Back last week, on April 17th, Tea Time Animation hosted Stefan Schumacher, an animator at Pixar and AAU alumni. While Stefan claims that his talk isn't going to be "pennies from heaven" but rather post-it notes of points that he has learned and observed. Regardless, his points are still golden and everybody would be wise to take heed and keep them in mind.
Try to put something relatable in your shots
What "relatable" means is heart and truth. They are the little things that relate back to real life. Don't just worry about always polishing your shot and making it as fancy as it can be, but rather think "how would _____ do this". If you succeed, your shot will then contain the small moments of empathy that the audience will be able to find relatable.
Timing seems to trump everything
There are 12 principles to animation but when you look at animation and its workflow, you will notice that when weighted, timing is equal to all the other 11 principles combined. While you can pose a character perfectly to convey an emotion, the same emotion can be conveyed with the timing of animation. Posing will require many minute adjustments of various controls without the action being finaled, and animating timing constrains the controls down to just a few thus saving you valuable time and speeding up your workflow.
Write down the subtext and act that out
Subtext is important as that is what gives characters depth and thought. A good way to go about this process of figuring out what the subtext is to first write down exactly what the dialogue contains and then go back and think about what the character(s) are actually saying and what the setup of the scene is.
Some controls are more important than others
Stefan calls these "truth tellers". These are the controls that you will want to be mainly to be using to animate your shot. Only using these controls will help you save time and focus on what's important in your physics. The additional controls are there for further polish but that should not be worried about until later.
Some examples of truth tellers:
Body: translate Z
Eyes: top eyelid
The little evil voice inside your head...everyone has it...so relax
You know that voice. The one that keeps whispering doubts of whether you are good enough, if you can really make it in this industry. Stefan attributes this to the "Instagram effect". You're only seeing the best snippets of other people's lives; you're not experiencing the full journey of how it got to that point. Each one of us have experienced trials and tribulations to get to where we are and who are now.
This also reminds me of a quote I heard earlier that day.
“If you find you’re asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are, you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
- Stephen Pressfield “The War of Art”