This post will go through three main phases: 3D animation pre – production , 3D animation production and 3D animation post-production .
So get ready to understand all the steps of the animation production process that you must take into account so that your animated film goes from a simple idea to the big screen!

3D Animation pre-production

The first phase that you should take into account for your animation project is pre-production.
Everything that has to do with research, artistic design, creative design and planning of the entire animation project, is part of the pre-production for animation.
Generally, they are divided into two teams: a design team that is responsible for creating the idea, story and designs, and the management team that is responsible for developing the production plan (including budgets, organization of the human team and deadlines).
The more organized the pre-production phase of your animated project, the easier the animation production phase will be.
So let’s see all the steps you must follow in this first phase.

Script

For a successful animation, it is essential that you have a solid and well thought out idea.
Like any great story, it begins with a brilliant idea. Likewise, the story of your animated video will be the basis of your animation project, the “vision” of your movie. At this stage, the creators write and develop the script .
Keep in mind that this is the main benchmark for all other elements involved in the animation production process.

Storyboard

Once you have written your script, the next step is to create a storyboard to divide the story into drawn scenes.
Basically, the storyboard is a kind of comic or graphic novel that includes the first ideas of the camera shots, the poses of the main characters and the events of the scene of your animated project.
This allows the director to visualize the animation project in such a way that he can decide what will and will not work, and make appropriate creative decisions with the other artists on the team. As evidenced by the storyboard and end result of the Disney animated movie “Frozen 2”.

Animatic

Once the storyboard is finished, it is sent to the editorial team to continue developing the next phase of the animation project known as animatic .
Working closely with the director, the editorial team will show the different rhythms of the story with rough timing.
The animation reel created by the editorial team will include still or moving images of the storyboard with lead voices, music ideas and sound effects.
So far, the animatic becomes the main basis of the film that will evolve until the process of the final editing of all animation production.

Visual design and development

The final image of an animation project is decided at this stage of production; including concept design, character design, costumes, prop and environmental design, props, color palettes, and backgrounds. Everything is fully defined here.
Concept and visual development artists define what the animated film will actually look like. This gives the director and team a much clearer way of knowing what concept they are looking for before entering the production process.

3D Animation production

The animation production stage is where all of the above efforts will pay off and morph into action. At this stage, the visual elements of the animation will be delivered to the designated teams and artists.
In this phase, the leaders of the animation teams ensure that the deadlines and quality match the deadlines and standards of the plan determined in the pre-production stage and are developed in the best possible way. The result of this stage will shape the entire 3D animation.
Therefore, to carry out this stage of the animation production process, the team must continue with the following steps.

3d design

After all pre-production steps have been completed, the 2D animatic version goes to the 3D design team. The 3D design team gives basic animation attributes to the characters and the environment, such as size, shape, colors, etc.

3d modeling

The 3D modeling is part of the process of digital animation where animators develop a representation of the geometric surface of any object into a specialized 3D software like Maya 3D animation software.
3D modelers transform 2D concept art into 3D models. They create the characters, sets and accessories in 3D and refine them until the director is satisfied.

3D texturing

Before heading to the 3D texturing team, 3D models have a default color which is usually flat and shaded.
In this sub-phase of animation production, 3D texture artists add colors, textures, and shadows to the characters, props, and sets in the animation.
The 3D texturing team is tasked with ensuring textures match approved concept art and designs created by the art and visual development department.

Rigging 3D

The animation production process continues with 3D rigging, which is basically manipulating the “bone” structure of the 3D object.
That is, the characters in the animation will make movements according to the needs of the scene.
The riggers build the 3D skeletons of the characters. The skeleton becomes a kind of “puppet” that the animators use to bring the characters to life.
Using controls that move the joints of the 3D characters, the animators manipulate the features of the face, head and body. Thus, the character acts according to the needs of the animation story.

3d animation

After the rigging process, comes the most important part of all animation production: 3D animation. It is the part that takes the most time since the movements of 3D objects or characters in a scene are defined in rigorous detail.
All of the digital artwork from the other departments is finally part of the computerized three-dimensional environment of animation, bringing the characters to life after the part created by the 3D rigging team.
3D animators are practically the actors of animation since their job is to figure out how to tell the story through the movements and expressions of the characters.
Generally, 3D character animators pre-act out video scenes to use as a reference for their animation.
Special Effects (VFX)

VFX artists are responsible for all the small details of an animated movie production, such as what happens when there are explosions, destruction, fire, liquids, smoke, particle simulations, etc.
In animation, VFX artists must ensure that these details provide the realism and support for the story, as they are the general problem solvers that make animation production a movie that people want to see.

3D lighting

Like lighting in photography or filming, lighting in 3D animation is the setting in which the atmosphere of a scene is created through light based on pre-production designs.
Once the 3D and VFX animation teams have worked their magic, the characters will have the proper lighting to exist within their respective scenes.
3D lighting artists strategically place lights throughout the 3D scene to ensure colors, intensity, shadows, and textures that match the original concept idea.

Rendering

At this point in animation production, rendering continues . Rendering is a digital process that generates a two-dimensional or, in this case, three-dimensional image of a model using computer software.
When it comes to 3D animation, each scene is separated and “rendered” into multiple layers, including objects, colors, background, foreground, shadows, reflections, and so on. All these layers are rejoined in the 3D post – production stage ( Compositing ).

3D animation post-production

At this stage of animation production, the final touches are added to the project to make it look well detailed.
3D post-production artists have a number of tools with which they can modify the appearance of a 3D project in any way they want. In this order, the post-production of a 3D animation follows the following steps.

3D compositing

As part of the post-production process of a 3D animation, the rendered layers of the animated movie are put together again through compositing .
The compositing team takes all the layers and elements of the animated movie for a layering process that can be as simple as joining 2 layers, or as complex as combining hundreds of layers and adjusting their properties.
Additionally, digital tools are used to make adjustments for color correction, masking, and other tricks that will make scenes appear more natural.
For example, they can put an animated character in an action scene, superimpose the destruction of a building, or even put a simulated tsunami on one of the characters.

Music and sound design

The final edit of the entire animation production should be ready with all the technical details defined before the music and sound design elements are added.
Any change could mean a lot more money and effort, even more than in a filmed movie. Imagine having to change things at the last minute!
Even a few extra images could throw off all the technical part that has already been developed, since all phases and subphases are worked to synchronize the animated movie frame by frame.
Therefore, this part is usually left as the final part of animation production.
By the way, if you want to know everything about frames per second in animation , follow the link to continue learning.

Color correction

The color correction is literally the last thing done in a 3D animation production. It is the process by which the sequence of images of the entire 3D animation project acquires a more coherent appearance.
Image coherence for an animated movie in each sequence means avoiding sudden changes in light or color appearance.

 

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Reference Sources:

  1. Animation World Network: https://www.awn.com/
  2. Cartoon Brew – Technology: https://www.cartoonbrew.com/tech
  3. Befores & Afters – Visual effects and animation journalist: https://beforesandafters.com/
  4. Bloomberg News: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/
  5. Insider: https://www.insider.com/
  6. Crehana Blog: 3D animation