7 common animation mistakes you can’t afford to make
Online animation tips aren’t exactly hard to come by nowadays – seriously, you can’t move for them.
Not that we’re complaining, this is definitely a good thing. We’re part of an incredibly talented and generous community that are always willing to share their knowledge.
This week, instead of trying to tackle another guide, let’s embrace our faults, find out what we can learn from common animation mistakes, and hopefully stop making them before they become a habit.
We’ve made it our mission to come up with some of our personal animation no-no’s and how to avoid them.
1. Animate your actions with both anticipation and aftermath
Let’s say you want to have one character rugby tackle another one. The action itself can be animated with great accuracy but to really make it seem believable, you have to embellish it:
- Show the tackler watching for their moment to move in – perhaps a facial expression to indicate their intent
- As they begin the tackle, their body might be tensing and they shift their weight before impact
- After the tackle the pair might go careening off to the side, you want to show the conservation of momentum and you want to show gravity taking its effect, too
- Was the tackled character prepared for this action? If not then show their surprise, their reaction.
The result of this action once it has been book ended with anticipation and aftermath makes it feel substantial and worthwhile. This concept is one of the basics taught to novice animators. It isn’t immediately obvious all these little visual queues that go into an action which make it seem believable until you’re forced to see every frame.
This goes double for dialog in your videos. You know how the conversation will progress, you probably wrote the script after all, so you know better than anyone. But real conversation has ebbs and flows, your characters need time to process what they’re hearing before they can respond or even react at all.
Cut a character off at a natural point, incorporate realistic false starts and non-verbal utterances. Remember: you’re shooting for authenticity, not am-dram!
A handy tip for better dialogue is to find someone to run through lines with whilst also recording it so you can listen back yourself to see how natural it sounds.
2. Reference your references, don’t animate them
We’re not about to start bashing references, they’re clearly at the core of conceptualising an animation and should be used constantly and at every level. Hell, we have mirrors alongside our monitors just to capture reference for movement and facial expressions. It’s even pretty common to record yourself and use your own recordings as reference material!
The key to this is to draw inspiration from your references and create a performance informed by it rather than trying to translate your reference straight onto an existing character without any thought for personality, existing motifs or styles.
3. Simplicity > Complexity
The possibilities available to you by working in animated video make it one of the most exciting formats to produce for. Don’t let this dazzle you though! It is almost always better to keep it simple and keep it clear.
It might be tempting to go for a visually interesting and unique camera move tracking a character’s movement during a shot but does it actually bring anything to the video other than stroke your directorial ego?
Another question to ask yourself is – is it consistent? If the answer is no, please just nip it in the bud during the early planning stages! It’s so much harder to change something like this if you just have the “we’ll work out that shot later” mentality.
Having to make hefty revisions to your animation midway through because you realise that a certain shot doesn’t fit can be very time consuming and disruptive to production.
This mistake is one that you cannot afford to make especially if you are producing animated explainer videos. The whole point of these is to be able to deliver complex material in an easy-to-follow way: reflect this in your style!
4. Consistency is everything
This week’s post was inspired by these awesome no-no’s sheets from King of the Hill and The Simpsons:
Not only are these a fantastic resource which we geek out to here at the studio – they also make you realise how even a single inconsistency in animation can ruin the whole production.
This is especially important when you’re part of a large studio where animation roles are spread out between many people. Maybe you’re just doing line work or tweening, so you might not have an overall view of the proper technique.
This delegation of duties makes it easy to take your eye off the consistency for your animation. That’s not to say that solo animators should skip over this tip. We’ve seen plenty of videos where it’s pretty clear that the animators skill in drawing a character has developed throughout a project, or they rush certain frames.
Be diligent, write up your own project no-no’s and pin them above your monitor for quick reference. Working in a group? Go full passive-aggressive mode and circulate them to everyone who you’re working with.
5. Going off brand
Now for some mistakes often made by animation for business purposes.
The most successful and impactful animated video is always firmly placed within a business’s branding conventions and creative guidelines. Be sure to get a copy of your brand’s guidelines to your animation team, this’ll take out any guesswork and hopefully cut down a lengthy approvals process.
Staying on brand doesn’t have to be an arduous practice. It can be as obvious as using your logos, the correct colour palette, fonts and messages. It’s not often that it gets as precise as some of the King of the Hill no-no’s.
Detail is everything in animation, and the most subtle of style choices make your animation immediately recognisable and synonymous with your brand. You should already have some kind of styling reference sheet for your business or individual brand, animation is not exempt!
6. No strategy or call to action in your video
If you’re working with any studio worth its salt, they should make sure you don’t stumble into making this mistake, but we’ve seen our fair share of professional-grade animation for business which has no call to action in it at all.
Sure, the purpose of your animation might just be to increase brand share of voice and increase exposure, but it’s easy to not take advantage of the interactivity that animated video is so great at encouraging.
Signing up via an online form, an invitation to join your business on social media, prompting an email enquiry or linking straight to an online store are all perfect calls to action and easy as pie for a decent studio to embed seamlessly into your animation.
7. Not trafficking your animation properly
This can be a whopper. Once your content has been created, don’t just plonk it on your landing page and wait for the views to roll in, you have to proactively push out the video on as many channels that you have available to you!
By striving to hit maximum possible reach through your own means, you encourage your customers to share the video themselves.
This should be basic stuff for any online video creator working today, everyone and their Mum wants to ‘go viral’ nowadays after all. The best chance you have to be the next YouTube star is by getting your video out there and diversifying your delivery methods.
These channels should be front of mind to anyone more than beginner animation producers but the amount of these mistakes we see crop up in completed professional videos is bonkers. Make sure that a conversation about how you’re going to traffic your video is taking place before almost any other planning activities.
If you have any more specific queries on possible animation faux pas you’re afraid you may be making, just drop us a line and we’d be pleased to help out (no judgement, we promise).
Or, perhaps you don’t want to risk it and you want to guarantee a quality animated video by going straight to the experts. Just give us a call, we’d love to hear your ideas and we’ll be back with a slew of our own, don’t be shy!
More animation tips and guides:
- 8 common voiceover mistakes and how to avoid making them
- The 5 biggest animation blunders that you can learn from!
- Can you teach yourself animation?
- How to create an animation portfolio
- Should I Specialise Or Generalise As An Animator?
- 11 Tips For Creating Characters