Anim Tip of the Day!
To the budding animator, don't forget to thumbnail. Video reference is a great tool, and it's useful for learning detailed mechanics like subtle weight shifts and residual energy. But especially if you're working in a caricatured style of animation, or you just want your poses to read clearly, honing your gesture drawing skills is key.
Maya's grease pencil tool is a great way to examining your poses to push your blocking. Just pick a frame and forget about the movement for a minute and look at how appealing the pose is. Think about the forces that are at work at that slice of time we call a pose. Then clarify the lines, making sure that all the lines of the pose flow appropriately into all of the others. The body is a cohesive unit, not a series of independently moving parts.
Below is a few poses from an early blocking of a cartoony animation test a student brought to me for critique today. Awesome guy. Great to work with.
Here's what I noticed about his poses:
1) The picnic basket doesn't have much weight, and we're not really using the prop to full effect.
2) The character is going to hop around doing fun ballet poses, bouncing from point to point. Let's begin to sell that idea from the first frames.
3) Let's start off with something snappy to inform the audience of the intended style and laws of the world. Once that is established, we're ready to believe the exaggerated motions that will follow.
Here I'm using syncsketch to sketch over his poses in my browser. I love this site. You should check it out.
The reason I place so much value in Thumbnailing is that it gives you a chance to pull from your mental pose library ideas that you might not be able to act out in video reference. Some characters have very different designs than the typical human, or there may be differences in weight that cause the principles to apply differently than to my body. So when you invest in your thumbnailing skills, you can work faster with less limitation in your planning process. Oh, and I recommend animating with a tablet, so it's effortless to switch to sketching over your poses as you work.
To leave you with more, here is a link to some slides from one of my lectures on Thumbnailing for Animation. I'm drawing for a lot of sources here, mainly Victor Navone, Carlos Baena, Eric Goldberg, and more. And here is a post from the Animation Tips & Tricks blog.