Friday, September 19, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 4 - Design

Last time, we saw how the writer of an animated show has to go through several drafts of his script until we get the FINAL DRAFT.

Ideally, once the FINAL DRAFT is ready, the various design teams will get started.

Let's use the character designer to explain the design process, but the process is essentially the same for the location designer as well.

On some production, the character designer will also be doing the props. On other productions, you will have someone assigned/specialized only in doing prop designs.

Not sure why.

Either way, the designer will analyzes the script and make a list of everything that he will need to design.

The designer will make what we call "model sheets". He will start with making rough designs of every characters needed for the episode.

If it is an important character, the designer will do what we call a "5 view rotation" model sheet. It is essentially the character seen for almost every angle (front, 3/4 front, side, 3/4 back, and back).

Also for the main characters, it can happen that the character designer will make a model sheet of the rotation of the head only. It gives us a better feel of what the character's head/face looks like for when we need to draw a close-up or extreme close-up scene with the character.

And for not so important characters or some incidental characters, the designer may simply draw a 3/4 front and 3/4 back view model sheet.

In some cases when possible they may also make various poses showing the characters in action.... but too often the deadlines on a production are wayyyyy too tight to even allow that.

Once the rough designs are done, they will be sent for approval to the various people who want a say in the creative process (directors/producers/broadcasters/etc).

Usually you can expect the designs to come back with at least some revisions. Sometimes.... there are a lot of revisions for some reasons.

So once the revisions are done and approved, the rough designs and the script will be given to the storyboard artist to do his job.

Once the storyboard is finished, the designer will analyzes the storyboard (not unlike what he did with the script) and look out for possible changes in the designs or heck, he might have forgotten to design some characters. Or there always are elements that gets added (a door that is opened, or a character/prop that gets added at the last minute).

Or the storyboard artist may have made some changes to some of the designs so that the designer will have to adapt his design to match with what was done in the board.

Or heck, there may be some designs that were done that were not used in the board and are no longer necessary.

It happens.

Every artists pretty much collects stacks of such designs/drawings through their career. Although I for one am usually not shy about reusing such designs on future projects. Whenever a design gets rejected, I put it in my pile of "to use some day" drawings.

I don't waste anything. ;)

So once the designer is done analyzing the board, he makes a final list of all the designs that he needs for that show. Then he does the clean final version of those designs. Once again, the designs have to go through the approval process.

Also the character designer will do what is called a "lip sych" model sheet. It is essentially a model sheet indicating how to draw the character's mouth when he speaks.

Once all that is done, the final designs are given to the layout & posing team along with a copy of the final script and the final storyboard.

And next time..... no we will not discuss the "layout & posing" process yet. We will look at the storyboard step in an animated production. And after that we will look at the "layout & posing". ;)

More soon.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how many of your other readers are also animation students, but I for one find these posts extremely interesting and helpful. Thanks.

- Kory

Jim Shelley said...


Yeah, Pierre used to email details about animation jobs he has worked on, and I found the behind the scenes stuff pretty interesting, so I told him to start blogging about it - while I'm not an animation student, I really like to reading an insiders view on how things are done. :)

Richard said...

Likewise. And as a student of the comics medium, what always gets me is how much artwork is produced for an animated project that's never intended to be seen by the public at all but still looks spectacular by comic book standards. "Oh, these old rocks are a useless by-product of our coal mining operation, we just toss them away." "But...but...they're diamonds..."

Pierre Villeneuve said...

RAB; Love your "rock" comparison. ;)

Glad you guys are enjoying those Blogs.

I have gathered tons of stuff and behind the scene stories from my carrer in animation.

I will try to share some of those from time to time. ;)


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