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The Animation Pipeline

Hey everyone Animation Girl at it again! I thought I'd write a little bit about the animation pipeline and what actually goes into creating a film or episode. I've explained the order of things to clients a great many of times and you'd probably be surprised by how many still don't understand why things are done in a particular order. So I figured I'd let everyone in on the facts.

I think everyone can agree animation takes a long time to complete. It takes thirty frames to create one second of animation. And even though most are completed digitally now a days, that's still thirty separate images to create one second of time. That means a five minute film breaks down into three hundred seconds and nine thousand images! Believe me when I say no animator wants to have to scrap animation and start over. Hence, the pipeline.

As with all films you start with a script. The script can contain dialogue, narration, or just scene and action descriptions. Scripts are then turned into story boards. A story board is a sequence of drawings that depict the main action and camera movements as interpreted from the script. The story board helps to understand your framing, angles, composition, scenes, shot length, and characters. Story boards are even sometimes translated into an Animatic. An animatic is a video created from the composited story board images in order understand timing and overall film length.

After the scripts and story boards are finalized audio recording is captured for any dialogue or narration needed in the film. This is an important step in the pipeline as animators use the audio to time out shots, character movements, and lip sync. If the animator doesn't have audio while they work it is guaranteed that the action length won't match with the dialogue recorded and scenes would have to be re-worked.

Now, the next bit of the pipeline changes depending on what type of animated film is being produced. There are a great many ways to create an animated film and even more types of software available. Depending on whether it is hand drawn, 2d, 3d, computer animated, motion graphics and so on, the nuances can vary. For the purposes of this post, I'll be discussing my format of 2d puppet animation.

For this style of animation I have to create all the artwork necessary with different parts of the character separated into individual layers. This would also include props and the creation of background scenes, etc. After this is completed the artwork is imported into After Effects and the artwork layers are rigged together using the DUIK script. Through the rigging process the computer is told which parts of the character are attached at what points and how they should move and interact with each other. In the end, working as a skeleton system to make the character move in a fashion to that of a human being.

Once the character is rigged in the computer the last step would be to animate your characters in the sequence desired based on the script and storyboards while combining the audio recordings of your voice actors.

After everything is animated a final edit would be completed to put all the separate scenes together in one big film and a score of music would be composed or added on top of this. And tada! You have yourself a completed animation.

That is quite a lot of steps and it's easy to see how each of the parts need each other or at the very least needs the step before it. If you tried to skip ahead and do things out of order not only are you creating more work for yourself or your team, but you create re-work and chaos.

The animation pipeline really is a thing of beauty and makes the entire film process run smoothly. I hope this taught you something you didn't know before.

Catch you next time!

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