Animation AMA with our Animators

At Key West Video, we work as a team. Projects demand attention from our producers, editors, animators, scripting—in short, most of what we work on comes together thanks to a united effort. The people who handle animation use their imagination and talent to bring projects without people to life. We’re lucky enough to have some really talented artists working for us as animators. Today’s blog is all about giving you some insight into their work, their creative inspiration, and how they connect with an audience through characters and icons.

Do You Draw Everything by Hand?

In the past I’ve done some frame by frame animation, but typical now it’s all done digitally. A lot of the times you don’t even need to draw every single frame. The software will interpret certain motion or elements to fill in the gaps. If I was to make a simple animation of a person waving, for example, I would only need to tell the software where to start and stop the wave. The rest is filled in automatically.

At Key West everything is made digitally and animated using Adobe After Effects, so we rarely need to draw things by hand. The only thing I would draw by hand would be the frames for a whiteboard animation, and even then it would be on the computer via my drawing tablet.

What are the different kinds of animation?

Traditional hand-drawn animation, 2D vector-based animation, 3D animation and Stop Motion would be the main ones, although you can break each down into more specific subcategories as well.

There are so many different kinds of animation, from whiteboard to stop motion.

What are the steps for animating a project?

No matter how complex or simple, we always need to start with a storyboard. This is basically a simplified version of what we think the animation should look like. It will describe key moments or actions, along with image mock-ups to represent each scene. After these are approved, we need to build and create any additional elements that weren’t covered in the storyboards. If there is voice over narration or character dialogue, we need to time it out so that we know how long each scene and animation action needs to be. From there, we get into the animation proper. If one of the characters is speaking, we also need to sync the characters lips with the dialogue.

The first step would be writing a script. Once the script is approved, we create a storyboard based on it. Visual assets that will later be animated are usually created at this point as well. After a few revisions, the storyboard is approved and we have the voiceover recorded. We start the actual animation process after the voiceover has been delivered to us. The in-depth steps of animating the visual assets usually includes character rigging, scene composition and keyframing rough movements before polishing them further. Music and sound effects will also be added at this point. Like the storyboard, the animated video will go through a number of revisions before being approved and rendered out for final delivery.

Can you make an animated character do anything?

Although we’re often limited by time, budget and the tools at our disposal, it is more or less possible to make a character do anything at all. Being free from the restraints of reality is what makes animation great!

Yes!

What do you enjoy animating?

I really like animating people expressing emotion. Even in a simplified style, it’s fun to try to convey the emotions within a more limited, or less detailed, style. I have animated more ‘this person is confused’ and ‘this person looks worried’ than I can count.

Characters! I love animations that let me tell a story and show people interacting.

Do you animate outside of work?

Yes! I like to draw, but I also like making short films that mix animation and traditional video. I’m also currently working on a children’s story.

I like to practice frame by frame animation in my downtime.

Animation AMA with our Animators
Animator Sarah drew this piece for the Anime North 2019 cover competition

How long does a one-minute animation take?

It really depends on the complexity of the subject matter, but a typical corporate-style explainer video of that length can be produced in a matter of days or weeks.

It varies greatly depending on what sort of content we’re showing during that minute, but if the production process remains steady from scripting to final animation render then I would say around one and a half to two months.

What are some of the most difficult things to animate?

Walking and walk cycles are notoriously difficult, especially for animals. The more legs, the more time it takes. This is why you will so often see walking characters from the waist up. It saves so much time!

Paper! Every now and then I’ll end up with a cartoon stack of paper that needs to fall all over the place and it’s always time-consuming. Nature effects like water and fire can also be tricky.