How to Animate (Making an Animated Movie)

We’re finally here. The animation part.

For me, this is both the funnest and hardest part of making an animated movie. The reason it is fun is because, well, I love animating. If you’re here then there must be a part of you that loves animation as well.

But it’s not all fun and games.

Animating is emotionally draining

That might sound hyperbolic or over dramatic but I really believe it’s true.

Compared to the other disciplines of computer animation (modeling, rigging, lighting, texturing, rendering, compositing…) animation is much more emotionally demanding. As someone who have done all those things, I can tell you that animation is the part that I look forward to the most, but I also dread the most.

When I sit down at my computer on a compositing day, or rigging, or any of the other tasks mentioned, I know pretty much what needs to be accomplished. When I started rigging that cube I knew what it needs to be able to do, so it was only a question of how to do it. If there was a problem or a technical obstacle, I would research how to solve it. When I sit down to light a shot I know what the result should be like, more or less.

But animation is different.

When I sit at my computer to animate, it’s always hard to start. It’s a little like looking at a black canvas. Yes, I know this ball needs to jump on the cube’s head and then roll away from the screen, but how the hell should it do it?

That’s the thing with animation, there’s never a clear path to the end result. You can animate the same shot a 1000 different ways. How long should the ball pause in the air before landing? how big does the squash and stretch needs to be? Do we get what’s going on in the shot? Does the cube’s feelings come across? DOES THAT FEEL RIGHT???

It’s draining.

What I’m going to show you

In this video I’ll show you how to animate an entire shot from beginning to end (the way I do it), and even go over some of the technical pipeline of animation (just a little bit) so you’ll have a concept of where does animation fit in the production timeline.


If you want to learn more about character animation in Maya, check out our Maya Animation Course. If Maya is not your thing, we also have animation courses for other popular programs.

Previous step: Picking a Name
Next step: Lighting and Rendering

Making an Animated Short (FREE ebook)

A free ebook covering the process of making an animated short film from start to finish.