Animation pre-production and visual development

Animation pre-production and visual development

We can take our most childlike dreams or the wackiest worlds we can imagine and bring them to life. In animation we can completely restructure reality. (Wright, 2005, p. 1)

Production processes vary from studio to studio around the world, and by the taste of the individual director (Wright, 2005). Wright is one of the first authors I have found who uses the term ‘production designer’ rather than ‘layout designer’ or ‘head of layout’. I suppose the term varies from studio to studio too, but either way, from what I have read both titles do the same job. To keep consistent, and relate to the terms in live-action, I will be using the ‘production designer’ title.

In television production, the production designer will create black and white layouts based on rough storyboard panels (Wright). Layouts are detailed renderings of storyboard backgrounds, and breakdown of action within these storyboards.  The background painter paints a few key backgrounds, and sends them to other departments overseas for colour and style reference. In feature animation, the visual development artist commonly works on both storyboards and background designs at once, and develops a lot of concepts. The concepts that are chosen are sent for refinement and painting. Digital paintings allows for easy changes. Changes to traditional paintings often require approval from the director.

In television production, the colour stylists set the colour palette (Wright). The colour stylists are supervised by the art director. Palettes need to look good and to enhance the character(s), and different selections are needed for different lighting settings (i.e. Hyde Park turns from a sunny day to a thunder storm). Texture and surface colour designs are needed for CGI productions.

X-sheets, or exposure sheets, are pretty much the same as a script breakdown and cinematic choreography at once. The x-sheets are the blueprints for a production.

I suppose the scene planner carries a similar function to the set decorator, except in more technical terms. The scene planner organises all the elements for one scene into a computer or onto a peg stand, and make sure everything works seemlessly together.