This is one of the shots I used in my workshop in Florence, Italy, a few weeks ago to show my work flow and breakdown.
It's a shot for a short film I worked on at Ken Duncan's studio for Dreamworks "The Legend of the Boneknapper" that was included as a bonus on the Blu-Ray DVD of How to Train Your Dragon.
This is my first pass that I do after I plan the shot in thumbnail format. I first watch the story reel and talk with the director about the shot, what's is happening in it. After all is clear to me and I have all the information I need, I get back to my desk and think about it and start planing. First in my head. I try to visualize the entire shot. Then I put down my thoughts on paper as thumbnails, small drawings that show all the key poses I might need to have.
To me, working out in thumbnail format a complex shot like this is essential, otherwise I would get lost if I just start animating right away with no plan. Unfortunately I misplaced the thumbnail sheets and it would be nice to have it here too.
After my first pass, I make a pencil test to see if the action is working and I might do some adjustments. As you can see, in my first pass I am not concerned about the drawings, only the action and acting. I use simple shapes only and not much detail.
For the next pass (above) is what we call the tie down version where, after the animation is working out fine, I would go over the drawings on a separate piece of paper (or sometimes on the same one) and draw the character properly on model and I also add all the details, overlap, etc. I also make some spacing adjustments as well at this stage. Spacing is how one drawing relates to the next and the space inbetween them which relates to the timing and how fast or slow your animation looks.
After I tie down I do another final pencil test for the director to approve and this version goes to the cleanup artist. Of course, I would indicate here the key drawings and breakdowns and inbetweens by charting it.
Finally, the final version that is inked and painted and composed with the backgrounds and effects.
Animation like this takes a while to make it and is sure a lot of work and we draw many, many drawings but with time it becomes second nature to the animator and we start not thinking too much about how many drawings will take it, we just do them to give life to a scene. The result is always rewarding in the end.
A big thanks to Ken Duncan for sending me these pencil tests.