by Joel Brinkerhoff

I may have driven away many people at Will Vinton Studio with my mantra, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, but in a visual media like animation a picture is extremely helpful.

If you’re an avid fan of animation you have no doubt seen some pretty fabulous production art. This may intimidate many, (including myself), and discourage you from doing any graphic pursuits. But what about the stuff you never see in books? What about the exploratory doodle never meant to be suitable for framing? This is the stuff that will help you visualize your scene.

I have known many stop-motion and c.g. animators who say they can’t draw and chose dimensional animation partly because of that. How much ability does it take to draw a stick figure? In many cases it’s really all you need.

I’ve looked at the exposure sheets from some of these non-drawing animators and more times than not have found stick figure poses marking out the action and timing. By running my eyes down the sheet I got an idea of the whole scene before any animation was even shot.

Try noodling out your poses as thumbnail sketches first. Find the pose that best tells the action with a simple stick figure and block out your whole scene from action to action. Next take these simple drawings and time out how long you want the action to happen on your exposure sheets. You could even shoot them with a frame-grabber and put them up against audio to see how well it works.

By doing a little drawing you can build your scene for the best impact and not have to muddle through a shot hoping the magic will kick in.