Story (Story board)
Storyboards are a hand-drawn of the movie and serve as the blueprint for the action and dialogue. Each storyboard artist receives script pages or a “beat outline”, a map of the character’s emotional changes that need to be seen through actions. Using these as guidelines, the artists envision their assigned sequences, draw them out and then “pitch” their work to the director. Over four-thousand storyboard drawings are created as the blueprints for the action and dialog of a feature-length Pixar animated film. They are revised many times during the creative development process.
Storyboards are used to create story. A storyboard originates from written word; for example from a script. A storyboard artist takes the written word and draws it into pictures. The picture are then taken and pinned on a board, a storyboard. After all the pictures are pinned to a storyboard, the artist then pitches it to the director. The artist wants to give a sense of what this movie could be like and tries to bring it to life. The aim of a storyboard is to get a feeling of what the story could be like as a final film. The storyboard artist attempts to convey what it would feel like to watch the film in a cinema.
The following video explains what a storyboard is and the process of storyboard by a storyboard artist. It also shows us a storyboard pitch, where an artist is pitching his storyboards to a group of Pixar employees. The video then compares a storyboard to the finished product; demonstrating the influence and importance a storyboard has on a final product.
John Lasseter on Storyboarding
The following quote from John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, illuminates the importance of storyboarding to creating a successful.
“In animation, it is so expensive the footage, that unlike live action we cannot have coverage. We can’t do multiple takes of a scene. We don’t have extra handles, we don’t have B-roll, we don’t have any of that stuff. We have one chance to every scene. So how can you possibly know you’re choosing the right thing?
What we do is we edit the movie before we start production. And we use storyboard drawings to do that. We quickly get away from the written page and the script, and we really develop the movie in storyboards. A comic book version of the story. And we do it the way Walt Disney did it. We have 4×8 sheets of bulletin board material, and we pin drawings and we pitch them to each other. To see how things flow.
And when something seems to be working great then we’ll go on to the editing system and we will make a version of the movie using the still storyboard drawings. And we’ll put our own voices in it as scratch voices, we’ll get temporary music from some soundtrack album that has the right emotion we want, and put sound effects in there. And we can literally sit back in a screening room, press a button — no excuses, no caveats — and we just watch the movie with still drawings.
I will never let something go into production unless it is working fantastic in that version with the still drawings. Because no matter all the great animation you can do will never save a bad story. We will work and rework and rework and rework these reels — sometimes thirty times before we let it go into production. We’re really adamant. We’ll even slow the production down or stop production to get the story right because we believe that it’s the story that entertains audiences. It’s not the technology. It’s not the way something looks. It’s the story.”
– John Lasseter
Here are some storyboards from a number of different Pixar films:
Toy story storyboard
I put this together pretty quickly for the internal project wiki at work as a basic overview of what goes in and out of my remit as editor on a 52×11 min animated series, where within the process sequence reviews typically happen, and where things come from go to.
It’s not as entirely linear as this in practice (locks happen before all of the animation is done, for example-so that any extensions can be accommodated), a lot of things end up happening as simultaneously, and I’m typically working on anywhere between 5-26 episodes at a time…but this is the basic system.
I’m sharing it here because I get asked a lot where the editing happens in animation (“surely the work’s all done by the time you arrive on the scene?”). Answer: everywhere. I haven’t even included the script changes and pickups/ ADR here. They basically get added throughout, ideally less frequently as time goes on – the further we are in an episode; the more people are affected if something needs to be changed.
Animation art is one of those industries forever changed by technology, as handcrafted production celluloid (cels) and backgrounds were replaced by digital inks in the later 20th century. The collector’s markets existing as a result can be categorised in two areas: original and reproduction.
Film animation has existed since the turn of the 20th century, but archiving and selling its production artwork was practiced minimally until the 1970s. It’s noted that some early Disney artists actually threw their artwork away after filming, or gave pieces away to friends and family. Some work was even wiped off the cel and reused for a new drawings. By the 1970s, dealers began offering film art to fans, and a lucrative market ensued, peaking in the 2990s, bottoming and then rising again in the 2000s.
