How to use metaphor and symbol in your story:
(This chapter is from the book Developing Digital Short Films)
How to use metaphor and symbol in your story:
(This chapter is from the book Developing Digital Short Films)
“A metaphor is not language, it is an idea expressed by language, an idea that in its turn functions as a symbol to express something.” – Susanne Langer
Let’s go through a quick definition. A metaphor is a rhetorical device in which the traits of something are attributed to something else, but not in a literal sense. It helps to understand that a simile is a type of metaphor, so let’s take a look at an example:
“But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walk o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare.
The coming of morning is likened to being clad in a “russet mantle” (where russet is a red-orange tinted brown). Now obviously, this is not literal. Morning does not wear any clothing. The russet mantle is a metaphor for the rising sun and the colour of dawn.
Let’s look at symbols now. These are not used in rhetoric or discourse, and is usually a specific thing that represents some other thing or concept. Symbols, unlike metaphors, are not specific or definitive in their interpretation. They carry a wide range of ideas through generations in an almost meme like fashion. Because of this, the symbol’s meaning must be inferred from context. For example, anything long and roughly cylindrical can be considered a phallic symbol; whether or not it was intended that way depends entirely on the context.
Definition aside, this is what really helps me remember the difference. Metaphors are like similes, they liken the principle term to something else (whether it be a thing, idea or process) to endow the principle term with characteristics reminiscent of that which it has been likened to. A symbol is much more succinct; it can be a single thing (usually an object but not limited to one) that is not directly given meaning through comparison (like a simile/metaphor) but whose meaning is created by the context in which that symbol is used. Basically, that means I don’t have to explain a symbol because that’s for the reader to determine for themselves based on what’s been written, whereas a metaphor must be directly explained by the text.
A story about dandelion
Dandelion is a symbol
1. Every seed was seeking to escape from the mother dandelion On the grassland, by the help of wind, to fly freely in the sky.
2. Finally, there was one little seed success and started his new journey.
3. The hope is reemrge in this little seed’s life, and he began to apply his life plan: 100 THINGS TO DO IN MY LIFE.
4. At first, he finished Flying in the sky
5. Then, he finished climb a mountain
6. With the help of a bird he finished sky diving
7. learn a new language(singing like birds)
8. see the sea
9. experience a sunrise/sunset
10. falling love
11. get married
12. reading a book
13. visit a volcano
15. dancing in the rain, then died in the grassland…
16. fall asleep on grassy plains
17. have a home
B story about dandelion
1. Every seed was seeking to escape from the mother dandelion On the grassland, by the help of wind, to fly freely in the sky.
2. Finally, there was one little seed success and started his new journey.
3. When he saw a flyers left on the grass, which read,come to XX city Northern sea, the most beautiful sunset in the world can be seen.
4. Excited challenge and destination as it seems, the seed begins his first trip to the north like all fairy tale begins.
5. Lucky is precious on the way, especially the wind toward right way. No matter how hard as he meet, never give is his belief.
6. Stuck on time by the branch, fortuntely met a squirrel. Shaked up and down, finally reture journey on.
7. Attacked by bird on the hill, just a glimpse of all hell.
9. Raining pouring right on head, before he nearly reach the XX city.
10.A: Fell down into a small stream, followed with it to the sea.
Finally, he see the sunset.
11.B: Fell down on the ground and embed in dirt, graved by land since then.
In the coming of the spring, grew up with a new dandelion.
Paperman is the best thing Disney has done in years. There are only seven minutes of it, but they’re perfect. The short film went out last autumn in front of American prints of Wreck-It Ralph, one of a hat-trick of Oscar-nominated features the studio have released – the others being Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and Pixar’s Brave. My money would be on Frankenweenie to steal that award, but down in Best Animated Short, the race looks pretty much over – nothing as charming as Paperman ever fails to win this.
A wordless tale of romance between two strangers in mid-century New York City, the movie is a simple construct, supremely well-rendered, and in black-and-white, except for a few crucial blotches of red lipstick. It may, in its modest way, point towards a new frontier in animation, where computer-generated visuals are brought face to face with old-style hand-drawing, because it uses both at once.
