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The Basics of Animation Every Freelancer Forgets

ben marvazi 2020

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Welcome to the world of animation where creativity knows no bounds! As a freelancer, it's easy to get caught up in exciting projects and deadlines, but don't forget the fundamentals

In this blog, we'll be revisiting the basics of animation that every freelancer should keep in mind (and sometimes forgets!). From layers to motion keyframes, we'll explore the essential building blocks that form the foundation of great animation. So sit back, relax, and let's dive back into the basics of animation!

The Basics of Animation: Creating Layers

The Basics of Animation: Creating Layers, character putting on many layers of jerseys

GIF by Carlotta Notaro via GIPHY

Layers are one of the most important things to know when animating, and it's easy to forget about them. If you don't create layers, it will be hard for you to edit your animation later on or create new animations with different parts of a model.

What are layers? Think of layers as your own personal stack of building blocks - you can stack, arrange, and manipulate them to create endless possibilities in your animations. And the best part? You don't need to be an architect to master this technique. 

On a more serious note, layers separate different parts of an animation that are divided into different groups so they can each be edited separately from each other. This makes it easier for you when editing because instead of having to go through all the frames individually, you only have one layer at a time (and sometimes even less than that).

The Basics of Animation: Small Alpha Space

The Basics of Animation: Small Alpha Space, man at desk saying "really small" into microphone

GIF by BigBrickPlays via Tenor

Don’t forget about the mysterious world of alpha space! This is where the magic happens, folks! When it comes to animation, keeping your alpha space small is the key to smooth and efficient rendering, especially if you're using Blender.

But don't worry, it's not rocket science! Just imagine your alpha space as a tiny, tight-fitting costume for your model. The smaller the costume, the better the performance. And if you really want to show off some background action, you can give your model a bit of breathing room, but remember to keep it minimal for maximum results.

The Basics of Animation: Color Palettes

The Basics of Animation: choosing a color palette

GIF by colorsnack via Tenor

Color palettes are important. They can make or break your animation, so don't forget them!

Different colors can help you achieve different moods and feelings. For example, green is often used to depict nature or growth (think of the grass in "The Lion King"), while red is often used to depict passion or danger (think of blood).

If you're struggling with finding the right color palette for your animation, try looking at other animations that have similar themes as yours. You'll notice that these animations use similar colors throughout their scenes - and this will give you ideas about what kinds of colors might work well for yours too!

The Basics of Animation: Transparency for Blending Modes

The Basics of Animation: Transparency for Blending Modes, female anime characters blending into one another

GIF by vvalerr via Tenor

Don’t forget about the magic of transparency! When it comes to blending modes, transparency is the secret ingredient that will take your animations to the next level. 

Think of it like a bartender adding a splash of grenadine to a cocktail. A little goes a long way! With transparency, you can blend and layer different elements to create stunning visual effects. 

If you don't include transparency, then your blending mode won't work properly and you'll get strange results (in other words: your animation will look weird).

The Basics of Animation: Move Things in All Three Axes

The Basics of Animation: Move Things in All Three Axes, point moving along a line on a xyz axis

GIF by Emo_Sincero via Tenor

If you want to make your animations look more realistic, it's important to move things in all three axes. That means moving them up and down (the Y axis), left and right (the X axis), and forward-backward (Z). 

The most common mistake is when animators only move their characters up and down or left-right - but not front-backward. This can make characters look stiff and unnatural when they walk or run because it looks like they're floating along rather than having weight behind their movements.

You can see this effect in action when you watch people walk down the street: they bend at the knees while leaning forward slightly as they go through each step cycle. If we were only animating our character's feet, then there would be no way for us to know whether he was walking or running until after we'd finished animating him! 

The Basics of Animation: Lighting

The Basics of Animation: Understanding Lighting and how it is falling on this 3D character

GIF by AEmiliusLives via Tenor

Lighting is a key element in animation. It can help to show depth and dimension, the shape of an object, a character's mood, and even movement. 

If you're animating something that will be viewed on-screen (for example, if you're making a video game), then it's essential that your characters look good under different lighting conditions - especially if they move between indoor and outdoor environments!

The Basics of Animation: FOV at 120 Degrees or Less

When you animate, your camera's field of view (FOV) determines how much of your scene can be seen at once. For example, if you have a wide FOV that shows more than 120 degrees of the scene, this can make it difficult for viewers to identify where they should focus their attention on the screen.

If you want viewers to follow your characters' movements while they're talking or doing something else important within the scene, then having too much visual information around them will make it hard for them to do so.

The Basics of Animation: Looping

The Basics of Animation: cat rolling the loo roll demonstrating animation looping

GIF by SophiePailler via Tenor

Don’t forget to use the loop feature to your advantage. For example, if you're making an animation that involves walking or running and you want it to be smoother, use this feature! It will make a big difference in your final product.

Another way to utilize loops is by creating a movement with them.  If you want something dynamic, looping frames are perfect for this kind of thing because they allow for more fluidity than if you were just drawing all new frames every single time there was a movement happening within an animation (which would look choppy).

The Basics of Animation: Scale and Size

The Basics of Animation: Keeping characters to scale and size such as this dragon and girl

Studio Ghibli GIF via GIPHY

Another important animation basic is scale and size - these are two things that can make or break your animation. If your scale is incorrect, then your characters will look out of place in the scene. If you're not careful with how big or small they are relative to their surroundings, it could cause problems in how the viewer perceives them (and look very confusing!).

On the other hand, if you use the right scale and size for each character in your scene - or at least make sure they don't look too different from one another - you'll have a much easier time making them feel like part of their environment.

The Basics of Animation: Keyframes

The Basics of Animation: animated bird flying demonstrating keyframes

GIF by SVGator via GIPHY

Setting keyframes correctly and on time is a crucial aspect of animation that should not be forgotten! When you're working on your animation project, the most important thing to remember is that all of your animations need to be set up beforehand. 

This means setting up your keyframes and making sure they're timed correctly so that when you play them back, they look smooth and natural. If you don't do this right, then it can make all the difference between an okay animation and one that looks great!

Don’t Forget About These Basics of Animation

Don’t Forget About These Basics of Animation, family guy Stewie saying don't forget to Brian who's reading a newspaer

GIF by username156 via Tenor

When you're planning your animation, it's important to keep the basics in mind. You should always be aware of these things:

Planning is key. You should always have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish before getting started on any project, especially when animating because it takes time and effort out of your day that could have been spent elsewhere.

Don't forget about spacing! This is one of the most common mistakes people make when animating - they don't give enough room between objects so everything looks cramped together on screen (and sometimes even overlaps). Make sure there's at least one pixel between each object so they don't overlap with each other or move awkwardly through space during playback.

Keep it simple! Don't try too hard to make something complex look real when it doesn't need all those details anyway; instead, focus on making sure that what does get drawn looks good from far away instead.

Summing Up The Basics of Animation

If you want to make sure that your animation is looking its best, then it's important to remember these basics. You can use them as a checklist when planning out your next project, or even just keep them in mind when working on one so that you don't forget about any crucial steps along the way!

So if you're looking at remembering or learning more animation fundamentals, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, and our Animation Business Accelerator Program, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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