We all knew that 1 second of animation is equal to 24 frames (in film), which is a significant amount believe it or not. And each frame actually is a static image. One of the things about CG that animators or artist usually interpret is that it is in 3D, it got dimension and depth. But the truth is, CG is really not 3D.. if it's up on a screen, you will be looking at it as 2 Dimensional imagery, that's all it is. It may have a fancy shading, great color, deep lighting, but ultimately it's just a shape/drawing on a 2 dimensional plane.
And from that understanding, we have to think of our animation from a 2 Dimensional stand point. More so than you think it's necessary, especially in 3D animation. Now, for stop-motion animators and hand-draw animators, this almost goes without saying. You have to draw every single frame to come up with the animation, or adjust the puppet so it will fit in each shot. It's a little different in CG, you can put one pose in first frame, and another in frame ten, and the computer will calculate for you what's in between them..
But you know what? the computer sucks, it doesn't know where to put that inbetween frames, and it doesn't know how the character should move from one pose to the next. If we are new ,or lazy, maybe we just let the computer do that for us (unfortunately, this also happened to me) and you guess what?! it's horrible!!
I think a lot of new animators (including me) have their workflow like this : We used to do the blocking or posing the character really fast, and then spending the whole time polishing it. We still thinking in CG, we still rely on computers to do the motion for us (and.. guess what? the computer sucks!). We always thought that all professionals animators can do their blocking really fast and then goes straight awayto polishing the spline in the curve editor and let computer work for them. But this is a false impression a lot of new animators facing if they don't really understand the technique behind it (this is why I make this post). This isn't how professional animators work, one day, a colleagues of mine told me that he usually spend the whole time blocking the character until there's a keyframe in every 2 - 4 frame interval. And we need to make sure that the timing, anticipation, weight, and pose (I would say 12 principles of animation, maybe more) in the blocking is working beforemoving to polishing the character and going into curve editor (Who said animation is an easy job..).
This is why 2D animation is so successful. The secret ingredients to make your animation great, is that you have to treat your 3d animation just like you were drawing them on a paper. You need to pay attention on every frame, every pose,every silhouette, every bit of spacing and timing. The reason why 2D animators were so good is because of this. They put their best work on every single frame that goes through the motion. Which apparently we forgot about this meticulousness in CG a lot. And I was also fortunate enough to hear pros talk and able to read their blog about their workflow over and over again until it struck into my head.
It's like having a switch flipped in my head. I never animate the same way again. It's like one of those moments when you finally understand, even though you already hear it so much before. Once I implemented that knowledge into my animation, I noticed that my animation improved a ton! It's still not looked that great, it just looked better than it was before. It's still a lot of work on polishing and adjusting the curve editor.
Then came this phenomenal animator Jeff Gabor. This guy is the perfect example for this method. Because not until I actually saw the process of his blocking stages, I never really understood how powerful it could be.
Here's an example of Jeff Gabor blocking :
This blew my mind!! You can see his blocking phase is all in stepped mode, but it's so fluent and you could almost call this whole shot animated! It almost got keyframe in each of the frame.. it tells you how each frame is important for selling every tiny little detail of your animation. It also tells you how important to do reference for your animation, because it can tell you a slight idea of little detail or gestures that you wouldn't initially think of when you just animate from your head. Again, after watching his work, I didn't want to animate the way I had been with just a few frames in the blocking phase.
I didn't say that this is the best working method, and there are so many different way of working and approach to animate your scene. It is entirely up to you, but I hope this post can really help the one who starting to take their work seriously to become a character animator, and study the art behind it, not just the computer or CG aspect of it.