Story BoardingThe Storyboard helps to finalize the development of the storyline, and is an essential stage of the animation process. It is made up of drawings in the form of a comic strip, and is used to both help visualise the animation and to communicate ideas clearly. It details the scene and changes in the animation, often accompanied by text notes describing things occurring within the scene itself, such as camera movements.
Not only can storyboards be especially useful when working in group environments (something quite common in the animation industry,) but they also provide a visual reminder of the original plan; something that can be referred back to throughout the production.
LayoutsOnce the storyboards have been approved, they are sent to the layout department which then works closely with the director to design the locations and costumes. With this done they begin to stage the scenes, showing the various characters’ positions throughout the course of each shot.
Model SheetsModel sheets are precisely drawn groups of pictures that show all of the possible expressions that a character can make, and all of the many different poses that they could adopt. These sheets are created in order to both accurately maintain character detail and to keep the designs of the characters uniform whilst different animators are working on them across several shots.
During this stage the character designs are finalized so that when production starts their blueprints can be sent to the modeling department who are responsible for creating the final character models.
AnimaticsIn order to give a better idea of the motion and timing of complex animation sequences and VFX-heavy scenes, the pre-visualization department within the VFX studio creates simplified mock-ups called “Animatics” shortly after the storyboarding process.
These help the Director plan how they will go about staging the above sequences, as well as how visual effects will be integrated into the final shot
ProductionNow that the storyboard has been approved the project enters the production phase. It’s here that the actual work can start, based on the guidelines established during preproduction. Some major parts are layout, modeling, texturing, lighting, rigging and animation
LayoutUsing lo-res models or blocks of geometry in the place of the final set and characters, the Layout Artist is responsible for composing the shot and delivering rough animation to the animators as a guide. What they produce is the 3D version of what the storyboard artists had previously drawn on paper.
During this stage the Director approves camera moves, depth of field and the composition of the models making up the set and set dressing. It is then the responsibility of the Modeling department to deliver these approved set, prop and character models in the final layout stages.
ModellingModelers are usually split into two or more departments. Whilst organic modelers tend to have a sculpture background and specialise in building the characters and other freeform surfaces, hard-surface modelers often have a more industrial design or architectural background, and as such they model the vehicles, weapons, props and buildings.
Working closely with the Art Directors, Visual Effects Supervisors and Animation Supervisors, modelers turn the 2D concept art and traditionally sculpted maquettes into high detail, topologically sound 3D models. They then assist the Technical Animator and Enveloper as the model has a skeleton put in place and the skin is developed. Following this, the model may be handed back to the Modeler, who will proceed to sculpt facial expressions and any specific muscle tension/jiggle shapes that may be required.
TexturingWhether creating a texture from scratch or through editing an existing image, Texturing Artists are responsible for writing shaders and painting textures as per the scene requirements.
Lighters have a broad range of responsibilities, including placing lights, defining light properties, defining how light interacts with different types of materials, the qualities and complexities of the realistic textures involved, how the position and intensity of lights affect mood and believability, as well as color theory and harmony. They are required to establish direct and reflected lighting and shadows for each assigned shot, ensuring that each shot fits within the continuity of a sequence, all the while aiming to fulfill the vision of the Directors, Production Designers, Art Directors and VFX Supervisors.
RiggingRigging is the process of adding bones to a character or defining the movement of a mechanical object, and it’s central to the animation process. A character TD will make test animations showing how a creature or character appears when deformed into different poses, and based on the results corrective adjustments are often made.
AnimationIn modern production companies, the practice of meticulously planning a character’s performance frame by frame is applied in 3D graphics using the same basic principles and aesthetic judgments that were first developed for 2D and stop-motion animation. If motion capture is used at the studio to digitize the motion of real actors, then a great deal of an animator’s time will also be spent cleaning up the motion captured performance and completing the portions of the motion (such as the eyes and hands) that may not have been digitized during the process.
Post-ProductionPost-production is the third and final step in film creation, and it refers to the tasks that must be completed or executed after the filming or shooting ends. These include the editing of raw footage to cut scenes together, inserting transitional effects, working with voice and sound actors and dubbing to name just a few of the many post-production tasks.
Overall, however, the three main phases of post-production are compositing, sound editing and video editing.