Have you ever wondered what jobs need to be filled in the Animation Industry?
ToonBoom thoroughly breaks this down in their Animation Workflow Educational Curriculum – Harmony Premium
About: This academic journey will take you through the basic storyboarding and animation concepts using Harmony Premium and Storyboard Pro. It will guide you to a level of experience where you will be able to work, at a beginner level, in a production environment equipped with a solid knowledge of animation concepts and production-standard software.
Studios follow a meticulous workflow to get their movie from script to screen. A studio’s workflow represents all the steps a production has to follow in order to get the script to the final film stage. Each step must be done at a particular moment in the production in order for it to come to completion. In this lesson, you will be introduced to all of the required staff, as well as the different types of workflow, or system, studios follow while in production.
Someone making a short animated film at home might be able to create their film from start to finish, but on a big movie or TV production, it is a much bigger process! In the following section, you will see a list of all the staff required to take a full animated movie production from concept to completion.
This person takes storyboard elements and assembles them against the recorded sound track. The animatic editor works with the director to edit the images, pacing and voice audio to a certain length. Once that’s done, the animatic is considered final and no more changes are made.
The animation team is supervised by the animation director, whose job it is to break down the storyboard into sequences for distribution to various animators, known as handout. The next step is to check the animation before sending it forward for director approval. The animation director helps with any animation-related issues, and coordinates the revision and retake process with the animators.
Once the animators have completed their animation, the animation supervisor reviews the animation and provides comments/suggestions before forwarding the animation to the animation director.
Cut-out animation is a vast subject. There are many techniques employed by different studios and animators. Basically, the animator moves the parts frame-by-frame to animate the puppet. The animator may even start their own pre-compositing, camera moves and trajectories. This depends on the type of workflow being followed. Once the animation is completed and approved, the scene goes to the final compositing and effects stage.
In tradigital animation, all of the drawings are created digitally, using a pen tablet to optimize work and drawing ability. Other than the digital aspect, the animation principles are not very different from classical animation. The animator uses the same animation styles and methods as would be used on paper. Only the medium is changed. When all of the animation is done and the drawing timing is completed through the exposure sheet or timeline, the scene is ready for the animation clean-up process.
The art director has a key role in production, and is responsible for setting the look of the show. The art director is often a highly skilled location/layout designer and a skilled background painter. In the development process that takes place at the very beginning of the production, this person works with the director and design supervisor to develop the visual and colour style of the show, and ensures the consistency of that look throughout the production.
As the name implies, this person assists the director in all aspects of production. The assistant director’s duties vary, depending on the way the director likes to work, but they are aware of all of the creative requirements and will make decisions when the director is unavailable.
The layout and posing process links the storyboard artist and the animator. The layout artist uses the storyboard and prepares an organized folder for the animator. This folder contains a field guide that shows the proper camera movement and the right size of the scene. It also includes the character’s main poses from the storyboard, following the official design, effects, backgrounds and all the other information necessary to the animator.
The backgrounds are done directly from the storyboard and location design. A background is a section, or an angle, of a location.
The background artist refers to the storyboard, then draws the background for each scene. Once the background is complete, it is added to the layout folder. In a cut-out or tradigital process, this step can be done digitally or traditionally. This depends on the user’s preferences. This step is mainly applied to larger productions. An individual user can move directly from the storyboard to the animation.
Once the background layouts are complete, they can be painted. The background painter takes the final layout and paints it using the palettes created by the colour stylists. Once the backgrounds are painted, they’re sent to the scene set-up team or the compositing team.
The casting director arranges the casting call-out to the performing industry for auditions and schedules the location and time. The director usually attends and is provided copies of the casting recording by the casting director. Once the director has made a decision, this person works with the line producer to facilitate the contract negotiations with the actors. The casting director has a strong grasp of performance rights and royalty requirements and can advise the line producer.
The voice director controls the voice recording session, works with the actors and relays the director’s information about what is wanted from the actor’s performance. Voice directors are very astute and readily pick out any problems in the way that a line is phrased or spoken by the actor.
Once the script is completed, the designer can start work. Before any animation, background or colouring can be done, the design must be addressed. The designer creates the production style, the character’s look, the location’s complexity, and so on. Once these designs are done and approved, the “model pack” is produced, containing the models for all these aspects. The designs and models are used by the colour stylist and layout artist, and finally by the animator.
