Animation Tips on How to Become a Better Animator with Dermot O'Connor

"People take for granted what we can do with animation software. A simple pan or zoom back in the days of traditional animation, would have involved complex mathematical calculations to expose the pan correctly. It was horrendous!" — Dermot O'Connor, Animator

Animation Tips on How to Become a Better Animator with Dermot O'Connor

See Part I

During our two-part interview, Dermot O'Connor graciously shares his thoughts with us, on how animators can push themselves to reach that next plateau with their craft. Interview by Shelley Jacobson.

Dermot O'Connor

Animation Software

Dermot feels animation software can sometimes impose its own aesthetics into the artwork being created, especially if the animator isn’t mindful of this. He explains, "If you begin designing artwork to the requirements of the program you are working in, you will end up limiting yourself unconsciously to the limitations of the software." And if anyone understands animation software, it’s Dermot O’Connor.

Dermot O'Connor

Dermot is an instructor at, where he has created online animation programs on hand-drawn animation and animation software. Some titles include:

And many others…

We asked him about the new editions of Harmony 12. "If anyone is concerned about the capabilities of the entry-level version of Harmony, in my opinion, Harmony Essentials is more powerful by far than any version of Flash," O’Connor responded.

Dermot O'Connor

The Clean-Up Phase in Animation is Critical

O’Connor actually recommends drawing with paper and pencil, or in Photoshop with a Cintiq, because there is no mediator between you and the drawing.

Dermot O'Connor

However, with any hand-drawn animation, animators can run into problems during the clean-up phase.

The clean-up phase is an art of its own. This phase is meant to preserve the animators work, not redraw the animation. Sometimes animators complain about losing something in the translation during the clean-up phase, but generally, a good clean-up artist will always try to stay as close to the original as possible.

Dermot O'Connor

If the clean-up artist and animator work closely together, there will be less room for error. Because when it comes right down to it, the clean-up process can add to the animation or take away from it. Even if you are your own clean-up artist, you have to approach this phase with care as your original inspiration might get lost in the process.

Dermot O'Connor

Dermot appreciates Disney productions like 101 Dalmatians and Jungle Book. "That style of animation isn’t as tight." O’Connor noted, "When you look at those films, you can actually see the construction lines and some of the sketch layers bleeding through." Dermot feels that’s why these films are so vital and why they appear so lifelike.

How to Reach the Next Plateau

Back in 2011, O’Connor had an epiphany while working on his movie, There’s No Tomorrow. He wanted to push himself by tapping into tricks used by some of the greats he studied like Disney. He said, "I remember reading an article where Disney was talking about how to get animators to add something extra the scene. He talked about integrating details that pushed the animation just a little bit more."

He explained, "I started going into every scene thinking, maybe I can put some gradients and a spotlight in here. I did that for about a week, and I was halfway through when I realized… I’m actually having fun!" O’Connor wishes people would cut themselves enough slack to be able to get the magic back in their work. "I understand you have to be serious, but at the same time, there should always be an aspect of exhilaration with the work you’re doing."

Dermot O'Connor

According to O’Connor, even though it’s important to enjoy what you’re doing, there’s no replacement for hard work. "Climbing the cliff to the next plateau, requires an absolute constant application of effort. That’s been my personal experience. That said, it's important to take breaks or sabbaticals from time to time. Take a road trip or read a few books, and when refreshed, get back to the work."

When O’Connor was asked which mistakes he thought beginning animators are most likely to make, he said, "I think beginners have a rush of enthusiasm. When they see what they want shining on the top of the hill, they just want to reach for it. What they don’t realize, is that between you and that big shining goblet, there are little plateaus that you have to reach and be realistic about how much effort is involved, in order to get to the point where you can take on these enormous projects."

He continued, "One way to fail is to say, ‘I’m going to make a full length animated movie’ because you’re not. Not unless you’ve made a three-minute movie, a 10-minute movie and then a 30-minute movie. You have to pick a project that’s slightly beyond your grasp, but not so far beyond your reach that you can’t possibly succeed."

Dermot O'Connor

To find out more about O’Connor’s projects and courses, visit:

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