A fresh pair of eyes

Avoid simple mistakes by using these techniques to keep a fresh perspective on your animation.

Animation is a time consuming artform and it’s common to spend days on a single shot which is only a few seconds long. Unfortunately, when we’re staring at the same piece of animation for so long, it’s easy to lose sight of what is working and what isn’t.

We naturally start to focus in on certain aspects of the performance and there is then a tendency to miss other, sometimes glaring, issues with the overall shot.

So, if we know that this can be a potential problem, what can we do to avoid it?

To see our work without bias can be difficult but there are a number of techniques which can help.

A fresh pair of eyes

The first approach is by gaining distance from our work. Where it’s possible to do so, coming back to your animation a few days later can give enough separation that we are able to view it with a fresh pair of eyes and see it as a whole.

Often, simply leaving your work over night can be enough to start seeing the things that you missed the day before.

Unfortunately, when you’re working to hit deadlines, you don’t always have the luxury of time on your side. In these situations we can employ other techniques to help.

Multiple passes

One approach that I often make use of is watching back my animation multiple times whilst intentionally focussing on certain aspects with each pass through.

The first time I watch the animation I will be viewing the performance and asking myself whether the acting is working as it should for this moment in the story.

If I’m happy with the performance then I’ll watch the animation with a focus on checking that the body mechanics are working correctly.

I might then do individual passes where I just check certain body parts to ensure they are moving with nice arcs and spacing.

Making this conscious effort to switch focus to specific aspects of your animation can often show up errors which have been overlooked.

Tricking the brain

Whilst I use these techniques far more rarely, there are other ways in which we can trick the brain and view our work with fresh eyes.

With digital drawing and painting, it’s quite common to flip the canvas to create a mirror image of our work. It is often amazing how glaring the issues with our work become when we use this technique.

Within animation, we can use similar techniques. Some media players allow you to flip the video horizontally, or you can take it into editing software to achieve the same result. It’s even possible to apply negative scaling to your 3D camera to flip the image.

Another, similar, approach is to play your animation backwards. This approach prevents you from focussing on the performance at all and, instead, you are more likely to spot technical issues.

The freshest pair of eyes

Even once you’ve applied all of the above techniques it’s still worth asking someone else to look at your animation. They’ll be viewing your work with truly fresh eyes, without focussing on any particular element and their response can often be quite revealing.

If, for example, you’ve been determined to perfect some especially tricky body mechanics, you may well have missed the fact that the central performance is simply not conveying the correct emotion.

In a studio, it’s quite normal for your work to go through multiple reviews, with supervisors or directors, which can help to pick up on any issues you may have missed, but it’s not important for the person viewing your work to have animation experience.

Since animation is created to be seen by an audience, hearing the reactions of anyone who is watching your work for the first time can be invaluable.

Whatever you’re animating at the moment, I hope that these techniques will help you out.


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