John Kahrs’s film was put together using Meander, a new piece of in-house software that allows Disney’s artists to draw directly over the top of computer-rendered sequences. This is what gives the movie its freshness – the lines, the expressiveness of the faces, and the idiosyncratic hair movements hark back to classic Disney style, with shades of 101 Dalmatians. At the same time, it’s advancing on technology from 2010’s Tangled, on which Kahrs worked as a supervising animator, to achieve the depth, sheen and perspective we’ve grown accustomed to demand from Disney’s visuals.
It’s a wizardly blend, and a real showcase for where these animators look to be heading. What’s more, as of this week, Disney has been generous enough to make the film available all over the internet for free. Watch it on YouTube and decide for yourself.
If you saw Wreck-It Ralph in theaters (assuming you didn’t arrive late), you probably saw Paperman, a black-and-white short from Walt Disney Animated Studios. If you dwell on the Internet and have a tumblr or Facebook account, someone on one of your lists has probably mentioned the short film; you might have seen the full short when it was available for free on YouTube. (Apparently it’s a $1.99 download now, but you can watch the trailer here.) And if you didn’t see it in theaters or on YouTube and haven’t heard it mentioned via social media, I’m still reasonably sure that Paperman has somehow crossed your radar, since it’s garnered heaps of critical acclaim and several award nominations because it’s just so goddamned adorable. Seriously, everybody loves this short film.
If you haven’t seen the short and don’t know the slightest thing about it, here’s the summary: a goofy jackass blows an opportunity to chat up a hottie at the train station and then spends the rest of his morning risking his job and life to rectify his error. When he spies the woman again in a skyscraper opposite the one in which he works, he tries to get her attention by throwing paper airplanes across the gap between the buildings — presumably hoping that she’ll be thrilled to have her job interview interrupted by an aerodynamic paper shiv gliding in through the open window and stabbing her in her pretty face. When that plan fails, and literally results in the guy tossing stacks of paperwork and hundreds of paper airplanes out the window, the man runs out of his office and across busy streets in an attempt to chase her down on the sidewalks of New York. He loses her, but — magically — the wind picks up those paper airplanes and slams them into the dude!!! And they push him around town like a minifigure in an oversized Spawn Alley playset until they all but shove him into the lap of the pretty chick. CUE LOVE.
Yeah, I know, even my cynical description makes it sound kinda cute. It is — and when I first saw it, I “awwed” and sighed and fist-pumped with the rest of the crowd as the goofy protagonist of the story did his protagonisty airplane-tossin’ crazed street-stalkin’ thing. But then, after I saw Wreck-It Ralph (Papermanaired before it) and in the following days, I started thinking. And the more I thought about it, the more I hated Paperman.
Personal admission: in my life, I have never once gotten the girl. No amount of kindness or scrubbing up has caused a woman to cast even the slightest interested eye in my direction, and at this point I don’t expect it — given my spectacularly grim track record with women, it’s more likely that Israel will posthumously name Hitler a national hero and President Obama will deliver all future speeches in the traditional royal Canterlot voice than that I’ll meet a woman who doesn’t think I’m actively plotting to rape and torture her, let alone one who values me as a trusted partner and friend. (In fairness, according to the feministy articles on the ‘net about the toxic rape culture in which we live, women have these fearful feelings about all men… but in my case women have consistently filed premature accusations in Minority Report fashion.)
Of course, none of this means that I don’t often root for fictional characters to get the girl or to rise in the esteem of their would-be loves. I do, and I nod approvingly when lovesick vampires are permitted to cross thresholds and green shapeshifting teens go on amusement park dates with skinny blondes in goggles (before said dates are crashed by one-eyed supervillain assassins). But I don’t like it when the characters who have everything else get the girl too — and, in this respect, one of the worst offenders in recent memory is actually Wreck-It Ralph. In the movie, Wreck-It Ralph (the character) gets treated like utter shit for much of the film (and, presumably, has been receiving this treatment on a daily basis for the last thirty years). In the end, true, the residents of Niceland come to value his contributions to the community and treat him like an actual human being… but it’s Fix-It Felix, who’s been the recipient of the Nicelanders’ heartfelt praises and delicious pixelated apple pies (again for the last thirty years), who gets the girl. Yes, Ralph does become besties with Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz), and Sarah Silverman is pretty cute. But this incarnation of Sarah Silverman is nine years old and will presumably never grow up, so in some respects that’s even worse. Wreck-It Ralph is a grown fucking man.