When collecting animation grew, vendors responded to demand by producing new and reproduced artwork in lots, manufacturing items like limited edition cels, sericel is actually a silk-screened print on acetate or plastic, and essentially duplicates an original film cel. Sericel values can vary widely, and it’s best to research the printing before purchasing art. Signed, limited-edition lithographs have become common to collecting as well, and understanding a piece’s background is essential to achieving a good value.
Three-dimensional (3D) models represent a physical body using a collection of points in 3D space, connected by various geometric entities such as triangle, line, curved surfaces. Being a collection of data, 3D models can be created by hand, algorithmically (procedural modeling), or scanned. Their surfaces may be further defined with texture mapping.
3D models are widely used anywhere in 3D graphics and CAD. Their use predates the widespread use of 3D graphics on personal computers. Many computer games used pre-randered images of 3D models as sprites before computer could render them in real-time. The designer can then see the model in various directions and views, this can help the designer see if the object is created as intended to compared to their original vision. Seeing the design this way can help the designer/company figure out changes or improvements needed to the product.
Today 3D models are used in a wide variety of fields. The medical industry uses detailed models of organs; these may be created with multiple 2-D images slices from an MRI or CT scan. The movie industry uses them as characters and objects for animated and real-life motion pictures. The video game industry uses them as assets for computer and video games. The science sector uses them as highly detailed models of chemical compounds. The architecture industry uses them to demonstrate proposed buildings and landscape in lieu of traditional, physical architectural models. The engineering community uses them as designs of new devices, vehicles and structures as well as a host of other uses. In recent decades the earth science community has started to construct 3D geological models as a standard practice. 3D printers or CNC machines.
In it’s simplest form, 3D rigging is the process of creating a skeleton for a 3D model so it can move. Most commonly, characters are rigged before they are animated because if a character model doesn’t have a rig, they can’t be deformed and moved around. They are stuck in whichever pose the modeler decided to put them in. The rigging process can become very technical and seem overwhelming at times, but after a little practice you’ll be creating great rigs in no time
Key 3D rigging terms you need to know:
- Joints: Sometimes called bones, you can think of joints for rigging in the same way you think of joints in a human body. They basically work in the same way. Joints are the points of articulation you create to control the model. For instance, if you were to rig a character’s arm you would want to place a joint for the upper arm, another joint for the elbow and another joint for the wrist, which allows the animator to rotate the arm in a realistic way. Joints
- Driven Keys: To speed up the animation process for the animators, a rigging artist can utilize driven keys when rigging a character. Driven keys allow you to use one control or object to drive multiple different objects and attributes. In the example above we can use a driven key to control the fist position for the hand, with just one single control. A driven key contains two parts: the driver and the driven. The driver is the object in control of the animation. The driven is the objects and attributed that are being controlled by the driver. Typically for regular key, keyframes an attribute has values keyed to time in the time slider. For a driven key, the attribute has values keyed to the value of the driving attributes. The driver can be another object, or in the case of the example image above it is a control slider. Driven_Key
- Blend Shapes: A blend shape, or morph depending on your 3D application, allow you to change the shape of one object into the shape of another object. When rigging a common use for blend shapes is to set up poses for facial animation. This might be lip sync poses or more complex expressions like a smile or frown. You can tie all these new poses into the original face mesh and have it operate all on one control slider. Blend_Shape For example, if you want to raise an eyebrow you can model a face pose with one eyebrow raised, connect it to a blend shape and using the slider with a value of 0 to 100 to either raise or lower the eyebrow. This is a great way for the animator to be able to quickly make face poses without having to move individual facial poses controls around. There are some downsides to using blend shapes for facial poses, because the edit ability can be limited. Riggers often will give the often will give the animator both blend shape options and traditional control points to use them in conjunction. Blend_shape_01
- FK (Forward Kinematics): Forward Kinematics means your character rig will follow the hierarchal chain. This means more control over your chain, but also means you’d need to position each joint in your chain independently of each other. For example, with FK if you positioned the character’s hand the rest of the arm wouldn’t follow like it does with IK. Instead you would need to position each joint independently, starting with the upper arm, the elbow and then the wrist. This obviously takes more time than IK, but can give the animator much more control of the poses. Most times riggers will incorporate both FK and IK into the rig to meet the animator’s needs. Learn more about IK and FK in a post on Demystifying IK and FK for Animators. FK
