Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 6 - Layout & Posing

To try to keep it simple, layout & posing is a step between the storyboarding and the animation process.

The layout and posing artist takes the storyboard, and uses it to make key drawings of everything that moves within a scene for the animators, and he also makes the final drawing of the BG (background) for the BG painters to color.

To do that, the layout & posing artist will take a storyboard panel and blow it up to the final size that the scene will be shot at.

Eons ago, a scene would be shot using a special camera that would shoot each animation frames one frame at a time.

Later on, it became more a matter of scanning all the drawings and putting them all together in the computer in a step called "compositing".

Usually, the same artist would do the layout and the posing of a given scene. But sometimes you would have one artist do the layout, and one artist do the posing.

It happens sometimes.

On Bob Morane, I did the posing for the layouts of a guy called Norman De Repentigny. Although I worked with him for about 10 months...... I never met the guy.

It happens too.

So on Bob, most of the time I would do Norman's posing. But once in a while, I would do the whole scene.

Early in my career, I would be labeled a "character artist". So I would end up doing character related work like posing or character design.

We will separate the layout & posing process in two steps;

1) Posing.

2) Layout.

The Posing

The posing is every elements that is animated in a scene (characters, props, fx).

So the artist will blow up the storyboard panel, then he will use it to draw everything that moves in the scene on a piece of paper called a "level". Sometimes, only one level will be needed for a given scene. Sometimes, a scene will require the artist to use multiple levels for various elements of a scene.

For example, the artist may have to draw a character on one level, a second character on a second level, a door that will be opened in the scene on a third level, and maybe a car on a 4th level.

That way, the animation department will be able to animate all the elements separately. Separating various elements on multiple levels is mostly useful/necessary when various elements overlap each other.

On some series, various fx will also be added by the layout & posing artist like various shading fx or light fx...etc

Like the storyboard.... the posing is NOT the final artwork. So it does not need to be a clean drawing. It can be rough. Heck it SHOULD be rough.

The Layout

The layout is essentially the final line art of the BG. At some point, it was not the final drawing. In ages past, the line drawing was re-traced for example on watercolor paper for the BG painter to color.

But as time passed, more and more productions started to simply scan the artwork and color it in the computer. So in those cases, the line art of the layout & posing artist actually became the final version of the BG.

But now, the trend is to draw the BG (heck.... not just the BG.... the whole show) straight in the computer (will have to do a Blog about that someday ;) ). So there is no need to even scan the artwork anymore. Not every production does this yet.... but it is just a matter of time until they all start to do this for various reasons.

So once the layout & posing artist is done with his scene, the posing goes to the animation team to use to do the animation. And the layout is given to the BG painter to color.

At least that is how it used to be.

The layout & posing step is pretty much a thing of the past by now. Especially here in Montreal. And whatever projects that may be left that still uses the layout & posing step send the work overseas to China or India. Much cheaper to have them done over there (will have to make a Blog about that too ;) ).

So it pretty much is a thing of the past for someone like me. It makes me sad because I really liked working as a layout & posing artist. Guess I will have to settle with drawing silly comic books from now on. ;)

Now that you guys are somewhat familiar with how an animated production works..... I will go back from time to time on some of the steps of an animation production and explore some of those steps in more details.

I will also from time to time talk about some of the productions I have worked on.

Also in my career, I have gathered tons of artwork produced for animation (character designs, location designs, storyboards, etc) which I will try to share with you guys from time to time.

Until next time.


Richard said...

Having closely studied all your Flashback Universe work and now having read this, I have a vague feeling that I can almost grasp how your professional background and work experience affects your approach to a comics page. Like the way your action poses would lend themselves to animation, where an artist with only print comics experience might use more of a static "pin up" pose. Or the way multiple layers in one of your panels seem to be clearly defined so that one can always tell where each person is in relation to people to the front or back, where some artists don't try to convey depth of field.* I'm not sure I can put it into words; it may have to rattle around in my head for a while longer.

* (If you've ever seen old Carmine Infantino Flash stories, sometimes he drew the skyline of Central City as if all the buildings were on a single background plane, while the foreground action was taking place on the world's biggest paved plaza. But of course that's done in animation too...)

Pierre Villeneuve said...


not only did I see those Carmine Infantino Flash comics.... but I loved them.

Yes I am sure that a lot of my experience in animation left it`s mark on not only my drawing style, but my composition and storytelling and other stuff I can`t think of right now.


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