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Filmmaking Guide: Visualizing your shots for an amateur 2D animation project

The Internet offers a number of accessible tutorials teaching you the technical side of computer animation.

But even though online guides discussing the creative component of making an animation is not as plentiful as the technical tutorials available around cyberspace, this doesn’t mean that you should overlook this crucial part of the production. Your storytelling should combine both the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking. If you’re making a 2D animated movie, it is important to understand both the format’s benefits and limitations to make careful technical and creative judgments for the good of your story.

Advantage of 2D Over 3D

Before starting your amateur 2D project, acknowledge how 2D computer animation is different from 3D CGI. The 2D production workflow’s minimal technical requirements serve as its main edge over 3D. Even if you have a computer with average technical specifications, you can already make a 2D animation using any of the popular programs like Flash or After Effects. In a 3D workflow, you need a powerhouse computer with enough disk space, large RAM, and top-notch video card that can handle all your production needs. These requirements are very crucial when rendering and compositing your work.

Advantage of 3D Over 2D

3D CGI makes it easy to move the visual elements on screen, as long as everything is properly modeled and rigged already. A 3D animation program allows easy control of its camera function. In a few clicks, it allows you to position the camera where you want your shot to be.

As an example, a landscape shot of a castle can easily move closer into a tight shot of one of its windows. Although this type of shot is also possible in 2D animation, the amount of work entails many hours of marking key frames, doing complicated motion tweens, and accurately matching the changes in size and distance of each specific element appearing on screen.

Technical and Creative Decisions

Since the 2D animation workflow is different from that of 3D, choose shots and movements that can best work in 2D. It is true that making an animation frees you from the impossibilities encountered in filming a live-action movie. However, as an amateur animator who is most likely working on your own or with a small team, you don’t always have the luxury of time to animate all your dream shots. Balance your creative decisions with your technical, time, and manpower limitations.

In 2D, there is no camera function that makes it easy to diversify shots with complex camera movements. You must do this on a linear plane for each still element you animate. Each movement entails individual changes in even the smallest details seen on screen.

Unless you have unlimited resources, stick to shots that are practical to create. To avoid spending days just to animate a few seconds of your film, visualize shots that can look good for your story, even if their elements simply use linear movements. As much as possible, avoid complicated tracking shots and focus your style and treatment on still shots or simple tracking shots that move both the foreground and background together in an up-and-down or left-and-right direction only. It is relatively easy to make your characters and props move on a 2D plane. But if you add a tracking movement requiring your set to move like in a handheld, dolly, or crane shot that establishes a three-dimensional plane, you must ensure that the size and movement of each visual detail seen on screen all match together upon compositing.

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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