Every so often, I feel like every single blip of information I've ever attained regarding animation has dripped out my ears and left me for good. Thankfully, by using specific tricks I've learned through careful study and training (aka, reading the blogs of better animators), I can usually get my brain to turn over and get into what I like to call "Not An Idiot" mode.
One such occasion happened the other day... I came in to work on a horse trot animation. Simple, right? After all, I had just completed a full-tilt-gallop-to-skidding-stop, which seems much harder.
I think that's where I went wrong.
I thought it would be easy. Any time you get into your head that an animation is "gonna be easy," you're doing something wrong. At least if you're me. Others may find that sometimes animation is easy. Some may find it's ALWAYS easy. For me, the only easy animations I've ever done were the ones that turned out bad.
I worked all day on this trot. The further I got along on it, the more my stomach tightened, and the more I felt like that 22 year old kid with no animation pipeline or hope in the world of doing this professionally.
Over-dramatization? Ya, I suppose, but the point is, I remembered how it felt to be afraid that I really didn't know what I was doing. As the day progressed, my work got worse and worse and worse.
I went home that night feeling pretty lousy. After a good pep-talk from Coach Mrs. Howe, I decided to incorporate some of the techniques I've heard from better animators.
One of these was to change up your work flow. It was an article I read recently, and sadly, can't remember the author. The idea was, try a different animation approach, and thinking about approaching it a different way might help SEE it a different way. It's a technique used by stutterers (man, that's an unfortunate word), to get through a word or phrase they're having a hard time with. A name for example. Having trouble saying this guy's name? Think of his brother's name, or the name of the College you went to together, and his name will pop right out.
So I came into work the next day with my brain in "Not An Idiot" mode, and began this different approach.
The failed approach was the same as in the gallop-to-stop animation: animate the spine and head first, then add the legs in there.
So this time, I decided to try a more "character animation" approach. I found a great reference video on BBC Motion Gallery, and began looking at it as I would a human walk. In other words -- where are the passing poses? Where are the contact poses? When do the highs and lows happen.
I drew out a "formula" for the cycle, including the passes, contacts, highs, and lows:
I also named the horse Pete.
After several hours' worth of what turned out to be one of the most hitch-less days of animating, I had something I was very happy with. I came in the next day, polished it up, and here is the end result.
I find that when you struggle with a shot, it's not your ability but your confidence that is failing you. When such a stutter occurs, try thinking of your shot a different way.