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A06- Animation Project Pipeline: Pre-production

In the last post, we talked about the usage and application of 3D graphics. Now, there are some practical and ideal methods developed for finishing an animation project successfully. We can call them as ‘project execution pipelines’. These methods are constantly evolving and getting better. May it be a film, a walkthrough of a building or of any kind of that sort, these project pipelines can be used to produce better or assured results.

Q: Will these methods benefit us in our animation projects?

Of-course, in-fact, we are going to make our short-film using such a method. So, you will surely like to know more about it.

Project execution pipeline, is basically a method to analyse our complete project, plan all the activities and execute the work accordingly. Right from the very beginning to the finished output we can understand it through such methods. There are many different methods to manage and monitor. In order to study, we will discuss about one of the common and easy approach. In this approach, the entire pipeline is divided in 3 primary phases.
 A. Pre-Production, B. Production आणि C. Post-Production.


In this post, we will start with the first.

A. Pre-Production: We all do enjoy picnic, don’t we? Let’s imagine that, you have to arrange and go to some distant location and have fun. Then ideally, what we are supposed to do first? Do we directly and blindly start our journey? No, we don’t. We plan our trip, we think about transport, stay, food, hotels and so forth, before actually going there. We also list and pack all the luggage ready, to be carried with us. Right?
The point is, we do all sort of necessary preparations, before starting our tour. We ensure that we will be worry-free during the trip and enjoy the fun. We try to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Now in computer graphics also, if we want to make a film, we need to have exactly the similar approach.

As the name suggests, ‘Pre-production’ is all about pre-planning everything, before we actually start the real work. So that we can prepare ourselves and avoid most of the production problems or undesired troubles. This phase, mainly consists of brainstorming. In order to clearly understand this phase, let’s further break it down into 3 sections. Dream / Draft / Design.

Dream: Imagine that we are making a short film. This step is of conceptualising every-thing, like setting a clear goal of our film, determining the key subject and dreaming about the story. Here, we try to see the film in our mind. We try to visualise on, ‘how can we present’ our subject or ‘how can we narrate’ the story, to the viewers. In short, even before the actual film is ready, we dream it. We imagine it many times, in many ways. It is very necessary to ‘pre-visualise’. Even if this step is entirely based on ‘dreaming’ or ‘imagining’, it is very important step. Without it you don’t get the clear picture of what your heart is saying.

Draft: Once you dreamt and have a clear idea, then it is generally noted down step by step. Many question are solved during this process. Like, Who will be our target viewers? Whether it will be a TV serial or a film? Whether its a short film or a full length feature film? In this step, we mainly try to fix, our goal, purpose and the medium of our animation project. Many a times, animation projects are a result of team work. Different people like writer, director, animators etc. come together and work together. Now it becomes very important, to have a clear and ‘common’ goal within them. Therefore, most of the important ideas or concepts in mind, are noted down. This enables good coordination and common understanding.

Then there comes time to ‘Storyboard’. Lot of sketching is done at this stage. All the story, screenplay is converted in form of pictures. Entire story gets visualised in a series of progressive sketches. Each such picture can tell us, many more things than the real story. Like the look and feel of characters, the environments, the angle from where we are seeing it and many more such things are visualised. All the key elements like characters, are drawn. Things like, how the characters will look like, how will they move, talk etc, are clarified at this stage.

At the end of this stage, lot of ideas and concepts gets materialised into documents. These include written story, storyboards, screenplay etc. The documents also include the sketches and other details of characters, details of the backgrounds, colour combinations, dialogues and lot of other things. So that everybody, after going through this, can see the ‘same’ dream.

Design: Now that the dream is common and the goal is clear, how are we going to achieve it? That’s the point of this step. The design of ‘How’. Once the story and other things are finalised, we start listing about each and every work that is required. The complete ‘Production design’ is finalised in this step. We have to think and finalise all the points like, which things will be required? Which softwares can be used? How much time will it take? etc. As you can see, this step is little bit technical, but is very important.

So once we have a clear ‘dream’, we have ‘drafted’ all the documents and visualised them, and finally once we have planned and ‘designed’ the production, we can start the actual work and achieve our goal. This complete ‘Pre-production’ phase, makes the framework of our future work. It sets the clear direction.

“If animation is like driving a car, then pre-production is like having a road-map. Following which the car reaches the destination ‘safely’.”

Q: Wow! This is a very good example. I can clearly understand it now.

We will go through and experience all this. After all we are going to make our own animation film, isn’t it? In the next part, we shall talk about the next phase, the ‘Production phase’. So stay tuned, see you soon!


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Posted by Mahesh Deshpande

Director at Advaita Studios Pvt. Ltd. Having wide career experience in Design, 3d graphics and animation, since 1998. Actively involved in various 3d graphics programs and training.

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