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1 
Understanding 
the 3D Animation Process
You ever wondered what it takes to create some of your favorite 3D animated movies or TV shows? 
In the past you might hav...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
3 
“If there is poor planning and communication, then the final product will have ...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
4 
2: Pre-Production 
Creating the Digital Element 
Step 1: Vocal Tracks 
Record a...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
5 
3: Animation Production 
Individual Shots are Assembled 
Step 1: Animation and ...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
6 
4: Post-Production 
Adding the final touches to the animation 
Step 1: Editing ...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
7
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
8 
FAQ: 
Q: How do I know if my animation should be done in a 2D or 3D style? 
A: ...
Understanding the 3D Animation Process 
We at Gridway Digital LLC are pleased to introduce ourselves as an emerging studio...
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3D Animation Process and Workflow

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Ever wondered what it takes to create an animation? In this fun and descriptive eBook, you will learn how animation starts from imagination to the big screen! Lets take a step-by-step journey into the world of an animation studio.

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3D Animation Process and Workflow

  1. 1. 1 Understanding the 3D Animation Process
  2. 2. You ever wondered what it takes to create some of your favorite 3D animated movies or TV shows? In the past you might have read or watched a video on how traditional 2D animated films are created that have been produced by large studios such as Warner Bros. or Walt Disney, in which each frame or cell is hand drawn and colored to create a final moving picture. The 3D animation process is similar in approach but has quite a few more steps in producing a 3-dimensional animated film. Not too long after the invention of the desktop computer, 3D graphics and animation began and has 2 been constantly evolving over the past 30 years. Recently it has been a choice medium for use in commercials, TV, print advertising, video games and, of course, film. Movies such as Toy Story , Wall-E and Frozen have all been hugely popular and generated hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. Video games and mobile applications have also been extremely successful with using 3D animation. The demand for this form of entertainment is not slowing down 3D artwork and animation takes the traditional 2-dimensional style and adds a more realistic feel to it by bringing in elements of the real world, such as accurate lighting and shadows to make the artwork really “pop” and come to life! The following pages help understand how this form of animation is created by taking a very complex workflow and simplifying it into a basic step-by-step outline.
  3. 3. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 3 “If there is poor planning and communication, then the final product will have poor results.” 1: Concept Development Bringing the Idea to Life First determine the parameters of your idea to be developed. This is the most important step as it sets the foundation and structure for the final piece. What is your ideal length? Determining how long your project is going to be is essential when dealing with animation. Even the small difference of 3 to 7 minutes could be months of work. Who is your target audience? So important, if you have a new company mascot or product, make sure you are relating to your viewers What is the overall style of your film? Is your film cartoonish or more realistic? Will there be any characters? One, two or none? Do you have a company mascot or logo that needs a makeover or a whole cast of characters to tell your story? Is there dialogue? Music? Sound FX? If there is dialogue, do you have your own voice talent? Original music? A sound studio? Will there be a full or simple background environment? Will there be multiple scene changes? Are there advanced 3D elements? Do you need to have smoke, fire, water, hair, odors, etc... (well, maybe not odors, at least not yet.) Do you already have a written scripts or storyboard? If you don't have either, sometimes just an outline will be sufficient. Is this for production for television, film, DVD, or mobile device? Different file formats apply depending on how you want to reach your audience. What is your ideal resolution? Standard Def: 720x480 or 720p HD (1280x720) or FULL HD (1920x1080)?
