Animation isn't what it used to be. In the past, animators would hand-draw characters frame-by-frame. New smile? New drawing. Arm moved? New drawing. Talk about tedious! But the game has changed. Animation now has more in common with 3D modelling than the animation of yesterday.
This is how it works...
First, we work with an illustrator to get characters drawn. Mostly we're just looking for characters that look cool first, and match the client's brand. Once we have that down, we separate out the body parts and layer them in a specific order. Arms have to be drawn separately from the torso, eyeballs have to be on separate layers, eyebrows, eyelids, every part separate, and every part nested correctly.
And the mouth. Fourteen different mouth positions have to be drawn, including an EEE mouth, an RRR mouth, an AAH, and of course a neutral position and a great smile.
After the characters are drawn, they have to be rigged. If you've ever heard of 3D rigging, this is almost the same thing. If the drawing is the "skin," we have to also create "bones." These bones allow the character to be dragged around. The bones denote which parts of the character stay still, which move, where hinges are, where breathing happens (which is really wild to play with), and so on.
For the video above, I'm syncing as I record. Which is loads of fun. But usually we use voice actors, in which case it's really as simple as a couple of clicks to create a lip sync with a character.
After lip sync, it's time to animate the rest of the body. A portion of that is animating the head. Being the most... ahem... animated part of the body, the head syncs to facial recognition so that minor movements really add a human touch to the character. The rest is mostly done with just dragging things around.
After the characters are animated, they're composited into their environments. Layering is key here—if you imagine "layers" as a series of transparent sheets of paper, what's closest to the camera goes on top.
After the scenes are composited together, all the other little details can be animated. Telephones ringing, plants dancing, what have you.
Once the animation is complete, music and sound effects are added in and any minor adjustments to the voiceover take place. Depending on what sounds need to be present, we can either license sound effects off the shelf or record foley.
We don't usually have wrap parties for animations, but I'm thinking we should start.
Want to see what else we can do?