As animators, we know how head-scratching it can be to get done with a video. And that’s why most of us end up searching for how to make an animation production pipeline. Animation production pipeline is an industry term that we’ve covered in great depth below. So, check that off your mind.
Now, what else does this guide talk about? It outlines the steps in each phase of the animation production pipeline and what you’re supposed to get done within a particular step.
Because quite frankly, there’s a lot to juggle while creating an animated video.
Simply put: What viewers see is a drop, what the animation team goes through is an ocean.
What Exactly Is A “Pipeline” In Animation Production?
The animation production pipeline is a specific work plan to be followed. It is essentially a cornerstone to continue with every step of the animated video production process.
Typically, a pipeline covers the workflow including the pre-production, production, and post-production phases. It outlines the people, software, and equipment requirements for a specific animation project.
Next up: Why do freelance animators and video production houses consider creating a pipeline?
Why Is An Animation Production Pipeline Important?
A production pipeline is important because it’s something you can revert to for reference. With a proper pipeline in place, you know what you’re supposed to do next while producing your animated explainers or other animation projects.
A pipeline for animation production helps keep the budget and timelines in check. Being a doable plan of action, animators and the entire crew keeps it close to stay informed at each step.
Of course-when you map things before starting out, you’re bound to see great results. And that’s exactly what happens when you make a pipeline for animation production. You see happier clients and unprecedented growth.
Because after all, it’s always nice to have a plan.
Just in case you were wondering, our animation studio prefers following a specific 2D animation production pipeline and 3D animation production pipeline for our different projects.
How Is A Production Pipeline Created?
Below, we have broken down the animated video pipeline into three phases: pre-production, production, and post-production. From start to finish, here’s how you can plan at each step of a phase.
Pre-Production In An Animation Production Pipeline
The pre-production phase lays the groundwork for the final product. What you do during this time has a huge say in the smooth movement and execution of the stages ahead. This phase involves certain steps: strategizing, story conceptualization, scriptwriting, art direction, character design, storyboarding, and animatics.
1) Animation Project Strategizing
There’s a lot of strategizing to do before the animation production. You never directly head to animating the client’s brief the moment you receive it. So, ace this step by doing this
- Identify the roles and people who’ll be filling them. Note: if you’re working alone, you’ll have to plan accordingly.
- Identify your budget and estimate the time required per step.
- Define the animation style and required tools.
- Find a common ground with the client and finalize.
- Set early internal deadlines.
Important: before heading to the next step, ensure you have clarity on your client’s goals, project expectations, the industry type, narrative style, and the audience.
2) Animation Story Conceptualization
Next, you need to land on a story concept that will move the viewers. At this step, you do this:
- Brainstorm different concepts.
- Generate ideas.
- Land on that perfect idea.
- Pitch it to the client.
- Finalize and get to work.
When you are at this step, let the creative juices flow. Talk to people, get inspired, let people talk and hear them out to devise a concept that’s instantly loved!
3) Animation Scriptwriting
Keeping the decided narrative style in focus, you start coming up with scripts for the animation project. This step requires you to:
- Think outside the box.
- Jot down thoughts aligned with the client’s brief.
- Write the first draft.
- And some more. Finally, pitch in a few bests to the client.
- Wait for their approval.
Generally, the client sends feedback your way. If there are changes to be made, take them lightly because this is normal. Communicate the number of revisions you allow with the client. Get the script ready and move ahead.
4) Animation Direction and Character Design
What you and your animation team may have in mind for the same project can be poles apart. This is why you need to think through this stage in the following way:
- Draft a rough sketch of backgrounds, characters, and other elements.
- Finalize the design for your locations, characters, and other visual elements.
- Define the colors you’ll use in the video.
Important: Make sure that your thoughts and animation direction align with the client’s creative brief.
5) Animation Storyboarding
A storyboard is about creating frames and setting them in sequential order for the animated video. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to a comic-book-like strip. At this step,
- Define the storyboarding software you’ll use (if you’ll use any).
- Illustrate the script.
This step especially helps the client imagine their final product. The look, feel, and flow of the story-all become known to the client and if needed, you might be asked to revise the storyboard a few times.
This step requires you to show the storyboard images in motion. In simple words, it is an animated storyboard that helps envision the animated video flow. At this step,
- An animatic typically has the audio to be used in the final video.
- View with a critical pair of eyes.
- Edit and move on to making a rough animation.
Animation Production Pipeline Proper
The production phase is where you actually begin animating. The earlier steps were just the planning phase and this stage will stitch everything together. This animation production phase includes a few steps, key animation, animation background layout, animation lighting, animation sound design and dialogue recording, and animation color correction and color grading.
You might come across keyframing. Don’t get confused-rough animation and keyframing are the same. At this step, you need to:
- Understand an object’s simplest position and how other positions will emerge from it.
- Create a rough sketch of your animation.
Keep your client in the loop and keep going at it till both the parties (you and the client) are satisfied.
Animation Background Layout
This step is where you apply your technical animation skills. Certain objects and their motion might impact the background and this is where your technical capabilities show. Do this at this step:
- Sketch the background of the animated video.
- Keep a keen eye for detail.
- Identify how color, objects, and texture will impact a scene.
Lighting can drastically impact an animation style and that’s why you need to have the required skills to offer quality work to your client. At this step, do this:
- Add shadows to your scene.
- Ensure that the light adds to the mood of your video.
Animation Sound Design and Dialogue Recording
At this step, you will have to do the following:
- Add the audio (music, voiceover narration, and all the other sound effects).
Note: If you have an already prepared voiceover, get down to perfecting it.
Animation Color Correction and Color Grading
You can enhance the video’s overall message with colors. At this step, you need to ensure the following are top-notch.
- Color correction: Smooth out the color in every frame of your animated video.
- Color grading: Finalize each frame as per the mood you want to convey in it.
The video’s atmosphere obviously impacts the message in it. So be extra cautious while making decisions at this step.
Post-Production in an Animation Production Pipeline
This is the final step of the video animation process where you are perfecting every nook and corner. It’s precisely your last chance to convey a powerful story. This step consists of two steps, composition, final revisions, and render.
Compositing and Final Revisions for your Animated Video
You’re almost at the end when you reach this step of the animation process. At this step, you’ll have to:
- Merge all the characters, backgrounds, and scenes together if you created them separately.
- Render a low-resolution copy to share with the client.
- Wait for the feedback.
Run-through and Render the Animated Video
Finally, this step is where you’re done with animating and ready to save the final video. At this step, you’re supposed to:
- Render the final clip in the requested format.
- Prepare source files for other uses by the client later.
- Create source files to use on social platforms.
The entire process of animated video production can be hard especially when you’re pulling off a one-man show. We hope this guide helped you out in setting some clear goals. If-at any point, animation seems too hard to handle, you can count on us to get some outside help. We’ve relied on properly planned production pipelines for years, so you’ll receive tried and tested tips.
Last Updated on March 1, 2023 by Adam