Planning your animation film

Keep the characters simple for ease of animation. This would be hard to animate.
This would be much easier to animate.

Timing is something which tends to frighten people a bit. There are books you can buy which will explain it in much more detail, but a simple method is to act out the action four or five times, timing each one. Every time will be different, so take the average timing. If a movement takes two and a half seconds, it will require forty five drawings, but if you shoot on two’s, that is two exposures for each drawing, then you can do the same action in twenty three drawings. Not all action can be shot on two’s, some will have to be ones, an example is fast actions, or slow or complex ones. If you are using a sound track, time your music or whatever sound you use and fit your action to the timing. There are two ways to do it. Fit your action to the sound track, or f it a sound track to your action. With experience, your sense of timing will come naturally.

When you have your timings worked out, write them down on a dope sheet. This is a chart which will keep you on the straight and narrow. On it you write the sound track and each frame required for an action in a scene to correspond with it. If you draw out a dope sheet and stick to it, your action will turn out exactly as you planned it.

When you are animating it is best to draw the extremes. These are the main poses or key drawings of an action. You can then join these together with the in between drawings to complete the action. Animate rough, don’t draw in detail, you can do this later when you do the finished clean up drawings. When you have completed your drawings, don’t go any further until you have shot a line test. Film all your drawings over tracings of your backgrounds. I know its hard to wait a week or fortnight for your film to be developed, but it is well worth it. A line test will show whether or not your action is O.K. If it is you can transfer it to cel or whatever your medium is.

Filming is easy if everything is written down on an exposure sheet. An exposure sheet is Similar to a dope sheet, everything is written down, each exposure, camera settings, trucks, pans etc. There are many hooks you can buy to help on any aspect of animation. I have just brushed over the surface, further study is up to you. But remember, there is a lot more to animation than drawing, and please plan out your films, good filming.

Drawing from a sequence entered in the Animator’s newsletter competition issue number 3.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 5 (Summer 1983)