The problem with starting an animation project is that there are so many tasks ahead of you it is bewildering. In the words of Scott Eaton, “Everything in Computer Graphics is a pipeline”. By this he simply means that everthing has to happen in an order, and that the end result you are looking for, directly effects how you can approach them on a technical level throughout the process.
Animation is complex and labour intensive. There is a big risk that you can get bogged down in the technical difficulty of the work and lose sight of the creative purpose. To avoid this we had to come up with an animation workflow.
Looking at examples of how commercial animation and VFX studios work and distilled a workflow for our relatively small 13 week project. It is a tall order.
Some examples are
- The Best Blue Sky http://www.blueskystudios.com/content/process.php
- The venerable Pixar http://akeigher.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/pixar-pipeline-research/
- The mighty disney http://www.justdisney.com/animation/animation.html
- The absurdly helpful Roger “Buzz” King http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/semantic-web/from-ideas-to-polished-videos-3d-animation-workflow-for-free/
I analysed all the things we need to get done. What follows is the order of working processes we expect, but obviously in reality, thing never go exactly to plan an some elements of this order might change
First up- Story and Plot: Themes, Meanings, the main story line and variations that may or may not appear in the final product.
Storyboards: Basic sketches of the scenes.
Sound acquistion: Selection Collection, sampling, recording etc.
Storyboard Timeline (Reel): Notated story board placed on a timeline
Concept art: Design of props, scenery, characters and costume. Based on the story content, Lighting, mood, look and feel.
Modelling: Characters, props, costume and sets
Rigging: Creating animation rigs for characters, Constraints for machine
Texturing and Shaders: Collecting, Making and Applying textures and colours to the models.
Per Scene Tasks
Shot layout Scenes are set up in Maya. camera angles and camera movement done here
Motion Capture: Movements based on the storyboard are captured. The MoCap data is integrated
Animation: Applying the MoCap data to characters and models as a base for animation. Key frame animation for the detailed expression.
Effects: Water, particle smoke and flame effects
Lighting: Lighting is added to the scenes, Lighting makes everything look right. Lighting is derived from concept designs. For a nice feel we can use HDRI lighting with additional local lights. Lots of test renders here-yawn!! Best done on the fastest machines available
Rendering: Once fully tested for quality, Send them to the network render
Editing: Assemble the shots and sound with a video editor.
Launch: Generate Editiorials; Create a promotional website; Enter animation festivals, etc.
Quite a lot really!