The most basic and vital issue in all stages of animation is the phrase “giving life”! Bringing the inanimate characters of the story to life is the most important task of the animators and the production team of any animation. This resuscitation can happen in any of the following situations:
By designing the characters manually
By moving the skeletonized characters in 3D animation software, it is “the art of giving life to inanimate objects, paintings and 3D models“, which creates the illusion of movement and life in the audience by rapidly moving images one after the other.
The goal is to make these movements believable; Therefore, we need in every specialization to be able to put the believable world in front of the audience. You want to write, you want to draw a leaf from the trees on the corner of the street in a scene of your animation, or even you want to animate them. All these specializations and several other specializations used in animation require basic training and efforts to realize the “illusion of life”. In the following, we will introduce the main styles of animation, and then we will examine the expertise required for each style so that you can find your interest more easily:
In this step, we will introduce you to the process of making an animation so that you can find the field in which you want to become an expert by yourself according to the criteria we mentioned at the beginning of this text:
Undoubtedly, the first and most important part of any kind of film or animation is a “good story” to tell!
If you don’t get your story right from the beginning – no matter how technically beautiful you made it or what professional agents you have – people won’t enjoy seeing it and will leave it aside.
So remember: “The story always comes first!” Make sure your story is well told before moving on to the next steps.
In animation – unlike filmmaking – the script often changes and becomes more complete at the same time as the production process. In filmmaking, changing the story in the filming stages – which affect the setting of the scene and the production agents and actors, the light and the environment in those shots – brings an exorbitant cost to the producer. Although these problems do not exist with such severity in animation and the scenes are produced in a virtual environment, the more time you spend in the story idea stage and paying for it, the more time you spend on it, the more time and money you will waste in the production stages.
Reaching the idea, advancing the story, creating suspense and keeping the audience together until the end of the work have rules that are repeated and used in most of the lasting and current works of cinema; It will be possible to learn these rules by reading many books, participating in courses, learning from professors in this field, practicing a lot, and in short, spending a lot of time.
2. script writing
After the story idea is ready, you must implement it in words; So the next step is to write the script.
It is very important to put your idea into words as soon as possible so that if there is a problem with your story, you will find it before the production stage.
In many famous animation studios, this stage is mixed with the storyboard stage and there is a back and forth between these two stages so that the dialogues and images are in their most optimal state. What should be paid attention to at this stage is that our text should serve visual storytelling and the difference between a screenplay and a novel should be considered at this stage. Therefore, you should learn how to write dialogues for pictures.
3. Concept Art
Once the script is ready, they usually move on to making concept art, which leads to choosing the visual identity of the animation. In this way, after reading the script and speaking with the director, artists who have enough imagination and skill in painting imagine the spaces in the film and try to depict these scenes, locations and environments with the help of the tools they are experts in. .
It doesn’t matter if you are a professional oil painter or a good watercolorist or a professional digital painter. It is important that you can convey the feeling of the “story” well by drawing a scene.
The director selects a few from the concept arts of several artists, and during the back-and-forth process, the concept paintings that shape the overall atmosphere of the film are selected and presented to the production team.
The next step is designing the storyboard. Storyboards were referred to as sheets of paper on which the scenes of the story were depicted in order, and the designer of each part of the story took a part of the script, drew it on a number of sheets of paper and presented it to the director. This stage was introduced to the animation industry by Walt Disney, and these small sheets of paper were called “boards”. It was called “story board” because these boards told the story. Your movie gets a visual appearance in the storyboard stage. Whether the camera is close or far from the subject is determined at this stage; The movement of the camera and the emotions conveyed by it are the result of the summation in this section; The rhythm of the film and each sequence is determined at this stage. In short, in the words of Alfred Hitchcock, “All your films are made on paper at this stage!”
It is said that Hitchcock used a storyboard designer for all his films and had a firm belief in making decisions based on the storyboard. Because the effectiveness of his storytelling could be checked with the lowest cost. from this
Well, this issue will also be very efficient in animation, which is very expensive to produce, except that instead of using real actors, you have to move the same unreal creatures again on paper or digitally.
