Prior to the actual “animation process,” you should first know the kind of animation technique you want to use for the movie and the tools and programs you need to produce your visual requirements. You must also gather concept art works and finalize character designs, backgrounds and inspirational art works essential for the production of the movie. You must make a storyboard, record “scratch voices” and create an animatic. After all these, you may start with the animation process.
This guide is meant for those who are already familiar with the initial phase required in making animated content. To have a solid background on the basic things you should know before making your animated movie, read: “Things to Do Before Starting Your Animated Movie Project.“
This article focuses on computer animation. There are other techniques that require more specific directions like when making a traditional animation or stop-motion animation project. For basic computer-based works, you may do the following steps:
1. Choose your preferred animation program. For many low-budget, small-scale, and amateur works, you may use Adobe Flash and After Effects. This is not to say that these programs are not used for bigger, more professional projects. They are not in any way inferior to 3D software programs like 3D Studio Max and Maya. It’s just that, compared to the work and hardware requirements needed by 3D projects, 2D animation done through such programs are more accessible and reliable for most computers and even newbie users.
2. Work on your visual elements. Depending on your chosen style, treatment and workflow, you may use fully hand-drawn elements digitized into the computer, computer-generated elements or a combination of them.
3. Import all required elements for your animation project.
4. Begin the animation process. Your aim is to create 24 still frames with drawings changing incrementally for each second of the movie. These frames are carefully done based on the line of action or movement you want for your visuals.
Ideally, you need one layer for each specific movement you want to produce. For instance, animating the body require dozens or even hundreds of layers. There should be one layer for the movement of the right eyebrow, another layer for the left eyebrow, another for the left thumb, another for the right leg, and so on. The general idea is to combine these layers at the end of the animation process to create the illusion of movement.
For a beginner working on a Flash animation, one of the basic features to initially master is making a motion tween. Here, you provide the keypoints (the beginning action and the ending action), then you allow the program to produce the rest of the required frames in between the keypoints, according to your set parameters.
Remember that an animator acts like an actor who decides the particular movements and expressions of the characters, props, and sets.
5. Work on the shading and in-betweening of the animated visuals to polish each shot. Provide color, texture and fluid movement for each one.
6. Clean-up the animation by removing extra strokes or unnecessary elements in all your visual components.
7. Light the animation to complete the look of each scene. Make sure you light the scenes according to your intended visual treatment for the film.
8. Render and composite the project to infuse all visual elements together.
9. Edit the movie using a video-editing program. Once done, finalize all required sound elements including the voices, sound effects, ambient sound and music.
10. Make a master copy of the animated project by exporting it to your preferred movie file format.