The animation clean-up consists of transforming the rough tradigital animation into cleaned and inked drawings. On a new layer, the clean-up artist traces the animation following the official model pack. This step must be accurate. When the clean-up is completed, the scene is passed to the colourist for the ink and paint step.
This person assembles the colour frames and works with the director to cut the show to length. The editor renders the show and sends it on to the post facility for the final picture/audio mix. Copies of the film’s final version prior to online editing, known as a picture lock, are sent (accompanied by running timecode) to the music composer and sound editors so they can begin the creation and assembly of those elements.
Once the black and white designs are done, they are sent to colour styling. The colour stylist chooses the colours and ambiance for the production and balance the characters, props and effects with the locations’ palettes. This contributes a sense of harmony or contrast, as necessary, to the show. When the colours are approved, colour models are produced and backgrounds are painted. Colour models are often added to the model pack. The colour models are used by the colourists and the coloured background are sent for compositing.
Once the colour models are ready and the drawings are scanned and properly exposed, the ink and paint artist cleans them, removing dirt or dust that could have appeared during the scan process. They will then colour them in. Once the drawings are cleaned, inked and painted, they’re ready for compositing.
The compositor imports the coloured background, the animatic reference and the sound as required. Referring to the exposure sheet, the animatic and the animation, the compositor assembles all of these elements and creates the camera moves and other necessary motions. Finally, the compositor adds any digital effects required by the scene. These can include tones, highlights and shadows. When the compositing is complete, the final step is the rendering.
The director is the creative head of the production who makes all of the main creative decisions, determining the style and look of the show. Keeping the schedule and budget in mind, a director has approval over all aspects of the production from development, right through to the final picture.
Functioning like the production coordinator, this person maintains the scheduling and organization within the editing department. In smaller studios with very few productions, this role can be handled by the production coordinator, but is probably necessary in a busy studio with multiple productions.
This person functions like a line producer for the Editing department. Looking at all the allocated budgets for editing for each production, they maintain the organization and scheduling for all productions through editing. In a large studio with in-house editing facilities, this is an important role, but if the pre and post-editing are contracted to an outside facility, then this role will be filled by someone there.
To maintain a consistent look for any effect throughout an entire show, the effects designer will create effect templates that the compositor will use to composite the scenes. The effects designer will create the look of the effects for the entire project.
Once a scene’s animation is complete, it will be sent to the effects department where the effect designer/animator will add the effects, such as smoke or splashes. He will often hand-draw the effects. Once the effects are complete, they will be sent to the compositing department.
The IT professional has a series of responsibilities, from installing applications to building complex computer networks and information databases. The IT professional also takes care of the data management, networking, engineering computer hardware, database and software design, as well as the management and administration of entire systems. Of course, different studios will have different task definitions for their IT department.
The library is a central element of a digital cut-out production. It contains all of the assets for the animation and the scene set up. The library is a central location where all these templates are stored, organized and made available to the animators and the scene set-up team. The library should be structured so that everyone using it can easily find the assets they require. Someone should be assigned to manage the library so that it remains well organized. This person is often the breakdown artist, but this depends on each studio’s structure. When the library is built, the scene set-up person and the animators will begin using its assets.set-up
This person fills a major organizational role in the production. At the start, they usually create the schedules based on the budget allocated for the series and the contracted delivery dates to broadcasters. During the course of the production, they monitor the production flow making schedule adjustments as needed, always bearing in mind budget limitations and final delivery dates. They are aware of the costs of performance rights and will negotiate the deals with the voice actors. They also control the staffing of the project, contract negotiations with second unit Productions, outside production facilities (record studios and post-production facilities), outsourced processes like storyboard, casting directors, and they provide production and cost reports to the studio.
This person is very knowledgeable about music, and maintains contacts with industry music writers. At the beginning of a production, the music director helps audition writers willing to write the musical score and also helps the line producer to negotiate contracts with them. He also co-ordinates the recording and deliveries of the music for productions. In large studios, the music director works for the studio, in smaller studios this role can be outsourced or handled by the line producer.
This person will take the recorded musical score and, using the timecode markers provided by the composer, assemble the new music against the picture, making any necessary adjustments. They will also add music cues from a music library where needed.
