I am always surprised by how most people know little to nothing about the process of animation. FINALLY I am writing a blog post about animation. This is a very short explanation for non-animators. A lot of thinking and tweaking goes into every step, but this is just a quick summary.
My twin sister and business partner, Catherine, and I recently did a rush job for a commercial. We were asked to animate these penguins for a three second product shot, and we had very little time. They had never been animated before, so first we had to create a model sheet based off the penguins on the boxes in the grocery store.
Then we sketched several different poses for each character to get the final poses on the box. We had to clean them up and color them to send for approval. We actually sent them two sets of poses and this is the one they really liked.
Next we thumbnailed out the animation. I don't have an example to show you, but I can describe it. Basically thumbnails mean a series of small sketches to get ideas out. This planning process is used in almost any visual art project. Once the idea is nailed down, we start rough animation. Rough animation starts with a pose test which means timing out the poses. Then animate it- flesh it out, adding more drawings. Animation is normally done at 24 frames per second. This means that there usually are 12-24 drawings per second. 12 if it's held on twos or 24 if it is on ones. Normally with rough animation, there are a lot of passes over it (redo, redo, ooops, fix that, and that, change this....) to keep changing things and making it stronger and stronger. For this commercial, we did not have that luxury.
Below shows the process of one of the penguins from the first rough pencil test to a revised animation test. The clip at the bottom has all three penguins throughout the stages of animation. The client thought that the first test was too graceful and we added scrambling to it as requested. Ideally, we would have loved to have 12-24 more frames to work with. It's a bit quick, so don't blink! After the animation was approved, we had to draw in the details.
Once the drawings were on model and fairly clean, we hired two coworkers to do final lines for us while we finished up the other drawings. After we scanned in the final lines, we fixed any lines that needed fixing. (Sometimes the lines get vectorized kind of wonky.) We went through and placed in the pupils and eyebrows for many of the drawings. Eyes usually are a trouble area which have to be perfect. Below is an example of the inking and coloring. After we colored the animation, we had to animate the shadows.
It was a fun, fast job, and we had very happy clients! What a great feeling!