Rigging, Animatic, and Animations

The making of realistic characters

 

What happens after our artists finish modeling and texturing? Well, they begin to animate! Here we explain what are the steps to take.


Rigging

First, the artists go through the Rigging stage, when animators prepare their models for the animation. How do they do this? Well, they just put a skeleton inside the characters created in the previous production steps.

 

Right now, our computer graphic models are just like marble sculptures. But we need something to make them move and we need their movements to be as natural as possible. That’s why we need a skeleton for our characters.

 

This digital skeleton is called rig and works exactly like, well, the skeleton you have inside your body – It’s not that different! Just like a real skeleton, a rig is made up of bones. Animators use the rig to put the character into the pose they like. All the joints in the rig are linked one another following a strict hierarchy. This hierarchy is fundamental to give a natural feel to the animations.

 

When the digital skeleton is done, animators have to focus on facial expressions and start working on the facial rig. A rig made of joints cannot work properly to replicate facial expressions. That’s why when dealing with expressions, the rig is more similar to muscles than it is to a skeleton. This is particularly important because a natural and pleasant expression can make a difference and it’s great to convey specific emotions to the audience. Only a proper facial rig can bring the character’s faces to life!

 

Well, now that we have decided how characters should behave in certain conditions, we’re ready to start “shooting” the movie!

 

On the left, Pinocchio during the Rigging phase in the “T-Pose”; The Layout of Pinocchio on the right.


Animatic

The animation is a labor-intensive process, so you don’t want to waste time creating scenes that will end up being deleted. This is where animatic comes in handy. What are we talking about? Basically, we can say that the animatic is an animated storyboard.

 

Now that we have all the characters and environments, it’s a good idea to go on a test drive. The animatic is particularly useful to test the timing of the movie scenes, to evaluate if sounds and images can effectively work together.

 

To put it simply, the animatic is a raw draft of the movie. You don’t have the final animations but camera movements, cuts, and transitions are already there. This is the best way to test if the movie could flow before actually creating the scenes. An appropriate animatic can help movie producers (and their clients) to save time and money.

 

From the Layout to the final scene.


Animation

Lights, cameras, action! The setting has been created and the actors are ready to perform. Now the animators have all the tools to create the story.

 

During this production stage, animators bring the storyboard back on the table and start creating the movie as the audience will watch it. On the final storyboard, you can find all the details about the film. Cut lengths, transitions and cameras are all written there.

 

Animators have three principles they should keep in mind when working. They know that movements must be as natural as possible because animation lends personality to the character and spontaneity is what makes animation believable. Poses are very important in this process so the animator has to decide all the poses and the transitions between them. Timing is crucial when working on a transition from one pose to another and the animator must carefully set the right timing for the movements.

 

By using specific software, animators follow these principles to move the digital actors across the scenes and tell them what to do on the set. This is when a proper storyboard truly makes the difference. As a matter of fact, a great storyboard makes the animation procedure much easier and faster.

 

After the animation, there’s still some job to do. However, the outcome – even if it’s far from being a finished product – can be tested on actual equipment to have an idea of how it will look like. If we need to do some small changes or refinements, we usually make them at the end of this stage.

 

From Animatic to the final scene.

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