So the storyboard gives you the possibility to once again measure the effectiveness of your story narration and fix it if there is a problem. Another advantage that Storyboard has is that it can pull the story out of your mind and show it to others. After all, this story should be made by a team, and the storyboard is the best tool to justify all team members. In addition, you can show the storyboard to different people during the story revision stage and present your story to them visually (Pitch); Rest assured, many people will give better feedback to illustrated stories than to text stories.
When we are satisfied with the edges of our story, we are ready to move on to the next step, the animatics.
5. Animatic production
Animatic is the timed and audio version of the storyboard.
If the storyboard is like a comic book, then the animatic is like a movie.
The boards designed in the storyboard stage are arranged in a special editing software and are put together with the right timing and adding sound effects and music (just enough to understand the main points of the story). After the initial version of the animatic is ready, the production team will be ready to see it.
After seeing the animatic, parts may need major or minor corrections, which depending on the type of corrections may go back to the previous stage (storyboard redesign) or several previous stages (script rewriting). But what is clear is that these stages are repeated so much that, from the point of view of the director and producer, the story can be produced in the best way.
Animatic, like storyboard, gives us a comprehensive view of what our film will look like in the end; Therefore, it is considered a very important stage.
Before we enter the animate phase, we need one more important step to make sure that our story is defined correctly, and that step is “Privision”.
Previs or Pre-Visualisation is a stage that is another form of animatics, but in which 3D models are used to tell the story. In a way, Previz will be a very, very early version of our anime, with the difference that our focus will be on storytelling and appeal instead of technical details. The scene is created in 3D software, the components are arranged in it, the camera angle and movement are modified and very, very basic movements are created for the characters or elements of the scene so that we can understand what is happening. We emphasize that this anime will only express what is happening and nothing more!
This stage is done at the same time or a little after the character design stage, and by adding the design of different components of each scene, that scene is gradually completed. For example, instead of some objects and characters that have not yet been designed, simpler shapes such as cubes or cylinders are placed, and after the design or modeling is ready, the Priviz file becomes more complete by replacing those objects.
Consider the scene where our first character is eating ice cream in a park. Currently, only the 3D model of our first character is available. In the preview phase, the focus will be on the location of the camera and the feeling we want to convey, and we can use simpler shapes such as cylinders and cones to design the park components (such as trees and fountains, etc.) as well as ice cream.
After that, like the animatic stage, we put all the shots together in the editing software and we have the Priviz version of our animation. With the difference that these views are arranged with 3D models and correct camera movements. Because making animation is a time-consuming task, this step can be considered the last step to apply fundamental changes to the story; Because any change in the production stage will waste a huge amount of financial resources and your time.
If we encounter any problems in the story at this stage, we will go back to the previous steps to correct the problem, because “the story is always important to us”.
7. Designing characters and accessories (Creating Assets)
In this section, depending on the dimensions and needs of our own animation project, we have to design the required characters and accessories.
In 3D projects, these accessories include the creation of characters, the environment of each scene, the tools and objects in each scene. We use conceptual designs and model sheets as references to advance and complete this section. These devices, after being designed for rigging (boning), are provided to the rigging experts so that controllers can be added to them in 3D space so that we can move or rotate them more easily during the animation stage.
In 2D projects, background design, finalizing the design of the character model sheet and, if necessary, rigging the character in the 2D software we consider, are included in this stage.
For stop motions, the creation of the environment of each scene, dolls, props and different parts of the clothes is done at this stage.
As mentioned in the preview stage, the design of characters and props starts at the same time or a little before the preview, and by completing the desired format of the story, it helps better storytelling; Because of Priviz’s relationship with animatic and storyboard, as well as detailed and original
Because of the suggested tutorials of the character design section, we brought Priviz before the design.
8. Animate (Animate/Animation)
We finally reached the anime stage!
