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6 Common Animation Mistakes Animators Should Avoid

ben marvazi 2020

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Making mistakes is an inevitable part of life. Students, teachers, people in the workforce… it doesn’t matter who you are; we all make mistakes.

Some of them can have a negligible impact on your life or work, but there are other mistakes that can impact your life both inside and out of your job.

Whether you’re new to the animation industry or have been animating for a few years already, you will still make mistakes in your job from time to time.

Creating animated explainer videos is an important part of a business, so maximum attention to detail is required from animators from start to finish for each video they create. Every detail counts – from the audio quality, character movements, transitions, sound effects, and more.

Check out these 6 common mistakes animators should avoid and how to avoid them to make great animation videos.

1. Not Connecting Character Movements With Facial Expressions and Emotions

characters with different emotions

GIF by Disney Pixar via GIPHY

Your characters’ poses and facial expressions when you open the rig should differ from their poses and facial expressions in your actual video. Don’t just make your characters walk emotionlessly and move their body parts around .

When you animate a character, you should first understand who your character is, what they feel, and what they think in every shot. Pay attention to the smallest details, such as your characters’ eyes, hands, fingers, stance, etc.

To have more ideas about how to combine facial expressions with body movements, you can watch some movies and shows and observe how the actors sit, stand, and look.

2. Using Improper Ease Ins and Ease Outs

a character with uncontrollable movements

GIF from Reddit via GIPHY

Some animators start and stop the movements of a character or a character’s limb without adding the right ease ins and ease outs. You have to think about the object, size, height, and weight of an object or character when doing ease ins and ease outs.

According to Jean-Denis Haas, you can’t just have an object or character suddenly start then stop everything in one frame. There is no sense of weight in your animation when that happens.

For example, if you have a large object, it shouldn’t move across the screen at a very fast speed. Since that object is large, it should act heavy and must take some time to change direction, perform an action, or come to a stop.

If you want a character to jump from one place to another, it will need to take time to crouch down and push off with its feet. Once it lands, it will need to crouch, then straighten, and then look around.

If you are having a hard time finding the timing in a movement of an object while you animate, you can look at real-life items in your house or neighborhood and how they react to external forces.

To get a better understanding of how your characters should move, you can act it out yourself or observe other people as they walk and move their body parts. You can even record a video of yourself or other people and use it as reference material during your character animation.

Once you have carefully observed movements in the real world, you can successfully make your characters more lifelike and fun to watch.

3. Not Paying Attention to Spacing

man saying that spacing looks weird

GIF from Ella Bee Reads via GIPHY

Avoid having any random pops of movements in your scene. Those pops can destroy the sense of weight in your animation.

Spacing issues may not look noticeable to you, but it can be noticeable and distracting to the people who view your video.

If your character's arm keeps moving up and down in small movements, then goes back in a different direction with no connection to what the character does in the next scenes, your viewer will be confused.

Jean-Denis Haas says it can be tempting to add a pause between every action of your character or object, but that will make your animation unrealistic and unconvincing for your audience.

Former movements of your characters should prepare your video’s viewers for their next movements.

You always have to consider the intensity of the actions of your characters. This will make your animation appear more realistic. Try to aim for fluid and sequential character movements.

Always double-check your work frame by frame. Reduce the number of keyframes that you use in your animation. It may be a tedious task, but it affects how people see your video. 

4. Over-Animating a Scene

people saying no to over-animating

GIF by Saturday Night Live via GIPHY

Over-animating a scene is when you show too many things in a limited amount of time. This will complicate your video, and your audience won’t be able to understand each scene or absorb any information you’re trying to convey.

Keep the activities in each scene to a minimum. Only put the necessary actions to characters or objects to give a clear message to your audience in every scene.

5. Not Tracking Your Arcs

woman talking about tracking arcs as mandatory

GIF by Almost Family Fox via GIPHY

You should always take the time to track your arcs. It’s a boring task, but it is necessary. If you find it impossibly boring to do, play some upbeat music in the background, and get yourself a drink to enjoy while tracking your arcs.

Everything moves in arcs, whether it’s a big or small movement. While doing your character animation, as soon as you see something that stands out, track it using the built-in motion trail on Maya or other animation software.

Some animators use dry-erase markers to draw lines and dots on their drawing tablets. With one color, you can draw what is currently going on. You can track what you want to do and readjust each frame with the other color until it works. 

This is an excellent method to use if you don’t want to be slowed down by your animation software. 

If you don’t have a dry-erase marker, you can add visual helpers in bright colors for tracking on your animation software. To track frame-by-frame. It doesn’t matter what software or tool you use as long as you take time to track your arcs and build it into your workflow.

6. Going Off-Brand

man talking about being off-brand


Some animators tend to go off-brand when animating. You may have a unique animation style, but your color palettes, fonts, characters, animation style in some animations may be very far from the brand’s identity.

Remember that every little detail that you put into your animations counts. To avoid going off-brand, you should get a copy of your animation client’s branding and creative guidelines so that your client won’t ask for several revisions.

This way, you will have a smooth process from storyboarding to final video approval. You can also ask your client for the old, finished videos they have commissioned before as reference while working on your animated video.

Wrapping It Up

Your job as an animator is to animate creatively, but also to clean up your animation so that your spacing works, your arcs work, etc. Consider your animation from a mechanical point of view: clean and smooth.

In creating great animation videos, you might make mistakes. Making animation mistakes is part of the animation process.

However, when you make a mistake, you are given the opportunity to correct your errors and learn from them to become a better animator. Making mistakes will give you lessons you never learned in animation school.

If you make sure that you avoid the mistakes mentioned above and carefully work on your animation frame-by-frame, it will impact how you work in general as well as the finished video.

Besides learning about animation mistakes from this blog post, we recommend that you visit Jean-Denis Haas’ YouTube channel, where he uploads videos about acting and animation analysis and tutorials for beginners and advanced animators.

He also posts videos about animation workshop critiques, rig reviews, and more.

Jean-Denis Haas is an associate animation supervisor at ILM, a teacher at Animation Mentor, his Spungella Animation Workshop, and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Now that you know the common mistakes animators should avoid, do you want to level up your animation business skills? Check out our free masterclass and get a copy of our marketing handbook!

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