Now that I have a bunch of students, I will occasionally try to post something animation related that I can point them to. I just want to everyone to keep in mind that any tips and ideas are just things that work for me and that I've heard in my travels. In no way am I saying that any of the tips/ideas are the "right way" to do things. I personally learn something everyday and sometimes that "something" changes the way I have thought before. So just keep all that in mind. So with that said, here are some of my thumbnails.
Before I thumbnail, I try to write down a title for my shot. The title is essentially the gist of the shot, sometimes the title is just an emotion or a feeling. For this assignment the class was to come up with a situation that would create an emotional shift. I tried to keep the thumbnails relevant to the assignment, so my idea was to have the class "know it all" realize that she does not actually know it all. So my title is "The know it all gets a bad grade." The characters shift is to go from poise to flustered.
After I get the overall gist of the shot, I will write down a few things that summarize the character, such as who they are, what they're feeling, and any other things that may help me. If I'm working on a shot in the movie I may write down where they are in the movie, how they were feeling in the shots before, and where they are headed in the shots after. After I get my little notes down I may make a little time-line for the shot that includes all the beats of the character. First I jot down the main beats like what the character is doing in the beginning middle then end. When I feel confident that I have thought through everything I begin to thumbnail.
Thumb-nailing is the fun part. For me thumb-nailing is in no way a story board, it is an exploration of the poses I may want to use. They are meant to be rough and quick. In no way am I trying to make perfect little drawings. They are for me and me only.
First I try to figure out that one pose (one frame) that may summarize the feeling for the entire shot (match my title). Not only do I think about the pose, the the pose in relation to the framing and layout of the camera. This was a tip I got from Stephen Gregory at Spline Doctors. Once I get that I begin to thumb-nail any of the other key poses (beats) of the shot. From here on out I thumbnail anything and everything I can think of. I always to explore all the different ways I can approach a pose with a bunch of different thumbnails. Don't ever settle with your first idea. Sometimes I will even thumbnail out individual parts of the body if I feel like they are important to the shot. All along the way I will also add any little notes that will help me or remind me of ideas that are tough to thumbnail.
Ultimately, the more searching I do on paper, the less searching I have to do on the computer, and that saves me a LOT of time.
I'm sure there are tons of things I'm forgetting, so if you got anything please comment.