Animated films are a staple of the entertainment world. We often take them for granted since most of us grew up on a steady diet of Disney. They are magical. This category of cinema is completely unique unto itself. Mutable and known to color outside the box, animation tells tales of lands on the outskirts of our imaginations with ease and credibility.
Making an animated film is anything but easy. The time and patience involved is reserved for a relative few. Back just a few short years ago, if things went off track in production it was like having to call an emergency plumber on a Sunday – you paid a high price.
With technological advances it has become less tedious, but the frame by frame continuity and quality is nonetheless not to be short cited if the point is to make a great film. Cinema has several premises, but first and foremost in the eyes of the audience is that they want to be entertained. Telling a story is just one component. It’s how the story is told and how engaged you can get the viewer in the telling.
Audio and visual have to be cutting edge. If it’s already been done, then it has to be done better. If color enhancement is taken to a different level, then that level needs to be crisper and more emphatically individualized. The same is true across the board; theme, audio, character development, etc.
A story is the most essential aspect to any film and that is true with animation. All the rest of the film can be top notch, but if the story isn’t captivating then all the bells and whistles won’t matter. It’s not unusual for a story idea to start and the change as the film is produced. It’s often an evolving process that many artists use with creative liberty.
Having a super story in your head is one thing, but to get it scripted is the first discipline. It has to translate with continuity and to a third party audience. Getting out of your head and onto paper solidifies the theme.
Now it’s time to put the words into the mouths of the characters. It all may make sense when you see it in your head, but once you see the characters start to come to life through illustration – there’s the difference.
Characters depict more than just the words they speak. Facial and bodily expressions are some of the most fun aspects of developing personas in animation.
Once the storyboarding is in a sequential layout, you put all those drawings into a computer editing program. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact at this stage it will just give you a rough draft. By adding sound and voices, you can begin to see if it’s going to fit together in a way that depicts your message. This is when making changes are going to be the easiest. As you get further into the process, making changes gets more difficult.
This is where you go deeper into 3D. You will build your character models so they are in correct proportion to their presence to the landscape they fill. They cannot be flat or one dimensional. If this isn’t something you have a talent for, find someone who does and contract this bit out.
More 3D dimension building. Estimating size and what a character can do is done from a basic skeleton of each player. It’s like putting skin on a frame that has all the moving parts to give it natural looking moves.
This is one of the final steps where all the camera angles and models are synchronized. Final voice recordings are added at this point to line up animation and audio.
This is the last step in giving your characters their full personalities. It takes a lot of time to take your previz and get the models working and moving together with the backdrops. It’s like playing with 3 dimensional puppets, you pull the strings to give them the movements that best animate them into character.
Lighting and Rendering
Not quite a finished product until the lighting is appropriate to a realistic scene. Hiring a team of experts gives you the best quality instead of trying to do this yourself. Color rendering brings it all together so all the shots have the same visual quality.
What do you think? Is animated filmmaking for you? Leave a comment below and finish this story.