- Control Curves: Control curves are created by the rigger to assist the animator in manipulating joints within the rig. Typically a rig consists of many components that need to be manipulated to move the character in the desired pose. This can be very difficult to do without control curves because the animator would need to hide the mesh to see the skeleton within the character and try to determine which joint manipulates the elbow, for example. Control curves are typically simple NURBS curves placed outside of the character so the animator can easily select the curve to position the character instead of the actual joint. Control_Curves
Duties: Surfacing artist are master digital painters. They enhance the appearance of characters , props and environments in an animated feature film according to the visual style set forth by the art director, production and director of the film. The surfacing artist is responsible for technically demanding and complex surfacing setups. They work closely with the modeling and lighting departments to ensure that surfacing needs are met alongside the needs of other department. These artists use computer rendering environments such as Body paint, Maya, Renderman, Zbrush, Mudbox, or Photoshop to develop the needed surface materials, texture and UV maps that overlay 3D models. They must produce consistent, high-quality work while maintaining a steady flow of assignments into the pipeline and meeting rigid deadlines.
Skills and Education: Being a surfacing artist requires creativity and an eye for design elements such as detail, scale, composition, colour and form. The artist must be able to learn new programs and create in different visual styles as required; an understanding of polygonal and NURBS texturing and UV mapping and layout is necessary. Knowledge of modeling and lighting/shading is a plus, since surfacing artists work in tandem with these departments Educational requirement are not as important to landing the job as relevant industry experience and a killer demo reel, but a bachelor’s degree in computer animation will give you a competitive edge.
What to expect: You may have been a talented artist in your childhood; now you are painting with complex equations and specialised software. Expect to work “alone in a crowd” you may be part of a large team, but you’ll probably be interacting more with your mouse and screen than anyone who can talk back to you. Expect eyestrain, incipient carpel tunnel syndrome, and the satisfaction of shouting “that’s mine!” when the most lifelike fur, scales or lava ever animated pops up on the cineplex screen.
Generally when people think of animation studios, they tend to refer to everyone who works there as an “Animator”. However especially in larger studios, only a fraction of the workforce holds the title “Animator”, as there are many departments doing their part to help bring the vision to the big screen, such as Character Effects, Lighting, Story, Editorial and Modeling. In this article, lets take a closer look at my current home department, layout and look at what they do to help bring the vision to life.
Layout: Bringing it all together
The most straight forward answer is exactly as the name suggests; they lay-out the movie. More specifically, layout takes all the upstream assets such as backgrounds and props from art department, characters from character designers, storyboards from story department, and they put them together and lay them out according to what the sequence and shots call for, according to the script and storyboard.
Laying out the shot, incorporating all these elements together, inherently means composing everything appropriately, as well as planning out camera moves and ground planes for animation, with guidance coming from the storyboards. This essentially makes layout the cinematographers of the movie. Layout artists in traditional animation will draw each background with a suggestion of lens and focal length, depending on what the story beat calls for, just as a live action production would. In CG Animation it is even lengths, aperture and shutter speeds.
Below you can observe and example of traditional layout, where a camera move has been planned out over the expanse of environment. The warped, somewhat fish-eye perspective suggests focal length as the camera pans over the artwork following the action (Illustration taken from Fraser MacLean’s book setting the scene, Layout artwork by Fraser Maclean, final cleanup by Scott Caple)
In CG pipeline at large animation studios, Layout is often split into two departments: Rough and Final Layout. Rough Layout, also referred to as previsualization, tend to focus on entire sequences, vs Final Layout, who tends to work on individual shots. As mentioned before, layout artists act as the cinematographers for the movie, which effectively makes the Head of Layout the Director of Photography for the animated film. The Head of Layout will go through a process not unlike a live action D.P. This includes working with the Director to establish a cinematic language for the movie, planning out how sequences will be shot to help support the tone of the story or environment, and even creating a lens kit for the production, and technical aspects like cinemascope vs widescreen.