Anyway, it didn’t initially occur to me when I first watched the short, but now I see that the protagonist of Paperman is precisely one of those characters who has everything (or is at least doing pretty well) and then ends up with the girl on top of it. Note that, in the beginning of the short, George (that’s his name, according to the credits) actually misses his train — or does presumably, since his destination and that of Meg (the pretty chick he’s chasing) end up being directly opposite each other. (By the way, Meg kinda sucks, too. If you and I were having an interaction and you looked away, I wouldn’t disappear onto the train without getting your attention, if only because I’d assume that you might possibly need to board the same train. For her to leave him standing there on the platform without a word — and completely alone, which in NYC does suggest that that was his train — well, that’s just bloody inconsiderate.) So, given that George presumably misses his train, he probably arrives to work late.
He then proceeds to throw a big freaking stack of documents out the window, over a lengthy period of time and despite his boss’s disapproving glances, before running helter-skelter from the office without so much as a word. Never mind that those were possibly important documents. Never mind that some elderly gentleman is losing his home or that some working-class single mother is being denied breast cancer treatment because the signed papers that might have prevented those outcomes are currently gliding around NYC folded into fucking airplanes. That George would have the audacity to show up late, literally toss his responsibilities out the window, and then bolt from the office in pursuit of a girl he doesn’t even know — and without the slightest regard for his continued and/or future employment — says to me one thing: he can’t be fired. This is supported by the fact that George isn’t fired on the spot when the boss firstcatches George tossing documents out of the window, which is what would happen to you or me if we were working in an office and suddenly started sending assignmnents sailing o’er the windowsill. So if George can’t be fired, he’s probably the son of the company owner or a major shareholder or something, which suggests that he was given the job as a favor to dear old Dad. Would that all of us could find gainful employment so easily in this economy! (The more I think about it, the more insulting it seems that Disney chose to produce this short during such tough times.)
Okay, so we’ve established that George has the establishment on his side when it comes to all things professional. Then — as if he didn’t already have enough people holding him up — the freaking wind itselftakes up the task of getting George laid. That, friends, is just unbelievable. The wind never did shit for me, and there are many talented homeless musicians playing it up in the subway terminals of NYC into whose coffers the wind might have blown some cash for a month at the YMCA. Instead, it’s shoving stupid George around with the papers he threw out the window just so he can make nice with a pretty girl who, by the way, apparently does have to interview for her jobs. And the wind does this despite the fact that George is a horrible litterbug. It doesn’t matter how terrible this guy is or what offenses he commits; the world is totally on his side.
So, yes, I hate Paperman now. It is indeed cute at a glance, but the more one thinks about it the more apparent it becomes that George deserves none of the rewards life consistently heaps upon him and should, like those important folded documents, be tossed from that skyscraper window into a mud puddle far below with no delicious cake there to greet him. Instead, at this moment, he’s probably staring into Meg’s eyes from the opposite side of a table with a red cloth and a single candle while I sit here typing this stupid article and drinking chocolate wine alone. (It’s delicious, by the way.)
Why do people suffering from writer’s block resort to solitude? Haven’t they seen The Shining? Whether or not it seems like a bright idea at the start, eventually you’ll lose it and attack your loved ones. Okay, maybe you won’t exactly end up wielding an axe, but peace and quiet can only take you so far. Paper Man is the offspring a husband and wife writing-directing team’s trouble putting pen to paper. Unhappy working inside Hollywood’s big studio system, Michele and Kieran Mulrooney chose to ditch the corporate world and focus on independent projects. It worked and the result is Paper Man.
Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) has some major issues. Not only was his first novel a flop, but he’s suffering from a serious case of writer’s block, his marriage is on the rocks and oh yeah, he has an imaginary friend named Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds). In an effort to give him a fresh start Richard’s wife, Claire (Lisa Kudrow), drives him out to a rented house in Sag Harbor. They spend the weekends together, but soon Claire returns to her surgical work at New York’ Presbyterian Hospital while Richard remains out east trying to develop his second novel, a piece with a connection to an extinct animal, the Heath Hen.
Dunn’s writer’s block could easily consume the audience had it not been for one of Paper Man’s more colorful characters, literally. Reynolds’ portrayal of the blond and buff Captain Excellent won’t do much to convince you he’ll make a good Green Lantern, but his eccentric work makes for the perfect distraction until you grow to love the curious and often unlikable Richard. He’s downright strange, doesn’t seem to appreciate his loving wife and has a frustratingly difficult time figuring out who ‘regarded his solitude.’
Thankfully, in comes Emma Stone as Abby to establish the kind of connection with the audience which Daniels’ character depends on. When a carless Richard rides a tiny red bike into town, the two have an unusual encounter resulting in Richard asking Abby to babysit. Confused? You should be. Richard has no child and ultimately has to break that news to Abby when she comes over. She finds the revelation strange, but her infatuation with Richard takes over and an unlikely relationship begins.
Stone, Daniels, Reynolds and a smart twist make Paper Man worthwhile. Stone and Daniels are as raw as they com. After being all done up in nearly every film she’s been in, seeing Emma sans heavy black eyeliner makes a major difference. Not only does her fresh look scream authenticity but her performance does too. At first, her relationship with Daniels is clearly inappropriate, but it develops into something oddly relatable.
The same goes for relationship between Richard and Captain Excellent. There’s obviously something wrong with an older man having an imaginary friend, but Richard’s dependence on his super pal is necessary. Even amidst their endless banter and Richard’s refusal to accept the Captain’s better judgment, Richard finds comfort in him and you genuinely want Richard to have a sense of calm in his life. A similar connection exists between Abby and her friend Christopher (Kieran Culkin). Abby’s boyfriend Bryce (Hunter Parrish) drives Christopher crazy for two reasons; one, he treats her like garbage and two, Christopher loves Abby. The problem is, Abby doesn’t have the urge to return that sentiment. They don’t share an equivalent bond of dependence, but Abby’s unspoken reliance on Christopher is essential causing a yearning to see her embrace him.
Brilliant editing keeps the film moving at a perfect pace. Potentially dull material is kept at a steady beat with abrupt yet subtle cuts easing you from scene to scene. Enhancing the effects is noticeably unique cinematography as Eigil Bryld uses typical camera parlor tricks like foreground to background focus swaps effectively, permitting the actors to excel even more so than they do on their own. All of Paper Man’s assets culminate in a beautifully unexpected twist.
Unfortunately, rather than bring the audience down gently, concluding the tale, Paper Man dribbles on for the final portion of the film. You may be sure a fade to black is on its way, but no, there’s more and this happens so many times that concern for the characters is lost amidst all the waiting for an ending. It’s really a shame because up until this point Paper Man is a sweet, uniquely humorous, simple film. It remains charming and peculiarly funny, but the loss of that original simplicity dampens the experience. Regardless, Paper Man is worth your time, if not for the film in its entirety, then for Stone and Daniels alone.
Coupled with Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s Paperman is the latest animated short from the House that Mickey Built. Combining the life and soul of 2D drawings with 3D models rendered in stylish black and white, does the short inspire confidence in what some are calling “the future of 2D animation?”
Paperman is the child of director John Kahrs, who dreamed up the possibility of the short while working as an animator at Blue Sky Studios. It follows a meeting between a nameless man and woman at a mid-20th century train platform in New York City. A chance gust of wind blows one of his work-related forms into her face, leaving a bright red lipstick stain. Before he can talk to her, she boards a train and it speeds off.
