They’re every professional animator’s enemy: deadlines. Though they always seem to come too soon, deadlines are a necessary part of the business. This means that animators frequently have to speed up their animation times and submit their animated videos to clients as soon as possible.
Sometimes, marketing agencies, advertising agencies, animation studios, and businesses need a project several days or even weeks before a deadline, so they can check and see if your product needs any revisions before sending it to their client.
Most likely, you have faced this challenge and have asked yourself: How do I still submit a quality product while working within a serious time constraint? Luckily, we have some tips for how you can deliver on your deadlines and satisfy your clients.
1) Plan Ahead
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Planning what you need to do for a project ahead of time can ultimately save you a lot of time and frustration. Starting a project is much easier when you already have an idea of what you will be doing.
When you start planning for specific scenes, jot down a list of things you want to do in each scene.
Then, once you’re given background music and a voiceover, spend time listening to the audio files. Imagine how the scenes will look, then draw a few simple thumbnail sketches of the scenes. These can serve as references when you storyboard.
Once you have a vision for your scenes, estimate how much time each scene will take. When you start working on scenes in your animation software, you’ll probably have to refine your timing, but doing this will help you plan out your project, so you stay on track and finish your animation by your deadline.
2) Observe What Slows You Down
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Sometimes, the best way to speed up your animation time is to observe your daily and weekly activities. Your hobbies and hangouts with friends might be giving you less time to work on your animation projects. If you think that’s the cause of what’s slowing you down, work on your schedule so that you can prioritize your work when needed.
If you don’t think your schedule is the source of your deadline dilemmas, the problem could be the work itself taking too long. If you’re putting too many movements in a single scene it can take you a long time to make progress.
For example, YouTube artist Haley Newsome of LavenderTowne said that she subconsciously doubled her workload by working on 8 panels from just 4 panels per page. This slowed down her process of drawing comics and felt more tired than usual.
Fortunately, she noticed this and was able to speed up her drawing process again. This might be your problem too, so it’s a good idea to observe your animation process and look back at your past work.
3) Take More Breaks
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Haley also says that when you have a deadline to meet and so many other things to do, you tend to not make time to take breaks in between your working hours. You just sit in front of your computer or drawing tablet all day, which can bring a lot of mental and physical stress to your mind and body.
Your fatigue might make you miss out on important details or hurt the quality of your animation work which will all the more slow down your animation process. According to Haley, if you take more breaks, it will definitely improve the quality of your animation as well as your happiness. Walking around, getting some fresh air, or stretching for just a few minutes will make a big difference.
4) Use Keyboard Shortcuts
This one is an absolute must no matter your profession, but especially for animators on their computers all day. According to Skwigly Animation, to be faster in any activity, you should measure and understand how to increase your actions per minute.
Keyboard shortcuts make working on our computers and laptops faster and easier. For example, if you want to copy a text on your computer, you can simply hold the Ctrl button on your keyboard and press “C” then “V.”
Just by using shortcut keys, you can become 20% faster in animating. Some recognized websites with animation keyboard shortcuts are Adobe and Esri. You can find many more online!
You can customize shortcuts not only on your keyboard but also on your graphics tablet and stylus pen. This is why it’s important to take into consideration the features of your animation software, graphics tablet, and stylus pen before purchasing them.
5) Use a Good Quality Rig
Image by Jeana Travels via Surf and Sunshine
Using a quality rig is necessary. It helps you to be more creative and free when animating, while also helping you to have a faster animation time.
Look for rigs that can make your character change poses easily. If possible, you can have someone help you come up with a good rig for the key poses, then you can do the additional animation yourself.
One way to know if the rig is good is to understand inverse kinematics and use the process in your rig. Inverse kinematics, quickly defined, takes a target position (animation character) as the input and calculates the pose required for the end-effector to reach the target position — the pose is the output.
6) Change Your Animation Software
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It’s possible that what’s slowing you down isn’t you; it could be your hardware’s fault. If you notice that your computer or tablet tends to slow down whenever you animate, don’t hesitate to experiment with other animation software. Some software could work faster on your computer or drawing tablet compared to what you’re using now. It might take you time to get used to using new animation software, but it will definitely allow you to speed up your animation time.
7) Optimize Your Process in Animation
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Skwigly Animation says that to efficiently animate, focus on the 2 most important items in any animation project: Your pipeline and keyframes.
To help your animation pipeline run smoothly, your desktop should be well-organized. Working at a cluttered desk is not efficient; if your things are a mess, you won’t be able to find something easily. The same is true when you work on your computer. The organization of the files on your PC is vitally important while working on your animation projects.
Always name your folders and files properly. Use separate folders for each media file type such as your sound effects, background music, pictures, and videos. Doing this will keep your folders and desktop organized, making it easier for you to find the files you need if you need to make changes.
Once you have a general idea of your scenes and characters, you should set up your key poses. It’s best if you make your character pose in important keyframes first: the starting, middle, and ending position. Then you can work on the other frames and details later.
8) Recycle What You Use
Image via Gallery Roulette
According to Skwigly Animation, animators shouldn’t waste time blocking a character again. You should copy and paste keyframes (you can use keyboard shortcuts here!) and modify them, especially when the poses are very similar to each other. That’s much faster than doing everything from scratch.
You can also recycle animation by simply copying and pasting keyframes.
For example, for a walk cycle, you will need the character to walk and do something with its hand, like pointing at an object. You can recycle the walk cycle animation and make new keyframes for the other body parts of your character when necessary. Recycling animation will leave less work for you and save you a ton of time.
Freelance animator and YouTuber Howard Wimshurst says that if you want to make more animation or drawings in less time, you shouldn’t have “warm-up drawings”. As an animator, you should think long-term when drawing even if you’re just going to post a video on Instagram or YouTube.
If you keep your old animations, you will most likely be able to use them again in the future for your animation projects, especially if the subject in your animation posted on social media is relevant to your subject in your animation project.
Use Previous Animations as References
Let’s say that in a previous video, you had perfect timing and animation curves, but now, you can’t figure out how to do that again.
You can use a previous animation as a reference. Just check the number of frames between keyframes and the animation curves from one of your previous animations and apply the information to your current animation.
Summing It Up
Planning thoroughly, observing what slows you down, taking more breaks, using keyboard shortcuts, organizing your files, using a quality rig, and referencing previous animation projects will save you time as you animate.
Remember that wasted time is wasted money and effort. If you want to finish working on your animation projects early, make sure to follow these tips; you’ll save yourself time, energy, and stress!
Want to learn more about the animation business and how to get clients? Feel free to get your copy of our marketing handbook and join our free masterclass!