Seiji Lim, a freelance artist who has worked with Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and more, explains his learning process for Adobe Animator from a bouncing ball to a multi-faceted group walk cycle.

Background

Hi, I’m Seiji from London, UK. I’m currently a freelance artist and my goal is to work in the Animation/Film/Videogame industry. I’ve previously worked as a Character Artist at Disney Consumer Products and have a B.A. in Animation Production.

Learning the Fundamentals

The first two weeks was a great foundation for me to apply traditional principles to a new digital program. Initially, I found the program somewhat counter-intuitive, however Brent’s lectures broke things down in a clear, concise and practical manner. The assignments hit the sweet spot of being engaging enough to feel satisfying skill progression, but not so challenging as to become overwhelming.

Clean-up was my weakest area, so it was great to see an industry pro’s method of tackling this stage. Brent drew ‘through’ forms and then erased back, something Adobe Animate is particularly suited for (because lines are vector-based, specific areas can quickly and easily be selected and deleted).

This was a great way to keep lines smooth and flowing vs overly timid and sketchy. It was also reassuring to hear tracing from the model sheets is an acceptable practice in animation to keep characters on the model.

Character Design for Animation

I approached this character design by keeping in mind the 3D form. To this end, the design is largely symmetrical, the colour palette is simple, and there aren’t too many details on the forms. I was attempting to strike a balance between making it efficient to animate whilst not looking too plain. In completing the turnaround, I made revisions to ensure all the forms lined up correctly and in perspective, e.g. the hands and feet. Brent’s explanation of the Photoshop Timeline helped highlight any inconsistencies when the form was seen from multiple directions.

If you want to develop a character from the ground up, check out CGMA’s Fundamentals of Character Design course.

I wanted the character’s walk cycle to be confident without being arrogant (moving with a purpose/sense of direction). I opted for the 3⁄4 walk cycle because it would give an opportunity to learn how to add a slight rotation. A prop (bundle) was added to give some secondary motion. Easing was important to reinforce the momentum/rhythm and weight of certain parts (eg. The arms swings decelerating at the front and back most poses).

Some themed music to match Seiji’s character walk cycle!

Lip Syncing and Symbols

Lip syncing was one of the skills I wanted to learn most and because I believe it’s one of Flash’s (Adobe Animate) strongest tools. The hardest part was breaking down the dialogue into syllables where each one is stressed and matching it to the corresponding mouth shape.

A cool tip was that because light travels faster than sound, subconsciously it looks more ‘correct’ if the frames are slightly ahead of the sound produced. In terms of emotion, I wanted to add an element of storytelling to the line read by having a contrasting transition from one emotional state to another e.g. angry to sad.

Adobe Animate isn’t the only software for animation. Intro to Animation in Maya is a course that give students a foundation in Maya for animation, with a focus on efficiency and flexibility.

Animating a Scene

I chose the longest sequence because I thought it was the most challenging, and I’d get the most out of it in terms of learning. I found the process of in-betweening less difficult than the process of going from rough to clean animation. I had to redo an entire pass because my rough didn’t match up with the correct model sheet proportions. I think the rough animation can be deceptive because it can hide a lot of errors, which are then exposed at the clean stage.

Creating your own animation loop

The overall task was simplified by keeping all the cycles on a profile view. Brent had already done a great job of explaining and demonstrating how symbols worked, so I made extensive use of them here to keep everything organized, much like Photoshop group folders.

The final project was a group walk cycle. I wanted to build upon the single character walk by adding a cast of characters with different personalities, but all linked by the walk cycle fundamentals taught in week 5. I enjoyed including some basic sound design and background effects to attempt to create a more immersive atmosphere/narrative.

See Seiji’s final animation – music and narrative included – on his Instagram!

Final Thoughts

  • I was familiar with the basics of 2D animation because I have a degree in Hand drawn/Traditional Animation. However, I had no experience in Digital Animation. I tried for years to get to grips with Flash (Adobe Animate) in order to digitally animate but found the software learning curve frustrating.
  • I found Brent Noll via his YouTube channel (BaM Animation). His delivery style was jam-packed with actionable tips and process breakdowns without any fluff. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to learn from him directly and get some professional, personalized feedback, so I enrolled in Foundations in Modern 2D Animation.
  • The final assignment was the most fun but also the most challenging. It put all the skills learned throughout the course together. The key was trying to create something exciting but achievable within the deadline.
  • I’d advise having a hierarchy/priority list to animating parts of a character. e.g. torso/head-legs-arms-secondary action-details vs tackling everything simultaneously.
  • Clean-up always took far longer than expected, so I’d allow the majority of time for that. I found if I kept the idea simple in the rough stage, and got onto the clean-up asap, this helped.
  • I learned an incredible amount from Brent’s course. His way of explaining tools and techniques, and demonstrating how to solve problems really clicked with me. It influenced my way of creating work  in terms of pipeline, file setup and layered approaches to building projects.
  • One of the main skills reinforced during this course was seeing and creating everything through an industry/ TV animation lens, so it was not only more professional looking, but more efficient to create. Previously, I’d spend too much time on planning and not enough on the execution phase. Finally having the learning segmented into targeted, digestible weekly chunks with industry level, personalized feedback vs scattershot learning took my learning further, faster than I ever would have been able to on my own.

RELATED LINKS

Watch Brent Noll’s description of Foundations in Modern 2D Animation.

If you want to develop a character from the ground up, check out CGMA’s Fundamentals of Character Design course.

Adobe Animate isn’t the only software for animation. Intro to Animation in Maya is a course that give students a foundation in Maya for animation, with a focus on efficiency and flexibility.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for concept art, illustration, and entertainment design in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.