The man proceeds to his workplace in a skyscraper downtown, but discovers with joy and surprise that the woman from the station is in the building just across the street. It’s too far to yell in such a noisy city, so he begins crafting paper airplanes to fly across the void and get her attention. This makes up the bulk of the film as he goes through an entire stack of his work forms making the planes, including the lipstick-marked paper from earlier. Alas, none successfully reach her.
Abandoning his desk, he rushes to the street to try and catch her as she leaves, but is unsuccessful. Distraught, he turns to leave. Suddenly the hundreds of paper airplanes he created come to life and cover every inch of him. They pull and shove and corral him onto a train as the original lipstick-stained airplane leads the girl to the same station and reunite the couple.
If you were to try and define “artsy animation” you might look no further for an example than Paperman. From the staging to the character design to the simple black and white (with symbolic pop of red) color palette, the film is visually brilliant. The combination of 2D expressions on the 3D characters fits perfectly and produces a quality that is near-impossible to capture in 3D models alone. Though “black and white with red” is nothing new or revolutionary, Paperman uses it with simplistic beauty.
The animation is just about as good as 3D animation gets, taking its cues from the masters of the Golden Age of 2D. Using a new in-house program called Meander, animators were able to break models and even erase parts of the 3D characters one frame at a time if necessary. One of the major downsides to 3D animation has always been the difficulty to “cheat” in situations that called for it, without breaking the models or causing terrible rendering errors. Meander appears to allow for such cheating with ease, and the result is gorgeous.
Paperman will no doubt make the Oscar short list next year and I’d be hard-pressed to argue against it winning the award. While the style and story are classically tried-and-true, the advancements that Meander has allowed the animators to make to traditional 3D animation cannot be discounted. If ever an animated short cried out “Vote for me” in any competition, Paperman is it. Whether you are a bigger fan of 2D animation or 3D, Paperman NEEDS your attention. See it as soon as possible.
Disney’s Paperman can be seen before the film Wreck-It Ralph, now in US theaters. According to sources close to Disney, it will also be available online after a set period of time. (Truly, if you can, see it in theaters on the big screen. It’s worth it.)
It’s a simple story, but clearly represent the theme of transformation and inherit. A boy eagers to become a man, like his father and grandfather, reliable. So on the hand he try to replicate their physical behavior, on the other hand, he attempt to work hard as a qualified heir. But the question is, man like his father and grandfather are not the same man who do not share the same behavior, even using different tool in the same work. More importantly, they do not have a traditional belief to solve problems when emergency happens.
Hence, the dream of becoming a man is somewhere else, which is not only to be a man similar to his seniority, but also be a man with intelligience and a sense of responsibility to overcome inciddents without references. When he choose the tool he use to knock the star, he has completed his rites of passage, and found his own way of life.
We don’t need a very complicated story for a few minuites animation, and we don’t even need too many roles and complicated relationship. Maybe the simple, one role, one scene, can hold the whole story, reflecting a higher level of meaning.
In this story, the girl’s addiction to knitting is like her addiction to her ambitions, even through she knitted her own hair and fell off from the cliff for her addiction, she still didn’t give up. But finally when she survived from falling down the cliff, she threw the knitting needles away and started a new addiction……
This story tells many things such as people are easy to addicted to something, and will keep chasing it blindly; and sometimes when we fail in one thing, people with dreams will star to chase a another dream.
Semiotics is complicated, because it involoves with many subjects like linguistics, psychology and so on.
Investigating the implication of symbolism on design is actually a way to approach graphic design, and the graphic symbol is always the first image that capture people’s attention.
For example, LOGO design, Role design
The metaphor of symbol is a general expression strategy which can be seen in many projects in graphic design and films. Compare to graphic design, the expression through films is more vividly and comprehensive.
So I would like to investigate the expression of symbol and metaphor in films.
In a film, a symbol is a object/role… but a metaphor is a action/dialogue/story…
sometimes, a symbol was used to express a metaphor……
Humans communicate via symbols. This is what language is at the most basic level.
Consider how we express ourselves through aspects of our physicality and cultural.
In many ways these attributes are or become symbolic.
