Top Tips to Streamline Workflows for Efficient Animation Production

animation workflows

90% of animators cite high stress and burnout in the industry.

Most people see the finished product – the seamless movements, the immersive worlds and the photo-realistic features – without fully understanding the work that goes into making high-quality animations.

This guide provides helpful tips for animators to avoid some of the stress in the animation process.

Pre-Production Efficiency

Thorough Planning and Storyboarding Are Key

Thorough planning is akin to laying a robust foundation for a building. It involves developing a clear vision of the story, characters, and settings.

Storyboards are visual representations of your script. They serve as a guide for every stage of production, offering a frame-by-frame breakdown of scenes. This visual mapping aids in foreseeing potential issues and planning shots and sequences efficiently. As such, you should: 

  • Ensure that storyboards maintain visual continuity, a crucial aspect that helps in smooth transitions between scenes.
  • Use storyboarding as a stage to incorporate feedback, refining the vision before moving into more resource-intensive phases.

Scriptwriting and Conceptualisation

The script is the backbone of your animation. Focus on creating a script that translates well visually and narratively.

Leverage the visual nature of animation. Show emotions and plot developments through visuals rather than relying on dialogue.

Keep the script flexible enough for creative changes without derailing the main storyline.

Conceptualisation is where you breathe life into your script by designing characters and environments. 

Think about your character design – they need to be relatable and compelling. Their design should reflect their personality and role in the story.

The environment should also complement the narrative. It should immerse the viewer into the story’s universe, whether it’s a realistic setting or a fantastical world.

Choose the Right Tools and Software for Pre-Production

Software for Storyboarding: Choose software that allows easy editing and reordering of scenes, such as Storyboarder and Plot.

Scriptwriting Tools: Where your project has speech, software like Final Draft or Celtx can help in formatting your script correctly and managing revisions efficiently.

Concept Art Tools: For character and environment designs, software like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter offers a wide range of brushes and textures to bring your concepts to life.

Collaboration Tools: Consider tools that facilitate easy sharing and collaboration, such as Google Drive or Trello, especially if working in a team.

Optimising the Design Process

Efficient Character and Environment Design

You’ll want to focus most of your attention on the main characters, so for background NPCs or minor characters, simplify design elements that might complicate animation, like intricate clothing or hair.

Consider designing characters in modules (like separate limbs, heads, etc.). This approach facilitates easier modifications and can be useful in projects requiring character variations.

Regularly review character designs for consistency in style and proportion, crucial for maintaining visual continuity.

Once you’ve streamlined your character design process, look at the environment they’ll be populating. Create environments that can be easily scaled or modified to suit different scenes, reducing the need to design multiple backgrounds.

Whenever possible, reuse elements like trees, buildings, or furniture in different scenes, with minor adjustments for diversity.

Remember, while details add richness to environments, over-detailing can lead to longer rendering times. Strive for a balance that serves the narrative without overburdening the production process.

Streamlining Asset Creation

Models, Textures, and Rigs:

  • Develop standardised templates for models and rigs that can be easily customised. This approach speeds up the creation process for new characters and assets.
  • Use texturing techniques like tiling and procedural generation to create high-quality textures without excessive manual work.
  • For rigging, focus on creating versatile rigs that can be adapted for different characters. Incorporating automation in the rigging process significantly reduces manual workloads.

Asset Libraries:

  • Build a library of commonly used models, textures, and rigs. This resource becomes increasingly valuable over time, giving you easy access to pre-made assets for future projects.
  • Take advantage of external libraries and marketplaces that offer ready-to-use assets. This can be especially beneficial for standard objects or background elements. Remember to balance the cost of these assets against the time it would take you to create them yourself.
  • Organise your libraries by categories (e.g., characters, environments, props) for easy access.
  • Keep the library updated and curated – don’t fill it with assets you’ll never need again.

Achieving Faster Output When Animating

A project’s animation phase can drain time and budget, even for large studios. Whether you’re building animations from the ground up by keyframing or using motion capture, this part of the project is one of the most time-consuming.

Tips for Efficient Rigging and Skinning

Streamlined Rigging:

  • Use scripts or automated rigging tools to speed up the process, ensuring consistent and efficient rig creation.
  • Create modular rigs that can be easily adapted for different characters to save time.

Efficient Skinning:

  • Master weight painting techniques and shortcuts to expedite the skinning process.
  • Use mirroring tools to apply weights on one side of the character to the other, effectively cutting the workload by half.

Using Animation Libraries and Reusable Assets

As mentioned earlier, use animation libraries for generic movements, and build your own library of animations.

Keep modularity in mind when designing assets – this allows them to be reused across various projects.

Techniques for Efficient Editing, Rendering, and Compositing

Editing:

  • Before editing, organise your assets and sequences. Labelling, colour-coding, and sorting clips can significantly speed up editing.
  • Start with a rough cut to get the general flow of the animation, then progressively refine to a fine cut.

Streamlined Rendering:

  • Experiment with different render settings to balance quality and speed. Sometimes, slightly lower settings can drastically reduce render times with minimal impact on quality.
  • Use render farms or cloud rendering services to distribute the workload and speed up the rendering process.

Effective Compositing:

  • Compositing software like Adobe After Effects or Nuke offers a range of features to speed up the compositing process.
  • Create and store reusable elements like lighting effects or colour-grading presets.

Tips for Organising Post-Production Workflows

  • Establish a detailed schedule with specific milestones and deadlines. This helps track progress and identify delays before they compromise the project. Tools like Asana, Monday or Trello help teams keep track of tasks and deadlines.
  • Prioritise tasks based on their impact on the final product and the time needed to complete them.
  • Have regular meetings or check-ins (such as a daily 15-minute standup) with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page and to address any issues promptly. 
  • Establish efficient feedback loops to gather and implement feedback from directors, clients, or team members. 
  • Regularly backup your project and maintain version control to avoid data loss and keep track of changes.

Streamlining Professional Animation: Performit Live

While motion capture offers unparalleled realism in human movement, it’s often a time-consuming and expensive process. 

If you don’t spend the money buying specialised equipment and hiring a studio and performers, you’ll spend the time trawling generic libraries and manually keyframing any missing motions.

There’s an easier way.

Performit Live connects animators with skilled performers wearing advanced motion capture suits. Simply remotely connect with your perfect performer, capture a performance, review and then export – all from the comfort of your office. 

The best part? A 20-minute connection costs just $36. 

If you’re looking to incorporate professional motion capture into your project, Performit Live has the performers you need, for an affordable price. 

Image of the perfromit live app mock up

Ready to bring your unique characters to life with the magic of motion capture?

Get the Performit Live app now and start creating unforgettable animations. Let Performit Live help you tell your story. 

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