This stage is where life is breathed into our characters. The characters begin to move and we can see the results of the threads we have woven so far by bringing our characters to life.
It is very beautiful to see this happening before our eyes, but it will take a long time. Doing it wrong can destroy your animation despite a good and lively story! A bad animation by an animator in an animation is like a bad performance by an actor in a movie, even if it has a good story and special effects, the audience won’t believe it.
Becoming a professional at this stage requires knowing certain rules, and the distinguishing feature of successful people in this field is the practice and creativity they use after learning these principles.
9. Texturing Lighting Rendering (Texturing | Lighting | Rendering)
This step is mostly used for 3D animation; Although 2D animation also goes through stages similar to such a stage. Stop motions also spend most of their time framing and creating different effects on recorded images.
In 3D work, models should be textured, this is like assigning materials of different types to different parts of our model. Some of those materials with different materials simulate metals, some plastics, some are used for the skin of the human body, and some are used for hair!
Then the exposure process is performed by virtual light sources, which exactly represent the function of light in nature.
After our scenes are textured and lit, we start rendering.
Rendering means that the computer has calculated all the information of our view (including the location of each device, information about the texture and light, information about the camera, etc.) and from this information in the 3D space, a flat and 2D image which is called a frame) makes
Finally, we import all the rendered frames into compositing software (such as NUKE or After Effect), put them behind each other and combine them to get the final version of our movie.
10. Compilation Editing | Color Correction
When our frames are combined and prepared in composite software, we return them back to our editing software and replace them with Previz views; Just like replacing previz views instead of animatic views.
At this point, we will be able to see the final version of our film for the first time on the timeline of our editing software. Of course, it still cannot be called the final version. Because our animation scenes need color correction.
Color correction is the process of manipulating the color of each view individually, to match its previous and subsequent views. Also, in the color correction phase, we will make sure that there will not be an image with too many white or black parts. In addition to observing the above points, the visual space of some views may need to be modified. For example, if our main character embarks on a fictional journey into a scary war that is full of despair and hopelessness, we can intensify this feeling in the audience by modifying the colors of the scenes related to the scary forest.
Color correction is usually applied based on the director’s opinion and the achievements of the conceptual design phase (which leads to the creation of the color key) of the film.
11. Music Sounding (Music | Sound Design)
Usually, in professional work, from the first day of the project, a composer is next to the director to create a suitable theme for the work based on his words and the story process. Because this issue makes the music strengthen the story and find its place well next to the image and dialogue. The task of the composer is to create animation music pieces, which depending on the working time, may be produced from one piece of music to dozens of pieces.
Usually, music is not something that has a definite end point, and because of the direct effect it has on the mind of the audience, it is seen as an integral part of the story, which should be used properly at all stages of the film (even when we don’t have any music!).
Don’t confuse music with sound effects such as walking, wind, and character dialogue. Because animation means creating another world from scratch, this means that everything has to be created from scratch. Even if those things are obvious. Many professional animations have a team of experts who produce all the sounds in the film by themselves, but in simpler projects, the treasury of ready sounds available on online sites or software packages is also used.
Finally, the sound designer puts the film’s music together with the ambient sound and the dialogue of the characters and adjusts the intensity of each in relation to each other, which is called leveling. Finally, after going through the above steps, the final rendering of our animation is ready to play with the full version of sound, music and visual effects that we can provide to distributors.
The above steps were the overview of the parts that we need to become experts in in order to have a say in the animation industry. So, if you ever had an excuse for yourself that “I don’t know where to start”, this article will give you an excuse to focus on one area by finding your interest and start gaining expertise in that area. Of course, it is also important that in this article, Vera Web Apadana covers all the available specialties such as rigging, 3D modeling, etc.
finished; Because if we wanted to introduce all the specializations of this field in detail, it would be out of bounds and the article would be much longer than the current version, but we tried to introduce the main parts of animation that after narrowing your interest in one part. , seek to become an expert in the subsections of the same specialty.