Here’s what we already know about stages in the animation pipeline:
- Pre-production: Here, concepts are born and designed, a script is finalized, and everything is pitched.
- Production: This is where those concepts come to life through modeling, blocking, animation, and rendering.
- Post-production: Here’s where you add sounds, voiceover, and music. Plus, you put the finishing touches on the files, double- and quadruple-check everything, and finally deliver the final animation.
So, pre-production is the longest, production is the most resource-intensive, and post-production is the most thorough stage. Thorough how? There are still thousands of nuances left, not to mention that the entire product is probably very silent!
The devil is in the details, so don’t take post-production lightly. Let’s ship that animation!
Rendering is done in the production stage, so now you have all your raw files and a broad view of everything. Let’s use that broad view and get to compositing! This is a crucial stage where you adjust the rendered files for lighting, transparency, color correction, visual effects, additional masks and layers, etc., so everything looks uniform.
In other words, compositing has to deal with nuances that aren’t cost-effective (or even possible) to integrate into rendering. It could also correct rendering inaccuracies, like with stabilizing motion, adjusting depth of field, etc.
- Matte painters (creating additional backgrounds for enhanced or extended visuals)
- Rotoscope artists (creating manual masks around objects for adjustments)
- Colorists (ensuring consistency in color grading and adjustments)
- Effects artists (providing additional visual effects)
- Motion graphics artists (creating on-screen text if there is any)
- Editors (ensuring consistency with later stages)
- Quality control personnel (reviewing the output)
- Art director
- Keep a panoramic view. It’s easy to get caught up in a shot or a scene, but you need every shot and scene to be consistent.
- Attention to detail and reality. Sometimes, more effects equal more realism. Sometimes, it’s the opposite.
- Name the layers logically. We know you already know that, but even the best of us sometimes forget naming!
2. Voice Acting / Dubbing
So, you’re very close to the final video files now. It’s time for the voiceover, sounds, and the music. We’re starting with voice acting because it’s more straightforward than the other two.
Live motion capture could make your lives a lot easier at this stage. That’s when actors act and talk simultaneously, so you already have their voiceover. All that remains is quality control!
On the other hand, you need voice acting here if you previously chose remote motion capture, computer-generated imagery, or other animation methods. So, put up ads, conduct auditions, assemble your voice actors, and get to recording!
- Casting directors (casting voice actors for every character)
- Legal experts (drawing up contracts with voice actors)
- Voice actors
- Voice directors (providing guidance in recording sessions, could also be the creative director)
- Audio engineers (maintaining high-quality output and recording equipment)
- Scriptwriters (providing emotional cues and insight into the scrip)
- Dialogue editors (editing and cleaning up the recordings)
- Automated Dialogue Replacement specialists (reviewing lip synchronization and adjusting lines if necessary, among other things)
- Producers (ensuring the voices are consistent with the project vision)
- Dub strategically if you don’t have dubbing partners. Some countries like France or Italy usually prefer dubbing, while some like South Korea, Japan, or Scandinavian countries prefer the original language with subtitles.
- Embrace diversity in casting. That is if you want your final product to be realistic.
- Remote recording is an option if you can ensure your actors have the necessary equipment.
- Have effective feedback loops.
- You and the voice actors know the rest! That includes excellent equipment, reasonable timing, warmup exercises, breaks, interactive voice acting, etc.
3. Sound Design
Now, your characters have voices, but your entire world is silent otherwise. Unless your story happens in space or a supernatural silent world, it’s time for sound design!
Take a second to think about all the sounds you hear in a production. You’ll agree that sound design is a rather extensive undertaking! You basically need two things for every environment:
- Event sounds (AKA impulse sounds) like footsteps, fingers typing, doors slamming, etc.
- Ambient sounds like the wind howling, a machine buzzing, etc.
Of course, you can’t just randomly sprinkle a little bit of everything everywhere. In great productions, all sounds and silences play tiny but effective roles. Smaller productions can also rely on pre-made sounds they can license and use!
- Sound designers (creating sounds and silences themselves, along with their durations and ranges)
- Foley artists (creating real-world sounds in the studio)
- Audio engineers (maintaining high-quality output and recording equipment)
- Sound mixers (mixing different sound elements and conducting quality and volume checks)
- Sound editors (editing final tracks to ensure consistency with the visuals)
- Creative director
- Have a sound palette for consistency. It’s like a color palette for sounds and helps guide all efforts in this step.
- Maintain consistency with the story and the visuals.
- Don’t forget subtext and foreshadowing. Sounds (and music) play a significant role in conveying emotions.
- Collaborate with the music team. Sounds and music go together. (And expect disastrous results if they don’t!)
- Use silence strategically, as it has a psychological effect, like sounds and music.
4. Music Composition
This step is doubly important because great music is one of the things that people remember about a production. (You’re probably remembering some of your favorite soundtracks right now!) On the other hand, music that doesn’t fit your creation could awfully impair a viewer’s experience.
