As an animator, the most important step is to be able to master animating facial emotions and reactions. I believe it is also the most difficult.
When given the task to animate our facial reactions, I started by creating a new character. This one is actually well know: Gandalf from Lord of The Rings.
From online pictures, I created my animated base for the character.
But an illustration is not helping to understand how the character is moving. I used pictures and videos of classmates acting the emotions and reactions I wanted to convey and used them as reference.
They acted the different stages of Gandalf reacting to an object and allowed me to start my key poses.
From there I started animating and watching different cartoons expressing those emotions to get a feeling of how previous animators achieved facial expressions. One of the most helpful was watching “Boo” from Monsters Inc by Pixar. At one point my character is falling asleep, barely able to keep his eyes open.
I remembered “Boo” expressing the same facial emotion and took example from it.
When setting up a many emotions for a character in Maya for 3D animation though, the process was completely different and much complicated on so many different level. At this point, it is not just about moving a rig, it is about creating a character with a huge panel of emotions on a completely still and cold software with only a mouse as a tool. As a former illustrator, I find it so unnatural to set up a character in an entirely computerized way. Moreover, I do believe we will need more classes to model in 3D rather than animate as a good character is a must for animation.