Class 3 - Week 1 - Getting Ideas

This week, I'm going to go over some tips on getting ideas for your
shot. This was something we and many others struggled with, since AM
doesn't provide a list of animation ideas for you to choose from this
term. It may seem liberating at first, now that you can do whatever kind
of shot you like and all the possibilities are open to you. Maybe you
won't have any problems at all and ideas will flow smoothly from your
mind. But you'll be surprised at how quickly you can hit a mental block.
Questions will pop into your head like: What exactly is "Advanced Body
Mechanics"? What kind of animation are the mentors looking for? Is my
idea going to be too much, or is it not enough? Which of my ideas would
be the best one to use? Do I do an animJam, or animExercise?
Unfortunately AM doesn't really provide any answers to these questions,
since the objective of the term is for you to learn how to build a shot
on your own. However, we'll give you some tips that we've learned
through the course of Class 3 that will hopefully make things a bit
easier for you to come up with solid, workable ideas.

Tip #1

This first tip was taught to us by Mike Gasaway. If ever you get stuck
while trying to come up with ideas, and can't think of anything to do,
try this. Take a moment to look around the room you're in. Unless where
you are is an empty room, you should have plenty of objects around you.
Now find 20 things that catch your interest. These objects can be
anything, like a table, a dumbbell, a lamp, a TV, a pair of headphones,
a hammer, a fragile vase, or anything else. Now you have a prop for your

Next, think of a simple scene with some of these objects. Maybe Stewie
is trying his hand at weight lifting and is having some trouble, or
perhaps he's dusting and knocks over a priceless vase. Maybe he's moving
a cumbersomely heavy television. Presto! Now you have your idea. All it
needs is to be refined a bit. This method works great because of what
it's doing - narrowing your mental focus to only a few objects, and
allows you to think of scenarios with them instead of your mind bouncing
all over the place between random scenarios that might not work too well.

Tip #2

Tip number 2 is to keep the shot simple. Try to keep your shot down to
one solid idea, maybe 2 at most. It's very easy to start thinking of
complex shots and planning out intricate storylines, especially if
you're doing animJams, but remember that an animJam has to be made up of
3 individual shots that can be understood when combined together as well
as separate.

Here is an example of a simple shot and a similar, but more complicated
shot. Our easy shot starts with Stewie preparing to lift weights and
finds that he's not strong enough. The main idea here is Stewie lifting
weights, with a secondary idea of him having trouble doing the action.
This idea is simple, clean, and easy to pull off in 200 frames. Now
let's take a look at this shot's more complicated counterpart. This shot
starts like the other, with Stewie preparing to lift weights, but has
trouble, so he goes to find smaller weights. When he can't find any so
he gets angry, somehow giving him Hulk-like strength so he tosses the
heavy weights easily out the window. While this idea might work well
spread out through 3 shots in an animJam, there are far too many ideas
competing with each other for one shot to handle. It would also take far
too long to set up each idea so that it's read clearly by the viewer in
roughly 6 seconds.

So just like in the previous classes, K.I.S.S. is the way to go.

Tip #3

Now we're on to tip number 3. Keep acting down to a minimum. I know it's
tempting to add in some pantomime and acting into your shot, maybe make
it into something you could put on your demo reel. But Class 3 is all
about solidifying your knowledge of body mechanics. Acting isn't
something that is essential to your shot. Plus, if you put too much of
it into your work, your mentors will have to spend their time critiquing
the acting instead of the body mechanics of your animation. You have all
of Class 4, 5, and 6 to work on acting. By the time you get to those
later classes, I'm sure you'll be looking back at your Class 3 work and
thinking "I can do better than that.". So don't worry about your demo
reel just yet. Just concentrate on making solid shots with awesome body
mechanics. That will help you both in improving your animation, and
keeping your ideas simple and easy.

Tip #4

As for the final tip, try to keep your animation's frame count roughly
in the middle of your frame limit. If you go too close to the maximum
limit, then you won't have any space to pad out your animation if your
mentor asks you to add in some frames. If you go too close to the
minimum, you won't have enough frames in your shot if your mentor asks
you to cut out some parts. It's always best to try and aim for the
middle, or about 150 frames, to give you that extra 50 frames of padding
on either side for revisions. Furthermore, as a bonus for not going to
the maximum frame count, you save yourself work and can concentrate on
making the frames you already have look nicer. Therefore, plan
accordingly for your shot and be sure to time out your video references
so that you have a good idea of how long your animation will be.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it's been helpful, and
if you have any questions or suggestions, you're always more than welcome to
leave a comment or send us a message on AM.