  4. 4. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 4 2: Pre-Production Creating the Digital Element Step 1: Vocal Tracks Record and process the dialogue in your animation first! Also video taping the voice actors can help the animation team later really get the characters personality and movements down. Sometimes a rough reading will suffice for now, but the final needs to be done before animating. Step 2: Storyboard and Animatic This stage is very important as it will show the script coming to life! Vocals are helpful in this stage to help with timing. Animatic is a moving storyboard to help with pre-visualization. and direction. Step 3: Character Concept Art (This is where it starts to get really fun!) Full hand-drawn color line-ups and poses of your characters! Backgrounds and environments are created to show how the characters will look in some of their scenes. These drawings are used as reference for the 3D artists. --------------------------CONCEPT REVIEW AND CLIENT SIGN-OFF---------------------------------- Client is periodically informed and involved with this process so there are no surprises! Step 4: Modeling Characters and Building the 3D Environment This is where the paper and canvas take a break and the grid steps in! 3D modelers will use the drawings to manipulate mesh into the characters and other objects for the project using digital sculpting software. Step 5: Texturing Before this stage all 3d models are usually soft gray color. Once the artists are done, the characters and environments have color and textures applied to the surface. Step 6: Character Rigging “The-thigh-bones-connected-to the-hip-bone, and the hip-bones-connected-to the”...well, you know the rest. This stage is when the rigging artist places “bones” in the character to allow the animators to move them, give them life! This can be set up for minimal movement or very complex realistic movements. Step 7: Motion Capture Tests or Animation Tests This is when you might have seen live actors in funny looking suits that have little balls attached all over it, yea, this is the suit that the computer camera can read and make your character move, like a puppeteer without the strings! Unless the animation has many realistic movements this isn't always needed. Animation tests with or without (mocap) software are definitely important to make sure everything moves the way it’s supposed to. ---------------------------MODELING REVIEW AND CLIENT SIGN-OFF-------------------------- This is the last review before the animating process. Now is the time for any changes!
  5. 5. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 5 3: Animation Production Individual Shots are Assembled Step 1: Animation and Blocking The animators start to animate the characters based on the storyboard and animatic using key poses. Then, any environment details such as buildings, trees, vehicles, etc., are represented by basic shapes as representations of the real model. This saves computer processing time and allows for quick changes. This step is generally the most labor intensive, and any major edits should have already been addressed. Step 2: Lip-Syncing The animators animate the mouths, body language, and facial expressions to the vocal track. This can be done roughly or very precisely and accurately depending on the level of detail. You don’t want the characters mouths and voices off track like a old kung fu flick! Step 3: Dynamics This process happens when a character requires flowing hair, clothing, and any other effects that will be attached or involved with the character and or scene. Most of the dynamics are made up of particles or sprites that are a heavy burden on computing power, so adding after animation is essential for good workflow. Step 4: Dropping the Environment in the Scene The real 3D modeled environment is swapped out with the roughs (see step 1). Depth and illusion are a major role at this point, a lot of matte artists create paintings for the background here or vast 3D models can be created depending on the scene and details. Step 5: Lighting and Render Tests Lighting and Render tests can be done while animating the scenes or they can be done afterwards depending on the amount of scenes and the changing of environments. If done after the animation process, the focus on lighting can be done by dedicated team members rather than the animator. The render tests may consist of multiple frames of animation to test motion blur and other aspects of motion that need to be set in place. Great lighting arrangement can really make a world of difference in the project, which is why most 3d lighting artists are skilled photographers! Step 6: Full Resolution Rendering Once animation is complete and every shot has been planned out, the scenes are exported one at a time and sent to the rendering manager and servers which output to the render nodes. Rendering is a very heavy task if the animation is of high quality. Some effects can be added later to ease this process. Rendering should never be underestimated, so plan well. Step 7: Visual Effects and Compositing. The final render is output as a sequence, then brought into a program like Nuke or After Effects for compositing and additional 2d effects onto the animation. This is where most visual effects are placed into the scene.