Previz artists will then work with the Head of Layout and Director to help take the work that was done in story department, and visualise an entire sequence using rough sets and characters, as well as staging rough animation blocking and even creating rough lighting rigs, all to help create what is essentially a low-resolution version of the final look of the movie. Once that look is established, the rough layout version of the film acts as a visual guideline for downstream departments such as Animation, Lighting, Effects, and of course Final Layout.
If you are working on either a traditional or tradigital (digitally hand-drawn animation) animation project in a team environment, or if you are working with other people, it is important to communicate information clearly and keep your work well organized. In this artist, you will learn how to make a smooth transition from the story board to an animation by making use of a production step known as a layout and posing. To find out more about the steps described in this article, please refer to the animate user guide.
The Layout and Posing process comes from traditional animation where it is done on paper and then passed on to the animator. The Layout and Posing step translates the storyboard information to a format which the animators can use. Since the storyboard is not always accurate, the layout artist will reproduce the storyboard scene to the correct scale, draw the animation poses on the model (posing), plan the camera moves and create the black and white background (background layout).
The background is a section from the location design, also called key background. Background layout is different than the location design. The background artist will refer to the storyboard and the location design to draw the appropriate background for the scene.
For tradigital animation projects the Layout and Posing is done in the animation software, since the main purpose of this technique is to save paper and transfer most of the work to digital.
With Animate you do your layouts and posing digitally there is no need to use paper or scan elements in. Simply open your Drawing or Camera view and draw your background and posing as well as camera move references.
Manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation the images were drawn (or painted) by hand on cels to be photographed and exhibited are made with computer-generated are made with imagery (CGI). Computer animation, while 2D computer animation can be used for stylistic reasons, low bandwidth or faster real-time renderings. Other common animation methods apply a stop motion technique to two and three-dimensional objects like paper cut-outs, puppets or clay figures. The stop motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject is known as pixilation.
Commonly the effect of animation is achieved by a rapid succession of sequential images that minimally differ from each other. The illusion- as in motion picture in general-is thought to rely on the phi phenomenon and beta movement, but the exact causes are still uncertain. Analog mechanical animation media that rely on the rapid display of sequential images include the phenakisticope, zoetrope, flip book, prazinoscope and film. Television and video are popular electronic animation media that originally were analog and now operate digitally. For display on the computer, techniques like animated GIF and flash animation were developed.
Apart from short films, feature films, animated gifs and other media dedicated to the display moving images, animation is also heavily used for video games, motion graphics and special effects. The physical movement of images parts through simple mechanics in for instance the moving images in magic lantern shows can also be considered animation. Mechanical animation of actual robotic devices is known as animatronics. Animators are artists who specialize in creating animation.
Crowds simulation is the process of simulating the movement (or dynamics) of a large number of entities or characters. It is commonly used to create virtual scenes for visual media like films and video games, and is also used in crisis training, architecture and urban planning, and evacuation simulation.
Crowd simulation may focus on aspects that target different application. For realistic and fast rendering of a crowd for visual cinematography, reduction of the complexity of the 3D scene and image-based rendering are used, while variations in appearance help present a realistic population.
In games and application intended to replicate real-life human crowd movement, like in a evacuation simulations, simulated agents may need to navigate towards a goal, avoid collisions and exhibit other human-like behaviour. Many crowd steering algorithms have been developed to lead simulated crowds to their goal realistically. Some more general systems are researched that can support different kinds of agent(like cars and pedestrians), different levels of abstraction (like individual and continuum) agents interacting with smart objects, and more complex physical and social dynamics.