Why You Should Plan Your Animation Beforehand

Each one of us, when starting to learn and enter the Motion Graphics worlds, surely dived into tutorials and more tutorials about After Effects and other softwares.

We search the whole internet to learn a new effect, plugin and how to do that special thing. We call ourselves Motion Designers or Animators, but at the end we are not any those, we are good in After Effects.

Knowledge First, Software Later

I know how exciting it is when a new project arrives and you are anxious to start animating. You can’t wait to open After Effects and start creating compositions, tickle some keyframes and make everything come to life.

What we forget is that as Motion Designer, we need to think about animation and not only execute it. A software is just a tool you have to craft your movements. You must know how to do the same without a computer, animating the things in the classic way.

Plan your Animation in your head

You should plan in our head first what you’re going to do later. The animation process actually starts when you are in the conception phases of the project. Everything must be planned upfront so when you open your favorite software, you already know what to do, what to expect and how to integrate the things you’re going to animate. If you think about your work one scene at a time, the result won’t be as good and entertaining as it could have been, and both you and your client will be losing incredible opportunities.

I encourage you to follow the development of all the phases of each project, always raising a flag when you see you can make things better or when you see the possibility of a disaster.

Most Motion Designers only start working once the project already has a script, storyboard, and style frames ready, needing just someone to make the animation works. When you are doing this, you are being the technician who will spin the wheel, but you won’t have a good control where the pointer will stop, and there you won’t be able to guarantee a work of quality. You’ll be attaching your name to something you may not be proud of.

You don’t want to be their tool, the guy who clicks the right buttons. And you sure don’t want to be the guy who created that regular work.

When you start to work on your projects thinking about the animation since the beginning, you’ll see that the animation will start to feel more natural.

What to keep in mind when preparing your files for animation

The moment when we prepare the files for animation is crucial. Keeping in mind how each element will be animated helps you to know exactly how the file needs to be built.

For example, if you’re going to animate an icon like the ones we have on our Animation Process page, you will see that almost all elements in there are animated individually. It was a choice we made during the concept phase of this project. We could easily go for fewer elements in the animation to make it simpler, but if during the animation we decided that animating things individually would make it more interesting, we would need to go back and prepare all files again.

Thinking on the animation during all the phases of a project, helps you to develop a better workflow and prevents any rework due to a bad planning.

Once you have a plan, do it!

The initials phases of a project are decisive for the final animation result. As a Motion Designer, you must be not only the person able to use After Effects but someone who truly understands animation. No matter the size of the project, the animation always starts in your head.

Focus on the movements, the flow between scenes and the animation principles. After having everything defined, work towards making everything come to life, according to your plan.

That’s how Motion Designers and Animators should work. Apply this to your creative process and you’ll see how things will flow smoothly and how your output quality will increase!

Originally published at mowestudio.com on March 3, 2016.

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