Everyone must have heard the word animation/animated character,do you know the process that happens before an animation film or short clip is made??.After reading through this article you should be able to tell all about animation like a pro!


Usually before doing creating/solving anything it is good to do a research beforehand,the same applies to animation(sometimes called CGI).Usually if an animation film is going to portray an animal or any natural phenomenon like twister or an explosion,artists make a study about those things and create illustrations.These may be illustration of a character or a landscape or any object like weapons,costume,etc., For example in the fiml King kong,Narnia,golden compassetc, extensive studies were made before the 3d Models were made,this study proved to be beneficial since these films protrayed some stunning visual effects



After drawing the character in different poses(in case of landscape or objects,at different angles) the storyboard is prepared.This is where a sketch artist makes quick rough sketch of the film scene by scene, demonstrating what will be the view frame of camere,where will characters be positioned, what will their reactions be,etc.,This process is done for the eintire story of the film.



In this phase, the 3D modellers try to create a three-dimensional model of the sketches of a character or object/landscae made in the study/illustration made.Usually a clay model is made representing the features,propotion of the model beofrehand.This serves as a reference for the modellers.The modellers are the key since it is what they create will later on be textured and animated for giving a bedazzling perfomance.Usually a 3d model,especially a character is created in a particular pose(usually T-pose) so that texturing and rigging will be easy,we'll discuss about these in following paragraphs.For modelling there are lot of softwares available but one of the most prominent is maya and zbrush



This is the part where realism is added to the 3D model by giving life through colors.Artists get reference from the illustration or do research and try to give their mopdel the best suited texture for a model.The texturing part may seem to be fun,but it is one of the tedious parts in CGI.Because texture files(images) are always flat square images or resoulution ranging from 1k to 3 or 4k (depending on the clarity needed).But the model doesn't have a flat square shaped surface.

So a process called UV unwrapping is done to the model so that the parts of the model can be literally unwrapped to somehow fit in a square canvas(see inmage below to understand).For texturing too there are great options in autodesk maya but a standalone program like maxon's body paint is prefered,usually texturing is done with the help of photoshop.



It is this phase that will equip the 3D models with controls using which the movements and actions like running, speaking,expressions of a 3D model is achieved.In rigging, the rigging artist tries to create bones and joints for a character at places needed so that an animator can have full control of the 3D model.Usually (see image) controls for every joint and key parts likt eye,mouth movement are made visible and the bone, joints are hidden to make it easier to work with,in the image you can see the controls for knee as K,one control for the hat(yellow lines) and so on.


Rigging is usually an inbuilt module in any high end 3D software and no seperate software is needed.In these days due to improvisations in 3D technology in rigging not only bones and joints are added,but muscles are also added for added realism



It is in the stages of animation that a 3D model is made to act,showing expessions,emotions,action sequences,etc.,An animator is perhaps the most hard worker of all in animation since he has to control each and every movement of a character right from a frown in eyebrow to the walking stlye of the character or moving of object.Usually for animations,animators use keyframes to set the position of a character in each frame.(mind you there are 30 frames for a second, so for an animation of 1 minute there are 1800frames that may need to be animated.) key frames are like snapshots of postion of a characters parts or the character as a whole


If you take a snapshot of an action continuously and aee the snapshots at the right speed you'll have a motion picture.The same explanation holds good for key frames. When a lot of key frames are played together,animation is created.For realism, the animators have a practise of trying to enact the pose or facial expression by themselves before a mirror,observing the movements of jaws, hands or legs and apply the same to their character.


Also for ease of animating and for realism, artists use a method called Motion capturing,where realtime actions of an actor is transfered to a 3d model


Dynamics and VFX

In this phase all the special effects are added like cruching of wall, explosions,crowd simulation,the smoke,dust during a war scene,the sparks and debries.In short this is the phase that adds that punch to the movie.Dynamics and VFX artist ensure that the movie delivers action or effects aptly.Most of the VFX works are seen in a good CG movie like the mummy( a face comes out of warter,the mummies rise from sand,etc),diehard 4(explorions and blasts),etc.Also some of you would have seen actors acting before a green or blue matte,this is done so that after the shot is recorded, all the blue or green matte are removed and a background scene is added(see image below).The green or blue matte is removed using compositing methods in postproduction, which we will be discussing later on.



Lighting and rendering

During the lighting phase realism is added to a scene by lighting the scene correctly, according to the art directors ideas and from illustrations.For example, in a explosion scene, lighting is usually in yellowish orange so that it adds realism,also lighting helps improve the visibility of a character/ object(see image below).Rendering is the phase where the output is taken i.e. all these 3D models, their actions are rendered into image sequences(as we saw before one secon bears 30 frame that equals 30 images per second).There is usually a rendering engine - a standalone program that is specialised in producing realistic lighting,some of the prominent rendering engines are pixar's renderman,maxon's advance render engine,VRay,and the list goes on..




Since there are a lot of images to be rendered and there needs a lot of calculation to be made, animation studios make use of render farms.Render farms are centralised computing systems which house a lot of RAM, Processors for rendering thousands of images quickly.



Post production includes editing, color corrections and sound addition.Post production artists ensure that any mistake in the movie is corrected or they add effects that are easy to add after rendering like small debries, camera shake,etc.Also in post production color correction and tone corrections are made where the light tinting and brightness are adjusted(see image below).Composed audio are synchronised with the film and the voice over for the characters are enacted by real life actors during post production.To summarise, in post production all the small adjustments and corrections are made to make the film look real and clean.



So that was all,a brief overview of animation pipeline/the phases an animationor CG film goes through.And believe me, this is actually BRIEF,there are a lot of things that I've not gone through.The next time you watch an animation/special effects or CG movie be sure to notice the effort of artists behind the stunning film...Cheers!!!

Here are some great animation and special effects movies that I like:cars,UP,wall-e,surf's up,happy feet,Bewoulf,300,sincity,xmen,etc., etc.,


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