  6. 6. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 6 4: Post-Production Adding the final touches to the animation Step 1: Editing The first step is setting up all the finished footage on a timeline according to the animatic and storyboard. It’s always a good idea to have a few extra minutes of footage and shot angles, this way they can be used if one shot works better than the other, especially for complex scenes. Many movies and shows have lots of footage, but are narrowed down to what works best. (I wish real life worked like that!) Step 2: Sound FX Next we add layers of background sound effects following the director’s script breakdown. Most sound effects can be found for free online or created by a sound production team in a studio. Step 3: Music Scoring Here we add music to the animation that has been professionally composed specifically for the project, or we purchase the rights to a song that has already been done. If music is used, it should really accompany certain scenes like a marriage. It can certainly help the target audience get immersed into the story or point your making. Note: It is wise to start planning material during the script writing and storyboard stage, especially if the song is part of an animated performance. Step 4: Sound Mixing Now its time to combine the sound effects layers and your music scoring to be balanced and mixed for screen. Correct timing for sound and music is mandatory to your final piece, without it the film can be distracting and confusing. High definition surround sound is most ideal to truly give the animation a movie like feel. Step 5: Adding Titles and Credits This is the final stage when adding in the cast and crew to your animation film. There are many ways to present this but make sure that it is in readable font type and nice timing, After all the hard work you want people to be able to read your name! Step 6: Final Output After everything has been looked over and polished, the final project is output to a certainfiletypeneededtodisplayyour newlycreatedanimationforfilm,commercialoraspecificmobiledevice!
  7. 7. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 7
  8. 8. Understanding the 3D Animation Process 8 FAQ: Q: How do I know if my animation should be done in a 2D or 3D style? A: Just like using watercolor versus oil paint it depends on what you like. Also, how do you want to deliver your message to your audience? Traditional or 2D animation is very universal in its appeal and can be very rewarding, however, 3D animation is an emerging and popular medium and can be visually amazing with its realism and splendor. Budget and time play a role as well, so consulting with a experienced animation team can help your decision. Q: How much does animation cost? A: Generally animation is priced out by the minute or by the hour. Animation is an amazing art form and can be highly complex so there really isn’t just one universal cost. Imagine taking your favorite painting and replicating its style in over a few hundred thousand images to form a moving film. That’s just how traditional hand drawn animation is done. So, as you can see its no small task. Some low to mid budget animations for commercial or film can range from $8,000 - $150,000, to higher blockbuster films at $150,000,000 (Disney’s Frozen), which have spent up to 2-3 years getting produced. Q: Does an animation need to have a script? A: Not always, but if there is more than 1 minute of film, it is advised. If the animation is less than 1 minute an outline will do. The more direction the storyboard artist and animation director have from you, the better the outcome. Q: What if I have an idea for an animation? A: You can always contact a animation company if you want some direction and understanding to help your project develop. One of the first steps though is to decide how you want the animation to be presented. Next, is to figure out who is handling the budget and when the animation needs to be completed. Finally, make sure you are comfortable with the animation and production team that you will be working with, because communication and professionalism are so important throughout the entire process. Most of all have fun -- lots of fun!
  9. 9. Understanding the 3D Animation Process We at Gridway Digital LLC are pleased to introduce ourselves as an emerging studio in the field of animation and computer graphics. Gridway Digital is professionally managed by a group of enthusiastic and creative artists, along with a qualified development team. We have partnered and worked with companies such as Low Spark Films, Wikitude, PSAVideo, Company 3, SaharaTV, and others who are leaders in their respective industries. Just as we have helped these great companies efficiently and within their budgets, we are confident we can do the same for you. Special thanks to: KC Wayland, Digital Application Specialist and Andy Wyatt. ------- About the author: Daniel Madzel is the founder and owner of Gridway Digital LLC. He has been developing his craft since he was 4 years old, when he fell in love with the creative arts. He is a graduate of 3D Training Institute of New York in NY, NY. He loves sharing his work and creative skills, especially cooking, with his family and friends. He currently resides in sunny Palm Coast, FL with his wife Melonie and son Nathan where he can persue his creativity in a relaxed atmosphere and indulge in his favorite hobby, fishing. 9 For more questions and information: dmadzel@gridwaydigital.com Menton this article and receive 10% off any animation work developed by Gridway Digital!
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Ever wondered what it takes to create an animation? In this fun and descriptive eBook, you will learn how animation starts from imagination to the big screen! Lets take a step-by-step journey into the world of an animation studio.

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