Reviewing and Analyzing Your Pencil Test
How To Be Super Critical
Right at this moment in your animation career you will probably never have as much freedom to do anything that you want with these assignments. In a studio environment you are handed your scene folder with a storyboard panel, layout poses and exposure sheets with the director’s timing notes. If the scene has lip sync, the timing is fairly explicit and you don’t have much leeway to improvise. If you’re one of the lucky animators who has also worked on the boards, you’ll have more control over what goes on in the scene.

What does this have to do with analyzing your pencil test?

Because you have complete control to do anything you want, you could default to the comment “I meant it to do that.” or “It’s supposed to do that.” While these comments may be true, it doesn’t necessarily make your animation right. You need a fresh set of eyes to see the animation as it is and assess what would make it better.

In a school system, this is the responsibility of the teacher. If I may just make a few comments here; I have observed over the years that I have been teaching that there are three groups of students; all students generally show up to class and do the work, it’s what they do after that, that separates them into:
1) the group that listens to the feedback from the instructor but do nothing to correct their work,
2) The group that listens to the feedback from the instructor and does something to correct their work, and finally,
3) the group that doesn’t listen to the instructor at all and decides that what they’ve done is the right way.

It’s very frustrating, for an instructor, dealing with groups 1 and 3. Sure, they may go on to have fruitful careers within the animation industry but it’s still frustrating. This has more to do with personality than anything else. I still think that the people who are open to the critiquing and do something to correct their work learn faster and end up with stronger portfolios.

The main thing to remember is that instructors want to help you succeed and don’t really enjoy the idea of pointing out the flaws in someone’s work. Remember, it’s nothing personal. The critique is about the animation, not you.

If you don’t have an instructor to get feedback from, try a friend. They may not be very critical about the work and just be in awe of your ability to make something move. Dig for some real criticism. If you can’t find someone else to do it and you have to do it on your own, set the assignment aside for a week or so and look at it again. This is really difficult to do. I find it really hard. The toughest part is going back and fixing stuff up. You may just end up trashing the assignment and move on to the next one and build on your knowledge.

The main thing is to think, “What can I do to make this better?’ When you start in on the next assignment, remember all the mistakes you made on the previous one and try not to repeat the same mistakes again.

The best case scenario is to find a mentor which might just be darned near impossible.

There is one thing that you can do on a very simple and physical level, and that is, keep notes for yourself. Write your critique out and then read it by yourself later on. If you're being critiqued by your instructor, listen very carefully to what they say and then repeat it back to them to be sure you got it right. Then go back to your desk and write out the points on a sheet of paper or even some Stickit notes then pin them to your desktop so you can see them as you're working on the revisions.

If you keep making the same error over and over again, like forgetting to add overlapping action, then write a Stickit note that says something like: "Don't forget the overlapping action!!"

Another good idea would be to copy out the "Principles of Animation" and have them clearly posted on your desk so you are constantly reminded about them.

What is an Assistant Animator?

Principles Index

Back to Book Index

Back to Homepage