1. The absolute best way to learn animation right now is online, Whether it is from Animation Mentor (which is where Iwent), Ianimate(run by a lot of talented people at Dreamworks), or AnimSchool(Mostly Blue Sky dudes). The reason for this is that the animators you learn from and get feedback from are the ones that are making the multi-million dollar films that people are going to see, they are in touch with the needs and wants of animation studios and know what a person needs to succeed and can provide you with all that information. They are well equipped as well, you won’t be rigging, setting up lights, worrying about things that have nothing to do with the specific craft of animation. The assignments are structured so that you start off simple and nail down the principles of animation(you better know those) and gradually it gets more difficult as you learn. Not only are they a great place to learn but they are a great place to network and meet other people online that are doing the same thing as you. The online community is great and is a very big reason for me getting opportunities at my last two jobs. People search for potential employees through these places and knowing someone who went to the same school creates a common denominator, not to mention the reputations of these schools for putting out fantastic animators is great and growing all the time. Taking Animation Mentor was the single best investment to my animation career.
2. Go back to basics, a ball bounce or a ball that has two legs and feet, animate a walk with the character then try to do an animation that shows an emotion, if you can pull it off with a torso and legs you are on your way.
3. Keep It Simple, you will hear this constantly, clarity in animation is key, keeping it simple is there to avoid the, “now what’s he doing?” line which sucks to hear.
4. Buy the animatorssurvival kit book if you haven’t already, this book is fantastic and breaks things down very well. He has a video series based on the book which is filled with amazing information too, but it’s expensive.
5. Always Model, Rig, Light, Render, Composite, and Animate your own work, WRONG! Again, if your focus is animation, then animate, there are a lot of free sources online for rigs and models for you to use, here is one that is great, CreativeCrash. Whatever software package you use, they have a pretty good mix, simple models are better for learning, less controls to get caught up with.
6. Start creating your online presence and always update your work. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, you never know when a potential employer drops by your site or has an opening. The point is, be ready.
7. Use live action reference, video tape yourself doing the movement, whether it’s a walk, run, sitting down, turning, whatever, use it as a template to study the posing, weight, and nuances. The idea is not to just copy the reference but to understand the movement of the character so you can accurately interpret the movement.
8. Critiques are a huge part of what we do, so listen, learn, and don’t take it personal if someone is hard on your work, we sometimes tend to be so attached to what we are working on that someone putting it down feels like a direct insult and it is easy to get defensive, a good critique though can come from anywhere and anyone, you don’t have to be a pro animator to notice when something isn’t right. I have shown my work to my wife only to be pissed that she saw something that I missed. After some pride swallowing I killed that part of the animation and did it over so that is was much more clear. Sometimes it takes deleting whole sections of your animation and doing it again rather than try to force what you have in to place.
9. Animate, Animate, Animate, always be animating and learning.
I Hope this helps, and keep at it. There are very few people that get to do what they want for a living and it’s because it’s not easy, so they quit somewhere along the way. If you work hard, listen, and always be learning along the way you can’t go wrong.