This is another person who helps with the organization at the production level. They generally create and distribute preliminary design lists for the design department. They will track the progress of designs through to completion.
Note: In much larger productions, like feature films, each department has a production assistant to control the tracking and organization of the work for that department.
This is the line producer’s assistant who helps with the scheduling and arranging of duties during production. They will book times with the recording studios and post- production facilities based on the delivery schedule, and keep track of the deliveries of things like scripts, storyboards and other production materials. They will track time sheets for the crew and deliver them to the line producer for signing. The production coordinator is highly organized, detail oriented, and is critical in helping to maintain the organizational structure within the production.
The breakdown step is very important to the cut-out workflow. The person doing the breakdown takes the final model and begins building the puppet. This means deciding which parts will be separated and preparing all of the joints and views for the animators. Once the parts are broken down, the character or prop must be rigged. This means attaching the parts and assigning the appropriate pivot points. This step must be done with care, because these puppets will be distributed among all the animators later. You do not want to duplicate mistakes throughout the project! When the character and prop rigs are ready, the breakdown artist stores them in the library as templates to be shared with the rest of the team.
At the start of a project, the scene organization manager will create all the scene files in the production software and organize the structure to maintain control of the project, while ensuring that everything is properly organized.
Once the compositing is complete, the only step left is to render the scene as a movie or an image sequence. Generally, the compositor will be the same person doing the rendering.
The cleaned-up drawings are scanned and imported into the software in a simple step that serves to incorporate all the drawings in the scene. Once all the drawings are scanned, they can be inked and painted.
The scene setup consists of preparing the scenes for the animators, and is similar to traditional layout and posing. Following the storyboard and the animatic, the person working on the scene setup will import the assets needed for the scene animation, as well as import the animatic reference and often position the camera. When the scene set-up is completed, the scene can be passed to the animator who is free to begin animating without having to mount the scene.
The sound editor adds the sound effects and ambient noises for the entire production.
This person manages the design team responsible for creating the character, location, prop and sometimes the effects designs in the production. Usually, this person is a very strong character designer with superior drawing skills.
In TV productions, this role is usually outsourced to a freelance storyboard artist. They are responsible for providing the visual blocking and staging for the show based on the director’s handout.
Usually a staff position, this individual will make any visual changes requested by the director, while preparing the storyboard for the animatic (also called Leica or story reel). Once the animatic is done, they also conform the storyboard using the new timing available in the locked animatic.
This person will supervise all of the writers in the creation of the premises, outlines and script drafts. The story editor is responsible for maintaining storytelling style and characterization of action and dialogue. This person is brought in very early in the production process and begins developing ideas that are submitted as story suggestions, ones that may eventually be made into scripts. Some writers are hired through agents and may negotiate royalties for the works they create.
The technical director has many responsibilities in the production. First, he or she builds scenes from the EDL (edit decision list) provided by editing. They trouble shoot any technical issues relating to software, individual work stations and technical problems with scenes. The technical director also ensures that all scenes are rendered and the final frames delivered to Editing at final colour. Working with the information technology (IT) department regarding network issues, they will work with production engineering programmers to resolve digital production assets management issues that may arise during production.
The Xsheet controls the timing of the animation. The traditional animator creates a paper exposure sheet in order to create the timing, while the person in charge of the digital exposure sheet refers to the paper version and recreates it in the animation software. Once the drawings are in place on the exposure sheet, the scene is ready for scanning.
This is the specialized facility where voice and live music will be recorded. They will provide the recording engineer and equipment for the recording, and will deliver copies of the recorded audio and take sheets to the production.
Small studios cannot afford to equip and maintain an industry standard post-production facility, so post-production duties are typically contracted out for the completion of the production. The facility takes on a number of important responsibilities, among them combining the final audio and final picture to create a final mix of the show. The picture will be quality checked for colour balance and to ensure that it meets broadcast signal standards. The facility will provide digital masters of the completed show and versioning, that is, various versions of the final film for different markets. It may also provide closed captioning for the final picture if needed.
Any studio or facility that is sub-contracted to perform any part of the art or animation production duties is a second unit. They are doing service work for the producer and delivering the final elements. If doing animation, the studio or facility will have a similar crew structure as described here.