How to Create an Animation Pipeline: Pre- & Post-Production Process

New-logo-2021-short
Blue Carrot
  • Date Published
  • Categories Blog, Editorial, Guide
  • Reading Time 9-Minute Read

Read about the pre production, production, and post production stages of animation production pipeline.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in the animation video production process. The final video that viewers see is just the tip of the iceberg that is a result of a series of steps taken by a production team — briefing, script writing, storyboarding, animation, voiceover recording, etc.

In order not to forget a single detail during the production process, video agencies normally come up with a 2d and 3d animation pipeline that helps them build a production schedule and deliver videos faster.

So, let’s show you what this is all about, how to create an animation production pipeline, and which steps are included 😉

What Is the Animation Production Pipeline and Why Do You Need One (When Creating a Video)?

Generally speaking, an animation pipeline is a detailed plan that describes the path of the video production process. It clarifies how the animation workflow will be executed — from concept creation to the delivery of a final film.

The video development process includes multiple steps that have to be carried out by the production team in a particular sequence in order to ensure that:

  1. The process itself is carried out as effectively as possible.
  2. It leads to the initially set objectives.
  3. Each party involved in the process knows what to do and when to do it, and what not to do (which is just as important).

👉 This is where the need to create an animation pipeline actually stems from:

Goals of animation production pipeline:

✔️ Get on the same page with client

✔️ Deliver to client expectations

✔️ Avoid wasting budget on unnecessary tasks and revisions

✔️ Improve Team performance

To summarize all the advantages, we put together a list of practical benefits that teams and clients get with the creation and use of the animation production pipeline:

  • Helps to keep the project aligned with the initial goals set — thanks to a well-developed pipeline at every stage of video production, all parties involved get a clear understanding of what work needs to be completed, what goals need to be achieved, and what areas need to be agreed to.
  • Allows for effective allocation of resources — animation pipeline defines how many specialists should be assigned to each stage, and how the workload should be distributed. This also prevents production teams from tossing tasks between different departments in the middle of the process if it turns out that there are not enough resources to finish a project.
  • For risk assessment — the pipeline can help determine what issues may arise at each particular production stage, and eliminate them in advance.
  • Makes communication more clear — animation production pipeline helps to ensure that a client gets a clear work timetable, that they know what to expect in each particular moment of the production process, and that they understand how communication will be structured.

How To Create an Animation Pre-Production Pipeline, Production Pipeline, and Post-Production Pipeline

The animation pipeline normally gets split into three parts, each of which is related to the corresponding stage in the video production process. These are pre-production, production, and post-production pipelines.

📌 Animation Pre-production Pipeline

This is a fundamental part of the whole process. At this stage, the client’s involvement should be at its highest.

Initial Research and Concept Creation

The concept for a future video is created in this stage. It follows 1) the briefing stage that is carried out by a production team in cooperation with a client, and 2) the research that is conducted by a team after the brief fill-up. A concept defines what goals a video has to achieve and describes ‘in abstracto’ the final product (video) and its main storyline.

Only in close cooperation with the client can a production Team create a high-quality concept for a business video 📺

Mood Board Development

Mood boards include a selection of references, visuals, illustrations, fonts, etc. that are designed to provide a client with a visual understanding of the style and ‘mood’ of the video to be developed. A mood board is normally included as part of the concept.

Scenario Production

A scenario is one of the most important elements in the animation production process. It consists of a script, a description of a business video, and a voiceover. The script is developed either by a studio or a client, or both. The visual description normally comes with examples and specific references — to make it easier for the client to visualise what they are presented with. You can read more about the script-writing process in our article here.

The script lays a foundation for all future video work in the video production process 📑

Storyboarding

At this stage, all actions and in-video events are visualized in the form of sequential illustration sketches. Multiple versions of the storyboard may be created with the first one being drawn out quickly but also clearly — so that the client can easily examine it and give recommendations or edits, if any are required.

The last (final) version of the storyboard is normally done with all the small details and client suggestions being taken into account. Every storyboard frame comes with a visual description and corresponding voiceover text.

