Animated Video Production: The IdeaRocket ApproachShawn 04.15.2014
Every animated production is different. Some studios brainstorm scripts in huge meetings, while others outsource it to a lonely freelancer on the opposite coast. Some dash together storyboards, others prefer more time consuming animatic roughs.
No studio has figured out the “right” way to animate (except maybe Disney), however, we think it’s these “optional” stages of production – like animated storyboards, and the philosophy governing each step – more than just the talent on staff, that defines a studio’s finished animation. The attention to the step by step process is what makes some animation “broadcast quality” and other work just more white noise.
So with that in mind, we’d like to give you a peek into our time-tested animation process as we take one of our animations from Storyboard Animatic to Finished Product. Enjoy!
Storyboard Animatic (Top Left)
At IdeaRocket we prefer storyboard animatics to just storyboard drawings because they give the client – and us! – an early glimpse of how the voiceover and picture will merge to tell the story. We try to get the voiceover involved as early as possible, so that it can guide our animation before we commit time to the design stage (the layout animatic in step 2).
This dynamic storyboard animatic also gives us a strong feel of the rhythm, flow, and storytelling elements of our script. The characters point, run, and laugh – all timed to the chosen script and voiceover – and while it’s cruder than the finished animation, the extra time spent in the early phases prevents pitfalls and costly dead-ends and rewrites down the line.
This stage in production is less about polish and more about crafting the narrative elements in a visual way from the get-go. The message – whether it’s humor, competence, or problem solving – needs to be clear before we move onto our next step. The storyboard is also our first chance to block and stage the characters and camera angles to maximize dramatic storytelling elements.
If it seems like a lot of work is done in this first stage of production – you’re right. The more staging, blocking, voiceover sync, timing, and flow we can get done in this first pass, the better. Hard work and diligence early pay off as the animation progresses to our next step – Layout.
Layout Animatic (Bottom Left)
The layout animatic is all about design. It’s where the raw ideas and basic characters come to life with color, definition, and refined staging that showcases the drama of the story. It’s the “art” of animation if you will.
Most of the blocking is already set during the storyboard stage, but this is our chance to refine camera angles and tweak framing before animating extraneous characters or landscapes. As you can see in our example, the first scene changes significantly from our storyboard to layout design. The female character is removed from view, and the perspective is flattened to a 2D perspective to focus on the storytelling element of the gas station attendant and the motorist pouring over the map together. The change is subtle, but serves to focus the narrative.
Layout animatics are where we design the characters and background style, using color palettes and templates to evoke the proper mood. The layout animatic is more than just refining images – it’s the carefully crafted bridge between concept and execution.
Finished Animation (Right)
In our example, it might not look like much has changed from the layout to the finished animation, and in a sense that’s true. The story is set, so staging and character design aren’t going to alter a lot. What will improve in the transition from layout to final animation are the subtle details and fluid animation in every scene, including adding and syncing all the sound effects, and any last adjustments to voiceover, pace, and timing.
For instance, the hand navigating the smartphone app swipes instead of jabs at the screen, and the “20% OFF!” discount bubbles pop behind our characters with audible bursts. At dinner, the wine sloshes around when they clink glasses, and a wealth of secondary animation populates each screen including:
- Eye blinks and pupil movement to follow narrative elements
- Lips moving to simulate speech and laughter
- Even the fly mascot at the end hovering in place ever so slightly
Every scene has life and nuance breathed into it through secondary animation – like the nametag on the VB Mascot swinging as he comes to a stop.
It’s these subtle details that you only detect through close study that makes our animation different from a lot of companies that stop at the herky-jerky Layout Animatic stage. Broadcast quality animation isn’t just a room full of talented professionals (although it’s pretty tough to do it without them). Quality animation means going the extra mile to animate not just the main character but every part of the scene in a way that makes your story come to life. If that requires a few “extra” steps, we’re happy to take them.
So that’s how our animatics go from storyboard to finished product. If you’re interested in animated video production, be sure to contact us at IdeaRocket for any of your animation needs.. We’re happy to help!