Music composition is a deeply creative endeavor, so it doesn’t usually start this late. That’s why we advise you to involve your composer(s) early on, as soon as you have the backbone of a story. So, they’d know what’s going on and also have enough creative headspace to compose something fantastic.
Many projects also opt for more licensed music and less original creations, which could be cheaper and successful, depending on the tracks they license. For example, it really worked for Shrek (2001)!
- Music supervisors (selecting existing music to license if the project requires)
- Orchestrators, arrangers, and musicians (if you opt to record live)
- Music and sound engineers (ensuring excellent, consistent quality)
- Scoring mixers (responsible for mixing, mastering, and technical aspects of the soundtrack)
- Music producers (working with composers to ensure the production is up to project standards)
- Legal experts (licensing tracks, taking care of copyright considerations, etc.)
- Creative director
- We have one that we already mentioned: involve the composers early on and collaborate relentlessly! Your composers know the rest.
By this step, you have everything that needed to be made. There are three more things left to do with all those files: editing, post-processing, and final delivery. Editing is where you take the videos and images you’ve rendered and combine them with the voices, sounds, and music.
You will also have graphic designers here to create typography, title screens, and additional graphics the editors might require. Editors do many critical tasks here, including:
- Arrange the rendered scenes and shots so that they make sense,
- Check if every scene’s timing and pacing creates the intended emotional responses,
- Add transitions (like fades, cuts, etc.) between the scenes, and
- Trim redundant assets or footage.
If sync or timing issues can’t be resolved by editors alone, the editing team will notify the team responsible for the issue. Then, the other team would have another go at that particular material and submit new files.
So, by the end of this stage, you will have semi-final video file(s)! All that remains is post-processing and final delivery.
- Film or video editor (usually a single person responsible for the entire stage)
- Assistant editors (aiding the film editor with smaller tasks)
- Graphic designers (creating additional graphics)
- Supervisors from every other team (providing insight and occasionally going back to recreate material)
- Quality control personnel
- Besides quality control, supervisors, directors, producers, or even a small test audience could watch the edited footage to provide feedback or ideas.
- Collaboration and feedback are crucial here and lead to every other pro tip we can think of!
Now that you have the edited files, it’s time for the final enhancements from the post-processing team. Post-processing is like what has already been done in compositing, except that compositing only deals with the visuals.
Post-processing involves an assortment of tasks designed to enhance the visual and auditory narration. Everyone involved in the project can pitch in here, but it’s the editors who carry out the tasks that include:
- Overlaying the audio and checking synchronization,
- Color grading and correction,
- Music integration,
- Audio mixing and mastering,
- Language localization, like adding subtitles or additional voiceovers,
- Creating alternative versions of files for markets with special restrictions, and
- Final expert, optimization, and formatting of the master files.
Note that post-processing and editing are closely related, so they involve a lot of the same people and tasks! Don’t be surprised if there are overlaps between the two steps.
The final deliverables here are most often still lossless video and image files.
- Everyone involved in editing
- Language & localization team
- Marketing & distribution team (ensuring the final product aligns with marketing strategies)
- Make your processes clear and ensure clear communication to avoid redundancy in editing and post-processing!
- Monitor and prioritize storytelling in all elements. For example, coloring could paint a whole different mood if it goes unchecked.
- If you have the final (and not lossless) files, test them on different devices according to the platforms marketing is distributing to.
7. Final Delivery
You’re there! Final delivery is where everything is prepared for distribution. Tasks here include:
- Thorough quality assurance,
- Technical checks,
- File conversion for different platforms or devices (unless you’ve already done it in post-processing),
- Integrating subtitles or captions for every platform,
- Designing packaging (where applicable),
- Going over distribution plans,
- Obtaining legal clearances, and
- Submitting to distributors.
In other words, everything is done. You just need to launch!
- Post-production supervisor
- Distribution coordinators
- Quality control team
- Marketing team
- IT support
- Start early. Some of the tasks in final delivery could start and finish long before the files are final.
- Triple-check everything, from technical to legal.
- Don’t forget to tag your files with proper metadata and include credits for every distributor.
- Store the raw files somewhere for future use.
8. Distribution, Marketing, & Release
Like every other stage, this one could also be an article in its own right. Although, unlike other steps, there’s a major difference here: marketing runs parallel to the animation pipeline. In other words, your marketing team should be in the know from pre-production to here, but they won’t be directly involved with creating the animation itself.
The marketing team will handle the animation’s advertisements and online presence, earn media and mentions, and make sure everyone’s hard work gets seen. They’ll be the first to know if something goes right or wrong, and they’ll have a game plan for it all!
- Don’t skimp on the marketing budget or hiring experts. Marketing could make or break your animation!
- Our post on producing an animated series has some neat tips for this step!
Creating an animated film or series is a long but deeply rewarding experience. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll be just fine! Plus, stay tuned to Picotion’s blog for in-depth pieces on the process.