Animating with a Plan

Yesterday I talked a little bit about how hard it can be to explain your organizational structure within a 3D animation to someone else. I thought of another analogy for it that I want to share here.

Its like when you move in to a new place. You immediately set about organizing, putting things where you want them to be, where you’ll remember them. Kitchen utensils in this drawer, bathroom supplies in that closet, etc. Now lets say you get a new roommate. You can explain all that in one go, and some of it may stick, but soon enough you’ll have them asking you “Where do you keep the lightbulbs again?” Once you tell them, though, and show them, usually its enough to help them remember.

So taking it back to explaining 3D animation; its really not enough to just tell someone how your scene works all in one go. Usually they need to run into a situation where they’ll need to use a certain aspect of it, and then they can ask and be shown. After that, I’ve found, it generally sticks a lot better. In 3D animation especially, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. I’ve also heard Amy talk about the same thing in her programming blogs; if one programmer has to trade code with another, there’s usually a bit of a learning period as the programmer figures out the organization of that specific piece of code. Once that’s done with, the programmer can usually jump in and edit code however they see fit.

Showing others how your animation works is also a great way to organize your own animation style. Yesterday, while showing the rig to someone it suddenly became glaringly obvious just how cumbersome one particular part of the rig was. Now that I’ve seen and realized that, the next time I have to rig something similar, I’ll know exactly how to make it more efficient. I’ll be able to animate with a better plan, keeping the fact that other animators will be working on this in mind. So while it may be tough and take a little bit of a learning curve to do, animating with a plan can be beneficial to keeping both your time and the time spent by others efficiently spent!