Although the art of 3D animation is fueled by creative passion, there is a technical science behind the entertainment projects and artistic works that persist throughout our culture. An adherence to these technical concepts is the foundation of any masterpiece. These technical concepts have corresponding procedures that make up the animation pipeline used to create digital entertainment.
One such procedure used in all animation is the storyboard. Storyboarding allows you to plan out your project and keep it on track during months or years of development. As you will explore in this article, this planning stage determines the quality of the final product and how the development cycle transpires.
What Does a 3D Animator Do?
3D animators perform tasks based on their experience level and the type of project they are working on. For example, the responsibilities of game development differ from that of film production. Animators bring objects and characters to life using motion. Since there are millions of character archetypes and unique objects to represent, each animation assignment is slightly different. Not only must you convey the movement, but you must also adhere to the art style dictated in pre-production.
Refining Assets for Animation
In addition to creating animations, animators must also create and refine assets used in an animation project. In a perfect world, an animator would start with finished character models and other object designs. However, receiving unfinished assets is far more realistic. Expect to add textures, shading, and alter the form of the assets you need to animate.
Communication and Teamwork
Animators must also practice communication and teamwork. Since modern animation projects require hundreds of people to facilitate, you must stay on the same page throughout development. A substantial amount of your effort will focus on making sure your work aligns with the rest of the team. Should any conflicts arise, mediation and resolution techniques need to be applied. Despite the long development cycle, there is little room for wasted time on arguments.
Before proper work on the project can begin, you must complete several post-production responsibilities. The planning stages can make or break the project. Of all the pre-production elements, storyboarding is the most important.
What is Storyboarding and Why is it Important?
Storyboarding is the act of drawing out your animation project on paper. Storyboards are presented in a crude comic format that is easy for anyone to follow. The simple visual drawings ordered in a comic sequence dictate the events of the story. Each panel of the storyboard can then be recreated in digital space. This core component of pre-production is used in all digital storytelling and entertainment mediums. A storyboard keeps the whole team on track and ensures the team meets all project milestones.
When learning how to storyboard, you will come to understand camera positioning, character staging, camera movement, scene composition, and basic editing processes. All this knowledge is required before you use software to create professional animations.
Camera positioning is the art of capturing a scene in the most interesting or engaging way possible. There is some science and technique behind establishing the view of the audience. A clever camera angle can convey information and provide entertainment simultaneously. Mundane activities can be presented as extraordinary. In truth, there are no limits to what creative camera positioning can accomplish. By practicing your camera angles in a storyboard format, you will gain the understanding necessary to stage cameras in the digital realm with maximum efficiency.
After the camera’s initial placement, there are many reasons why the perspective should change during a scene. There is also a science to manipulating and moving the camera throughout a sequence of events. Cinematic techniques and other artistic principles are applied to create the most appealing scene transitions and camera motion possible. Again, you will practice this in storyboarding before moving on to proper software development.
Character staging is the art of placing characters in a scene in the most engaging or appealing way. There are tried and true procedures for what stimulates an audience. If you follow these simple rules, the result will be a sleek presentation that keeps people interested in the on-screen art. Since storyboarding is the drawing of each scene, there is plenty of opportunity to practice character staging techniques. The same principles can also be applied when placing objects and environmental features into each scene.
Postproduction is also an important process for animators to familiarize themselves with. Postproduction techniques, such as editing footage, can capture the intended vision established in the storyboard. During this process, you will learn how to use editing software and how to keep all your assets and clips organized. Once organized, each scene can be arranged to produce the most impact on audiences. Even if you are not an aspiring audio engineer, learning how to add audio and music to your work is another crucial skill. Storyboard text often contains information about the musical choices and sound effects that should accompany the action.
Why is Knowledge of Storyboarding Important?
Although 3D animators may specialize in a specific role, you may find unique responsibilities from time to time. In these instances, having a well-rounded knowledge of the craft is essential to solving the problems that arise during these unexpected challenges. Rather than wait for a camera specialist, you will likely adjust the perspective of the scenes you work on. Animation teams have many moving parts, and you want to be able to fit in as many positions as possible to increase the chances of a successful career.
What are the Benefits of a Formal Education in 3D Animation?
Learning storyboarding is just one of many reasons to attend a creative arts college to pursue a 3D animation degree. Your education is filled with advantages that will further your ability to get hired at a professional studio. Even after you graduate, the benefits do not stop. You will enjoy rewards for your accomplishment for as long as you work in the entertainment industry. The business is all about reputation, and digital art graduates make a name for themselves. Here are some of the benefits of a formal education in 3D animation:
Benefit #1: Using the Same Software and Hardware You Will Use in Your New Job
Both the hardware and software required for professional animation projects are difficult to come by on a personal budget. The price and availability of these tools make them more likely to only be obtained by animation houses who are intending to spend money in hopes of a massive return. Unless you have funding equivalent to an art studio, the easiest way to gain access to this level of equipment is by attending a creative arts college. There you will train with the same tools you will use after getting hired at an animation house.
Gaining familiarity with these tools will make acclimating to the professional environment much easier. Your employer will not expect you to know everything about their equipment on day one, but you will be expected to have some proficiency in the tools of the trade.
Benefit #2: Learn a Full Curriculum Without Bad Habits
While it may be tempting to learn the art of animation through YouTube videos and other online resources, the quality of each tutorial can vary. Without a standardized and curated curriculum, you have no idea how relevant or useful the lessons you come across on the Internet will be. In many cases, these resources can even be detrimental as they pass along bad habits that clash with the philosophy of your animation studio. Your senior animators will train you, but they would prefer a blank slate over someone operating on misconceptions and outdated practices. By learning proper technique the first time around, you save yourself many headaches during your job training.
Benefit #3: Try New Things and Experiment
College is the perfect time to experiment with new animation ideas that may not be viable in the real-world. Since modern animation projects cost millions of dollars to fund, there is a great deal of pressure to make a profit. This is why you see fewer risks taken on big budget releases. However, you do not have investors to answer to while studying. When working on student group projects, you have the chance to expand on ideas that would never be greenlit otherwise. Not only do you have the potential to stumble onto something special, but you will have immense amounts of fun letting your imagination run wild without financial restraints.
Benefit #4: Mentorship from Instructors
The instructors employed by your animation program all have industry experience. They have their names credited in published works. These teachers have been in the trenches and serve as the most valuable resource at the school. Their expertise and inside knowledge take your education to the next level. Not only can you ask them questions directly, but they will also make you aware of ideas you would not even think of on your own. These industry secrets will help you fit in the entertainment industry and get your career started on the right foot.
Benefit #5: Career Services
After graduating, your school still supports your journey through the career services program. This initiative takes your skills and passion into account while pairing you with potential animation employers. Utilize your school’s network to grab the attention of recruiters and land your first job in the field. Our careers services staff will send you job leads and keep in touch to see how the job hunt is going. With a team by your side, you will be gainfully employed as soon as a fitting spot opens up.
Want to Learn More?
Did learning about storyboarding interest you? If your passion is for visual effects, 2D or 3D animation, or concept art for video games or blockbuster films, this is the Digital Arts & Animation degree program for you. Gain the digital arts and animation skills you need to kick off your career in this dynamic and growing industry.
University of Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.