The Production Process of Animation

Different countries and different types of animation have different processes of production. However, they are basically the same, which are usually divided into three periods: Pre-production, Production, and Post-production. Now, let us learn how the animation is made.

1. The Pre-production of Animation

At the stage of Pre-production, the main task is to create a story and a shape, and establish a clear direction for subsequent production. The whole process can be divided into the following steps: scripts-character design-environment design-concept design-storyboard-animatic storyboard-3D animatic storyboard.


In the scripts stage, what is to do is develop creative inspiration, then the inspiration is collected and written into a script. Later, the logic and plot direction of the story is established, and the story details are enriched.


In the character design stage, according to the character of the script, the basic model, clothing accessories, and color matching of the characters are designed. And through personality, the next step is to design the characters' movements and expressions. Character modeling refers to the body shape, appearance, hairstyle, and expression of an animated character. In principle, the character designer draws at least one draft for each character's front, side and back, front, side of the full-body, and oblique side of the character's head, and different expressions of the character.


Usually, its easier to create animations adapted from comics or drama series, because the character design can be based on the original. For original animations, you need to find relevant information from the scripts, originals, or other textual materials combined with the producers dictation, transcript, or audio recording. On average, character design accounts for about one month of production time for the entire animation.


The style of the environment design needs to be close to the design style of the characters. Meanwhile, the rationality of the expression in the script and the interaction with the characters should be taken into account.


The concept refers to the determination of the overall animation style. Through the concept, the color style and mood tone of the overall film can be roughly determined.


A Storyboard is the concrete form of the script. When different people read the same passage, they will always have different imaginations. But the storyboard can merge these different imaginations into one and determine it. In the storyboard, you can know what the characters do in each different shot.


The animatic storyboard is the video version of the storyboard. This does not mean that the pictures in the storyboard can be directly synthesized in the software. In an animatic storyboard, we mainly determine the time length of each shot and the approximate actions of the characters in each shot.


3D animatic storyboard is using simple models to place and move positions in 3D software in a bid to determine the time action in the 3D scene.


2. The Production of Animation

If there is no difference between three-dimensional and two-dimensional freeze-frame production in the Pre-production stage of animation. While in the production stage, there are similarities between them, at the same time,  the differences are also obvious.

2.1  2D Animation

 In the production stage of 2D animation, there will be differences due to the way of expression and the purpose of performance. You may have watched Japanimation or  American animation. These are both 2D animations.


Every shot in an animated film will have ten to twenty drawings, which all must be inked and painted by artists before the filming process could begin. The top animators at each studio would only have time to draw the most important frames in the animation, called extremes. The frames between the extremes are known as tweens, which would be filled in by junior animators. Then all the frames are put together and photographed to create an animation sequence. This process would be repeated for every shot in the film, often making for hundreds of thousands of final drawings, each one requiring a sketch, coloring, inking, and photography.



The modern production process is a lot easier and requires less manpower than the classic one. Thanks to advances in 2D animation technology, artists can draw, ink, paint, and animate a scene all by themselves without ever having to leave their desks.


Massive digital drawing tablets enable animators to draw their key-frames digitally and create the tween automatically using 2D animation software. Characters and backgrounds are drawn separately using this method, then transposed on each other and saved as a video file. This can save the studio both time and money over traditional methods and allow for more flexibility during the last step of the animation process.


2.2  Stop Motion Animation

Making stop motion animation is actually simple. While it can be complicated sometimes. It's simple for the reason that as long as you have a mobile phone and place daily necessities casually, you can shoot a stop motion animation. It is complicated sometimes for you need to use a variety of high technology just to show the effect which is more delicate and real. The steps to stop motion animation are mainly divided into animation assets and animation.


Animation assets are the initial stage of production of characters, scenes, props, etc. In order to express different styles, sometimes it is necessary to use different materials to create the characters and scenes in the animation, such as clay, puppets, pieces of paper, various utensils in real life, 3D printing, etc. A script breakdown is an intermediate step in the production of a play, film, comic book, or any other work that is originally planned using a script.


In the animation stage, you need to place the scene and characters based on the storyboard and place the lights referring to the concept. After the lights, positions and cameras are determined, adjust the position of the character, props, and scene step by step as well as the expressions of the characters or other details. Stop motion animations are made by moving and changing the frames.

2.3  3D Animation

3D animation can be regarded as a stop motion animation in a computer, and its basic operation logic is very similar to stop motion animation.


The main steps are divided into animation assets, animation, and lighting. However, these simple steps are more difficult than in reality because it needs to be operated on a computer.


In the animation asset stage, it is necessary to make a model of the characters, scenes, and props, and correctly paste them with textures and skeletal controllers or set the calculation method of special effects. These steps are a huge project in 3D software. We need to create a model, expand UV, mapping, assign texture, and set the model.

The animation stage is mainly divided into character animation and motion capture.


Character animation is made by adjusting bones or controllers manually. The manual adjustment of animation is also inevitable like two-dimensional animation, including shooting reference films, designing key poses, adjusting drafts (extremes), first edition (breakdown), and second editions (inbetween). Motion capture requires real actors to wear advanced equipment, and professional motion capture cameras to capture the character's motion information and project it onto the created character.


When it comes to the lighting part, the default state is pure black because everything in the 3D software needs to be created by the animator himself. So you need to add lights to the scene separately and adjust to the required state and test the rendering after adjusting.

3. The Post-production of Animation

The Post-production of the animation is actually the steps of synthesis, special effects, color adjustment, and rendering.


Combine the animated foreground character with the object layer, background layer, special effect layer, and other layers of the animation. Then add display effects in the post-compositing software, and render the clip with music and effect sound. In this way, the animation is almost completed.


The later stage looks very simple, but it is indeed a shortcut to quickly improve animation performance. If you don't spend enough time, the poor quality of the late-stage will sometimes drag the original 90-point film into a 60-point level.


What we introduce above is the general production process of 2D, 3D, and Stop Motion Animation. Do you want to know more about animation in addition to this?


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