Storyboarding is the final stage in which adjusting visuals or correcting a storyline won’t hurt the production budget too much 💸

👉 Storyboarding itself is quite a tricky process, but don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. In one of our recent articles, we explain in detail how to create a storyboard and why it’s better not to overlook this process.

Animatic

Animatic comes in the form of ‘animated’ sketch sequences with a voiceover overlay, or as a hybrid sequence (live-footage plus sketches and voiceover). Animatic helps production teams to figure out whether there’s enough time allocated for each particular scene, the story is dynamic enough, and the camera angles are good — before the production process starts.

Sometimes, the characters in Animatic get roughly animated as well. Thanks to it, clients can better assess the ‘mood’ and ‘atmosphere’ of the future business video.

Animatic is mainly created for complex projects that come with intense actions and detailed animation, and, thus, require lots of details to be outlined during pre-production.

Character Development

In this stage, the production team starts to create business video characters: shape their ‘character’, emotions, and appearance, define how they will interact in the environment they’re placed in, and identify their actual role in a video. As a rule of thumb, the more important a character is, the more attention is paid to its detalization.

The character development process can also go in parallel with the style-framing stage (the next stage in the list), which means characters can be set in color right away.

Style-framing

A process during which one shot from a storyboard gets drawn in full quality and color — including all objects and backgrounds that will then be added to a final shot in the video. In order to achieve the best result, it’s recommended to create several versions of a style-frame — designed by several artists according to a single technical assignment.

When working with video agencies, it’s general practice to prepare two style frames — one that 100% corresponds to the requirements set by the client, while another showcases the agency’s vision regarding this project.

📌 Animation Production Pipeline

Illustration

Once the pre-production stage is over, the team’s artists proceed to illustrate all the characters, objects, and backgrounds — according to the storyboard and style frame previously agreed on. Here, they also prepare illustrations for further animation.

Voiceover Casting and Recording

As the name implies, in this stage the video agency casts an actor with the most relevant and clear voice for this project. This voice will accompany the viewer throughout the video.

Animation

Animating characters, and objects, and adding shot transitions is the most complicated and time-consuming part of the video production process. Here, the designers have to ensure that the dynamics with which objects move on-screen perfectly convey the story and desired mood.

📌 Animation Post-production Pipeline

Creating and adding soundtracks and sound effects

This is the final step in the video animation process, during which sound designers create and record music — or, if needed, source stock tracks — generate mixes, combine music with voiceover, and overlay sound effects (steps, rustles, etc). In other words — do everything to vocalize the silent animation sequence, and make it convey powerful emotion.

Rendering & Wrap-up

The production team renders (saves) the final video in the requested format, ensures no bugs have slipped into the clip, and prepares source files for possible subsequent use as sometimes clients want to buy the illustrations — or other visuals that were produced — to use on social media, websites, etc.

These are basically all the stages that get included in the animation production pipeline. The order remains pretty much the same, as well, except in cases where the project budget or time frames influence the process. Obviously, with tight budgeting, the video agency will have to adjust accordingly.

But how can you ensure the best results even with a small budget?

Here are several recommendations from our production team:

  • Don’t skip the briefing stage and make sure you provide all the information a video agency might need.
  • It’s better to work with a budget you can afford, so giving complex 3d or 2d animation video references to a production team won’t make much sense if your budget is limited. Be open-minded and heed the team’s advice when it comes to choice of style and format of a future video.
  • If it’s agreed on, it’s agreed on — avoid editing something that you have previously agreed on with a production team, as it will stretch the delivery timeline and budget.

👉 By following these simple rules, you’ll be able to create a project that meets your expectations.

Final Thoughts

Setting up an efficient animation production process without a well-detailed and thought-out pipeline is impossible. Whether you’re working on a 20-second ad or creating an hour-long educational video — all stages of a project need to be carried out following specific order and logic.

Make sure that, before work starts, the video agency you are working with provides you with a step-by-step detalization of their animation production pipeline — to ensure it doesn’t miss any important steps or ‘control’ points that may influence the project budget.