I decided to create this website to help people create their own animated short films. And the first thing that we need to know, is to understand how animated movies are made. In this case we are going to talk about 3D animation. 2D and stop-motion movies have different pipelines , so we will leave them for another day. 

If you ever stay at the end of the movie you probably saw a huge list with hundreds of names and in some cases thousands with different roles and titles.  Animated movies are very complex and require a lot of people to work on them. 

Every person in the credits has an specific job, and without all of them , it would be impossible to make a movie. You also have to understand that most of the departments run at the same time , so it’s very common to go back and forth between departments. 

What are the different roles?

You need to understand that some studios might have less departments, or in some cases people can have different roles. This usually depends on the movie budget and the studio size. If you are planning to create your short film, you need to think all the work that will be required to make your short. 

In the picture below you can find all the departments that make possible the creation of a 3d movie. Take a look at it and then I will explain what every department does. 

3D Animation Pipeline

Writing

Everything starts with a story. Without a story there is no movie, as simple as that. the most important part of a movie is the story, if it doesn’t work then the movie will not be successful, even if the art and style are amazing.  

The first thing you should do once you get the idea is to write it down . Writing is the easiest way to start making your idea come to life. Usually the person that writes the story will direct the movie too.  Sometimes there is a different person for each task. There are also cases where there are multiple writers involved in the process. 

For your short film you will be the writer and director. So it is very important that you make sure your script is good. If you want to read more about how to write your short film make sure to click here

Storyboard

Storyboard artists help the head of story create a visual representation of the animation’s narrative. Storyboard artists translate the script and the director’s vision into pictures. They produce a series of panels of images to plan the shots and ensure continuity between them. These form the basis for the animation in the next stage of production.

Animatic

An animatic is a series of storyboard or frames that contain a basic amount of animation. This is the first in the pipeline that we get a sense of the pace and the flow of the movie. This tends to be a very fast paced job because there is a lot of trial an error and one of the biggest benefits of an animatic is that you can make changes very quick and easy . 

Design

Designers are the ones that will create and define the style of the movie.  

Concept art & design is arguably one of the most important phases of pre-production. Here, an artist or team of artists create the look and feel of a film by drawing fully fleshed out images that further define settings, characters, props, costumes, lighting, color and more. The mood and meaning of a film is often defined by what is created during the concept art phase.

Layout

During the production of an animated film, the layout department is in charge of preparing each shot of a film into a 3D scene. The layout artists are responsible for setting up all the elements required for every sequence of a film. 

Seeing the movie in Layout helps you make sure that the story is working correctly. It is also very important to make sure early if the cameras are correct. 

Modeling and Texturing

Rigging

Riggers are in charge of creating the skeleton of the characters. They also make the controls that animators use to be able to manipulate and move the character around. They have to work really close with animators.

The Skeletons that riggers build will define the movements of a character, such as how a person’s face and mouth move, or how far the arms can stretch. 

Animation

This is my favourite department. Animator are in charge of bringing the characters to life.In animation is when the characters start to feel alive. 

 The Animator uses the custom controls of the rig to bring the character, prop, or vehicle to life. It is very important to know acting and understand what every shot is about. 

In these department you can also find crowd animators and Character final artist. If you want to learn how to animate I have a course that you might find useful.

Vfx

The job of an FX artist revolves around adding simulated elements to a film that seamlessly exist in the director’s world. At any given time, an FX artist could be working on things like destruction, fire, liquids, smoke, and particle simulations. They will often work alongside the animators to ensure natural movement of colliding FX elements. Effects artists often use Houdini to create mind-blowing visuals in blockbuster films.

Lighting, Rendering and Compositing

Lighting plays a crucial role in creating mood, depth and atmosphere in each scene. It is usually added as a last finishing touch in the film. Lighting tries to recreate the art from design and they tried to match the color keys that designers made. The process takes a lot of time and needs a lot of computer power. 

I decided to put these departments together because they have to work really close with each other and sometimes the artists has to be involved in each task. 

The whole scene really comes to life once the whole environment is illuminated composited and render. 

Motion Graphics

The movies is almost done , now we need the titles and the end credits. Here is where the motion graphic artist comes in. 

In some cases there will be scenes that might need motion graphics too, even though these happens, it is not very common to see motion graphics in the middle of a movie. 

Coloring

the movie it’s almost done. But there is one more step. Coloring. This is another important step. Once everything is rendered and the whole movie is edited and put together. A colorist comes in and makes sure that the whole movie has the same tone and colors. 

This will help to make sure that all the movie looks the same. If the coloring changes from one shot to another it will be very distracting for the audience and will make the movie feel wrong. 

Final Output

Time to put your movie on the Big Screen. 

And this is how an animated movie is made. If you found this post useful, don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter so you can keep learning about animation and how you can make your own animated short film. 

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