The nine old men would say “spend half your time planning and the other half animating. While this idea is hard to uphold, the basic idea is true. Going into a shot blind is like not studying for a test or stretching before a race. Clear planning, forces you to really think about what is important in the shot. Every time I animate straight ahead, I fall flat on my face and waste a lot of time figuring out what I set out to do in the first place. It really must become part of your routine. It is so important because it creates a foundation, something you can fall back on. I was always amazed at the planning that Doug Sweetland went though before he animated. He drew so many different ways of doing the same thing through thumbnails. Then he went off to record himself. Most people do video reference these days. It’s no big secret. The hardest part is to not rely on it to closely. You want to use the best parts. Another thing I have seen animators do is to write down what the shot means to them in a sentence… Where is the beat change? What is the most important thing in the shot? You always want to be asking these questions. If I have a character sitting in a room and the point of the shot is for them to be upset, I want to create a back story as to why. Maybe he is lost, maybe his his heart has been stepped on. How do I relate that to something I experienced? What is the deeper meaning? If you animate simply the cliche of upset, there is not heart or pathos. Dig down deep and pull out something personal and it will show up on the screen…. Follow a ritual of solid planning and you will add a new layer of complexity to your work.