The process of clean-up is usually done by an assistant animator, not the key animator. Heres all the stuff you need to do and think about when you get a scene from your animator...
Look at the storyboard and familiarize yourself with whats going on in the scene. Be sure you know what happens in the scene before yours and the scene after as well.
Take the key animation out of the folder and flip the drawings several times. Look first at the overall action taking place. Next look at the individual parts of the character. See what the left arm does, what the left hand does. Then watch the right arm and hand. Check the shoulders. Be sure you understand absolutely everything about the characters action.
Talk to the animator. Get there take on the action. Be sure youre clear about the motivation and emotion of the scene. Ask questions and get answers.
Be sure you know how to draw the character. Practice drawing the character on your own using the model sheets. Start by tracing the model sheet. Next set the model sheet off to the side and copy the poses trying to keep the character completely on model. Do some original drawings of the character in a variety of different poses. Pay attention to the details and your line quality.
Many people fail to realize that on a major production, its not the animators drawings that are seen on the screen, its the assistant animators and the inbetweeners. The animator does the roughs to indicate the action and timing. Its the assistant that redraws them and makes them look good. Big responsibility!
Take the first pose and set it on your animation disk. Place a fresh sheet of paper on top and turn on the back light. Begin cleaning up the drawing making any necessary adjustments to the volumes and proportions to bring the character completely on model. A good animator will be as close to on model as possible but sometimes you get a scene that needs a lot of help. Compare the first pose top the model sheet to be sure its correct.
Show it to the animator to get their final approval before you move on to the rest of the drawings.
Remove the first rough key drawing from your disk and put your clean-up of the first key down on the pegs. Take the animators second key drawing and place it over the clean-up. Put a fresh sheet of animation paper on top of this. Begin cleaning up the second key but this time be sure to flip between the first key and the new drawing to be sure things arent shifting or shrinking & growing in an unwanted way. If part of the character is rotating, such as the head, be sure it looks like its rotating and that the features arent just sliding around. Think three dimensionally when you draw (unless the character is very graphic and flat).
Continue through the scene this way, leaving the last clean-up under the new key that youre currently cleaning. Every so often, take all the clean-ups that youve done and flip through them to see how its working. If you notice anything weird going on, fix it right away, otherwise you might get lazy and forget about it.
After youve completed the final key, take the drawings and have them pencil tested. In some cases, you might want to include the rough breakdowns in the pencil test, but this can cause the scene to look awkward going from clean-up drawings to rough - back and forth.
If youre happy with the results of the pencil test, go back and start cleaning up the breakdowns if there are any. In some cases, the animator may leave the breakdowns up to the assistant. If this is the case, you should do the breakdown as a rough drawing yourself first, using your two cleaned-up keys.
I spoke about the breakdowns earlier so I wont repeat myself other than to say, the breakdown is for very broad actions that require an odd type of path of action or an awkward body position that needs to be clearly understood. If the animator leaves this up to you, theyre either a bit lazy or they really trust you to do the job right.
Once all the breakdowns are completed, the scene is ready for inbetweening. Sometimes this is the responsibility of the assistant. On a larger production there may be a team with one animator, an assistant animator and a couple of inbetweeners. Its the assistant's job to keep the inbetweeners busy and monitor the quality of their work, checking over the drawings for any errors.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot... the assistant also has to label all the drawings, making sure the numbers are clear and the key numbers are circled and the breakdowns have a line under them. The timing charts must be clear and legible so that the inbetweener knows exactly what to do.
Here are three drawings at the different stages:
Basic shapes and volumes
Final Clean up
Reading the Timing Charts
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