A day in the life of a studio animator
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Before I landed my first studio job, like many people I was a freelance animator. I would make my own schedule and set my own hours. This was great and I have to admit that I was not the most strict boss. If I didn't feel like working, I would take a break. If I wasn't feeling particularly creative that day, no pressure, there was always tomorrow.
It is a completely different story when working within a studio environment. There are tight deadlines and everybody plays an important role in ensuring that the show gets finished on time.
On the last show I worked on, there were around 18 episodes in total and we had roughly 2 weeks to finish our animation for each one.
At the start of each episode, our supervisor would email us about which shots were assigned to us (I started out with around 1400 frames but as I gained experience that number bumped up to around 1900) and where we could find the locked in animatic. Occasionally there would be a meeting where we would all watch the animatic together and address any questions.
I would start each new episode by comparing my shots to the animatic and seeing which ones hooked up with one another. I would also check to see if there were any poses that I could reuse for multiple shots (Saving time is a big thing). Tackling the most difficult shots first proved to be a good idea, just to get them out of the way while I was fresh and energized.
The first week would be spent blocking in all the poses for each scene. I would pose out all the keys and the breakdowns for the bigger actions before submitting the scene for review. This made sure that any big mistakes were fixed at the beginning, saving a lot of headaches towards the end. On a good day I could get through around 4 shots of 100-200 frames, but on a slow day that number looked more like 1 or 2.
If there are no revisions on your blocking scenes (there usually always is) then it's time to move onto the next stage.
The second week was all about animation. Adding the in-betweens, adjusting the timing and spacing and making sure that all the accents are being hit in the correct places. All these things are necessary so every action reads correctly and looks good. I would complete all the action before I even thought about lip sync. If I was happy with the body movement then I would move on to matching the mouth shapes.
Once all this was done I would submit the scene for another review. If it was approved I would move onto the next one:)
Finding a nice workflow is very important to keeping your shots consistent and ready on time. I am still developing mine and look forward to learning so much more in the future.