When working on your first short animated movie, it is ideal to start with the basic steps on how to develop your story and how to choose the practical workflow to fit your storytelling style and work habits. While the professional steps in making a studio-produced movie is considerably different and more demanding than making small-scale works and home video projects, there are certain aspects of the amateur production process that generally works in the same manner as the actual requirements in professional work.
Story Development and Scriptwriting
The urge to come up with a movie starts from a bright idea. Your concept, theme, or subject provides the initial spark. There are many ways to further develop this idea. Many come from personal experiences, convictions about a social or moral issue, an exciting moment, a frustration, or anything you simply need to express. Once you have a solid story, write your script.
It is also a good idea to already break down your script into shots. List down the characters, props, sets, locations, dialogue, sound effects, and music you want to use for each shot. This list is called a script breakdown.
Character Designs and Background Designs
Your script and script breakdown are helpful documents when making your character and background designs. Visualize each character and the mood of each setting where the character will be situated.
Make a character turnaround, which is very important for any animator. This makes the details of each character consistent. Make one by drawing your character on a frontal angle. Beside it, make drawings showing the back, then the left and right profiles. You may want to add more angles and camera views as well, depending on how you envision your shots. It is also advisable to make a character comparison chart where you draw your major characters with keen references to their size differences.
For your backgrounds, they should support and enhance your film’s mood, look, and feel. If your story requires the major characters to travel around many areas, lay out a map to serve as a guide when choosing backgrounds for your scenes. Decide on your color palette, drawing style, animation movement, shot choices, and other art and lighting requirements. Make sure that all these aspects can carefully blend together so that your film has a cohesive and solid look.
After finalizing your characters and backgrounds, make your storyboard, the shot-by-shot representation of your movie. This looks like a comic strip showing each frame that chronologically happens in the movie. Since the drawings won’t be able to cover what the final moving elements can show, the storyboard also has spaces for markings of character and camera movements and other scene directions. This allows better explanations on how the visual elements should move in the animation.
After the storyboarding stage, you already have a clear direction on how your film should look and the best workflow to use for it. From here, decide on the animation software you want to use, the technical requirements and settings for your video and audio elements, the audio recording of your character’s voices, ambient sound, foley needs, and sound effects required by your story, and the animatic that provides you with an overview of the timing and pacing of your animation without having to finalize everything yet. After which, you proceed to the actual animation, editing of the sound and video, musical scoring, rendering, compositing, until the release of your final movie.
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