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Filmmaking Guide: How to get an animated movie made

An animated movie requires frames drawn and played in sequence.

Unlike a live-action movie, an animated movie uses a specific kind of animation process or a combination of processes to produce moving images. The animation can be fully drawn, painted or photographed frame by frame. Computer technology also paved way to the creation of animated films using computer programs such as Flash, Adobe After Effects, 3D Studio Max, and Maya.

Many animation projects combine the use of hand-drawn and computer-based production of images in their movies.

Step 1

Finalize the movie’s script. Just like any other filmmaking project, an animated movie requires a script fitting a treatment and vision from the director. The approved script made by the writer becomes the “bible” of the production team.

Step 2

Create character designs, backgrounds and inspirational art works. The characters are drawn from different angles to get all details when they get animated. Just like the creation of character designs, making the backgrounds is important to produce the landscape where the characters will move. Just like when shooting a live-action movie, the camera follows the characters as they move around the backgrounds. Inspirational art works work like concept art pieces and this includes various details to be possibly seen in the final animation.

Step 3

Make a storyboard that works like an expanded comic strip or comicbook. However, the main difference with the storyboard is that it doesn’t prioritize drawing the best frame, positioning and posing of each character or background. It focuses on the chronological turn of events that are supposed to happen in the movie. Every significant change in action requires drawing the next frame so that the one viewing it can have a general idea how it would look once the storyboard becomes an actual movie.

Step 4

Record the “scratch voices.” The voice talent for each character starts recording his or her dialogues in a dubbing room or sound studio. This becomes the animators’ guide when animating because they have to sync the voices with how the animation moves.

Step 5

Make the animatic, the preliminary version of the animated film, which is done by shooting chronological successions of the storyboard and adding the scratch voices and other sound elements into it. This allows the production team to see if the animation works in terms of timing and pacing. It also provides them a better vision of how the final movie would look and feel.

Step 6

Start the animation process. Each shot gets animated using a particular technique. There are many types of animation techniques including traditional or fully hand-drawn animation, stop-motion animation that uses clay or other materials shot frame by frame to create movement, and computer animation that uses a 2D or 3D animation software to make the animation. The animators act like the actors or puppeteers who choreograph the movements and facial expressions of the characters.

Step 7

Work on the clean-up, in-betweening and shading of all elements in every shot including the sets, props and characters. These processes complete and polish each shot by cleaning up the drawings from extra strokes or any similar oversight or inaccuracy, producing the needed “in between” frames for more fluid movement of each shot and adding the surface color and texture for all the required visual elements.

Step 8

Light the animation to complete the look. With the same concept in mind as live-action movie lighting, the lighting team provides key, fill and bounce lights and room ambience to define and enhance the shot towards its final look.

Step 9

Render the computer data with all the animation elements finalized. Whether everything is hand-drawn, shot frame by frame or completely made in the computer, modern animation work already requires the use of a computer to edit a movie. And so, all elements are digitized and rendered in the computer to translate all information of each shot into a single frame of movie. This allows the animation to be utilized for editing in video format.

Step 10

Edit the movie just like how you would edit a live-action movie, then add the sound effects and musical score. Although some maintain the use of the scratch voices for the final movie, some may require the re-recording of the voices using the same or different voice talents.

Additional References:

Filmsite: Animated Films – Part 5

Pixar: How We Do It

Aniamto J-E: How an Animated Cartoon is Made

Smart Webby: Flash Animation Basics

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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