Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Thumb Nails Are Time Well Spent

I have written previously about making thumb nails as an early step in the process of animating. So I just want to make a quick review of this concept. First of all thumb nails are basically throwaway drawings. By that I mean that they aren’t going to be part of the final cartoon or even a direct rough that will be cleaned up as part of animating. Thumb nails are “thinking” and “visualizing” drawings that are intended to help the cartoon maker work through the idea development process.

Suppose for an example in the script there is a sequence about a character going down a ski ramp. Now this character is not an accomplished skier and the script indicates that this should be a very humorous sequence. The storyboard panels for this sequence show several different shots ranging from a wide angle up shot as the character starts down the ramp to an extreme close up midway down and then back to another wide angle shot as the character is launched into space off the end of the ramp. But these panels are just a guide to the actual sequence and how it should be created. Perhaps we even have determined in our story development sessions how much elapsed screen time is allotted for this entire sequence. We now have to plan the actual animation of this action. So where do we begin? With the various extreme poses, you reply. But how do we determine what those poses will be and how can we “milk” the most laughs out of our performance? That’s were the thumb nailing comes into play. We will want to do our thinking and planning visually using these small quickly done loosely drawn drawings to explore the various possibilities. We can try different angles and shots and different ways in which the character moves as they hopelessly and clumsily go down the ski ramp. We don’t want to only have one take on how to do this sequence we want to have many different approaches because that’s how we will “discover” the one we will ultimately want to create. But we can’t and don’t want to invest too much time on any of these drawings they are just a planning tool and a throwaway one at that.

But it is much better to spend time exploring ideas and testing poses and ways to tell this story sequence through thumb nails then it would be to just start animating with no plan and hope for the best. Sure drawing thumb nails cost us time and seem like extra work but in reality they are going to save us time and allow us to get better results by helping us to minimize having to rework a disappointing sequence.

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