks fulfills a fascination with creating motion.
There was a time when I wanted to use more sophisticated tools such as computer animation. Although the principles are the same, the technical boundaries made it more like navigating a maze than the intuitive creativity I felt making flipbooks.
That is the reason why I developed a whole approach to animation for our Character Animation with Maya course. I utilize three checklists to help keep the approach simple and actionable.
New Scene Checklist
The items in this checklist set the stage for the animation course we offer. See the list down below.
1) First, create a new scene and check the “selection filters” (turn options to select anything other than controls)
2) Then, check “show menus” (only show polygons + NURBS curves, aka controls)
3) Next, reference your rig (an un-editable way of bringing it into the scene)
4) Then, create a window layout so you can see the final shot and move around the scene (this will make it easier to manipulate the rig)
5) Lastly, you save a version!
This list includes loading your character puppets, or rigs, in a non-destructive way. Some of the other items on this checklist help us avoid common issues with breaking the machinations of the puppet. With the help of the checklist, we set up our windows to make sure we can see what the final animation will look like. Setting up our windows also gives us room to select and manipulate the puppet efficiently and effectively.
The following checklist is our “Animation Checklist.” This is where a lot of the magic happens! In 3D animation, even the most simple characters can have upwards of 100+ controls, so making sure all of those are accounted for and moving appropriately together can become an overwhelming task. That’s why I’ve kept this as a straightforward, three-step checklist.
1) First, select your intended frame
2) Second, pose your character and set a keyframe
3) Lastly, loop back to the beginning until your animation is finished
This checklist helps you keep things simple and organized, so it feels more like a flipbook!
Pose your Character
The third checklist is just breaking down that second “Pose your character” step. When posing your character, sometimes moving one control affects another. This can make you repose a part you might have already posed before. This can get frustrating, so I’ve set in place a specific order to help get you to your intended pose as quickly as possible.
1) First, pose your center of gravity or root control
2) Then, the feet and knees
3) Next, the spine which consists of hips and chest
4) Then, the neck and head controls
5) Lastly, we pose the arms, doing the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and finally, fingers
Doing the steps above will help produce more expressive poses. If we fail to focus on the steps above and say, focus too much on the arms, our character might look like a popsicle stick with some of those wild, inflatable, roadside tube guy arms.
Another example of what can occur if we fail to do the steps above is that we can accidentally pose the arms first and then move to how his spine is posed. This can ultimately undo some of our work.
However, if we follow the steps above, we work our way through just like an algorithm, looping back through until we arrive at an expressive and professional looking pose!
Explore Animation Courses with Digital Media Academy
Following these checklists won’t make you a master, only practice will do that. However, it does help you get to the point where practice becomes more natural, more intuitive, and most importantly, more fun and freeform just like a flipbook. If you’re interested in breathing life into a character and exploring animation, be sure to sign up for some of our animation courses before space runs out!