I've been wanting to do an animation of a skateboarder for a little while now and decided to go for it. Skateboarding is one of those sports that I've always loved to watch and admired those who are good at it, but never got the hang of it myself.
First, I did some classic YouTube reference video searching and began to thumbnail out ideas from what I found. I wanted to make the character jump something big, since the anticipation and potential for squash and stretch is so great. Here's a page of my doodles.
My first step in the computer was to block out the environment and the timing in spacing. I've found that using basic polygon primitives is a useful way to accomplish this since its so straightforward and it allows for easy experimentation and revisions. If I can start to "feel" the animation with a gray ball and two gray boxes, I know I'm heading in the right direction!
Once I get the basic polygon animation to a place where I like it, I will insert the rig into the scene and literally position and key the character in the same place and at the same frame in the time line that my polygon previs ball indicates. After that, its all about tweaking the spine, the limbs, squashing and stretching. Undoubtedly things will change as the shot is fleshed out, but for the most part the broad strokes are already going to work. This is also a stage where I usually have to reconfigure my camera a little bit, too.
Once the animation is looking good, I'll revisit the background and start to model and shade some basic props to give more context.
Last but not least, I'll send it off to the render farm. I would have rendered this locally off of my own computer, but with a shot with this much broad, fast movement, It's a good idea to have motion blur on (and motion blur takes a loooong time to render). I am far from the best digital lighting artist in the world, so ambient occlusion is my best friend! The entire length of time for this brief shot was about 5-6 days from idea to completion.