Time is of the essence, we all need extra time to improve our work. Professionals, amateurs, hobbyists, big studios. Everyone needs extra time, it can be to improve their work, or it can be spending more time with their families or watch movies.

And who has to deliver the animation in time? The animator. So, here are a couple of tips that anyone doing animation can do to work faster.

  1. High APM (Actions Per Minute)
  2. Optimize your Animation Process
  3. Use a good quality rig
  4. Recycle Keyframes and Animations

1. High APM (Actions Per Minute)

APM is a way to measure objectively your working speed. Someone who can do 20 tasks in one minute is faster than someone who can only accomplish 5.

One way to improve your APM is by using shortcuts. Instead of navigating through menus, try to find the shortcuts from the manual of the software you are using, or look for them on the internet.

I constantly encourage the animators working in one of my projects to use shortcuts for functions they use again and again. If they don’t know them, I say: “GOOGLE IT!”. Like this: "name of function" shortcut in "name of software". Example: Add Frame After Selection shortcut in Toon Boom.

What is better than just using shortcuts? Customizing them! Try to create Keyboard Profiles that have your favorite functions close to one another, Like in video games, in which the most useful functions are in the “QWERTY” area.

If you are serious about improving your APM you should consider buying a Gaming Keypad or Gaming Mouse with extra buttons. I recommend a Gaming Keypad, like Razer Orbweaver or Logitech G13.

Razer Orbweaver
Logitech G13

One advantage is that you can have keystrokes assigned to one key. For example: Instead of pressing CTRL+SHIFT+R, you only need to press “KEY 1” in your keypad.

Another way is by using macros. Macros are a sequence of keystrokes assigned to a single key. For example: ALT+F, S, (down), Enter - Is a way to reach SAVE A COPY function in After Effects, without navigating through the menus. And it can all be done by just pressing one assigned key on your keypad. That’s a Macro.

What we use is a gaming mouse to which we have assigned macros, the one we prefer is the Logitech G602, but you can get any gaming mouse of your preference.

Logitech G602

2. Optimize your Animation Process

There are two things you have to take care to have a decent workflow in your animation: Your Pipeline and The First Keyframes you animate.

The pipeline is the folder structure of your files in the computer. The best way to have everything organized is by having your files in different folders, one for sounds, another one for music, pictures, and so on. Pretty simple concept, right? Yes. But sometimes amateurs ignore the importance of having your files organized, that way, if you need a specific file, you know where to look for it.

Now, talking about the animation itself, you need to know what keyframes to start with. This is called blocking, the process in which you pose your character throughout the timeline.

If you want to do it faster and better, it’s a good idea to start with the key poses first, then animate the rest of the keyframes. For example, a character jumping: You pose the character preparing to jump, then jumping, then in midair, then landing. Then you add the in-between frames.

That is, not only a good way to achieve a natural animation, but also a way to do it faster, because, incorrect timing can get you to re-do the work again and again. It’s better to start with “The Big Picture”, and then go for the details.

3. Use a Good Quality Rig

You can tell if it’s a good rig or not very easily. If you have to animate a lot after using the rig, you know it's not a good one. Sometimes it’s better to animate without it, because it can take extra time to correct the weird movements in your animation.

4. Recycle Keyframes and Animations

You can reuse keyframes or sequence of keyframes. If, for example, you have a running cycle, and you need your character to run with its arms in the air, reuse the keyframes of the running cycle, but delete the keyframes animating the arms, that way half of the work is done, and you only need to reposition the arms.