Artists of all types extend expressive capabilities by being inventive in their use and exploitation of both symbol and interpretation of symbol.
have practical, unambiguous meaning
are more complex and have greater imaginative resonance
stand for an object by resemblance
is use of an image for something it does not literally denote
is often symbolic representation of a moral or political concept
involves a twist of language, often by using the opposite of what is meant
is a humorous or satirical imitation
Discussion of the term sign is a topic of semiotics and philosophies of language. It can be defined as a basic unit of meaning, and refers to the concept that something indicates or signifies some meaning.
In the visual realm, we also have signs which contain symbols. These symbols can be simple or complex. Either way, they are meant to communicate specific meanings to a given audience.
For example: Recreational Signs
Part of being culturally literate is knowing how to read signs such as these.
What is a Symbol?
Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.
Here are two websites that have both graphical (image-based) and word-based indexes. You can find almost every sign from Western culture here.
Byzantine painters did not paint sacred icons realistic or lifelike to keep a boundary between the physical and spiritual world.
Original Macintosh icons, 1984
Computers & Technology continue to add to the symbol database. Many symbols such as these have become part of font sets. They are called dingbats.
Check out California graphic designer John Hersey’s Dingbats.
Icon from Magnets of Meaning SFMOMA
alchemy = the integration of opposites
Mesopotamian = astronomical plot of Venus’ movements
Egypt = the sun’s daily return to its point of departure, passing through sky and underworld
Egypt = wedjat, or eye of Horus
Unity in duality, balanced dynamism, Yin (female) moist, dark, passive, soft, pliable and intuitive earth, flowers, lunar animals & birds
A single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.
Indo-Iran = sun or skygods
An example of a historical symbol whose meaning has change through time and context, the NIKE logo was created by Caroline Davidson in 1971.
The SWOOSH represents the wing of the Greek Goddess Nike.
Davidson met Phil Knight (the founder of Nike) while in an accounting class. She received $35 for the first SWOOSH. Although I can not find any documentation, it is my understanding that she receives 5 cents every time the logo is used, and yes has made millions.
• There are some scholars who believe that pre-patriarchy, Nike was a goddess who brought ease of childbirth.
What does each of these images communicate about Nike?
Here are two symbols which look very similar, yet have very different effects/interpretations. What do they mean to you?
Peace Symbol (Scroll down to The peace sign to see the history of this symbol and how it was conceptualized.)
http://www.csuchico.edu/~nwylde/250/symbolsnet/young_river.mp3Poetry and song lyrics are rich with metaphors.
Visual artists create visual metaphors. These may be much less explicit/obvious than many symbols, but they often are based on cultural metaphors, and thus require the context of the culture to be understood.
Jean Baptiste Greuze, The Broken Eggs, 1756
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Broken Pitcher, 1891
Perhaps you have seen this painting in San Francisco at the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
Like The Broken Eggs, the metaphor here is about the loss of innocence.
Can you interpret additional possible underlying meanings for this painting?
Bouguereau’s paintings are sometimes described as kitsch. What qualities make this image kitschy?
Can you identify any metaphors, old or new, for males in this or another culture?
Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself.
The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas such as charity, greed, or envy.
Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.
Allegory, in literature, is a symbolic story that serves as a disguised representation for meanings other than those indicated on the surface. The characters in an allegory often have no individual personality, but are embodiments of moral qualities and other abstractions.
The allegory is closely related to the parable, fable, and metaphor, differing from them largely in intricacy and length.
A great variety of literary forms have been used for allegories.
What does Justice remind you of?
Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
In this history painting, Liberty is an allegorical figure, not a real person. The image tells the story of the French Revolution.
In this in-depth article, Pratik Gulati walks us through the many stages involved in creating an animated movie from scratch, whether it be the next Hollywood blockbuster or the shortest of short films. So if you’re thinking about trying it yourself and want to know how it’s done, or even if you’re just curious about the process, this article is one you don’t want to miss.
The production pipeline of a typical animated short or a movie can be divided into three stages : pre-production, production and post-production. In this article we will be discussing these three key stages in detail.
The first process in the animation pipeline, and also one of the most important, is pre-production. It begins with the main concepts which are initially turned into a full story, and then, once the story has been finalized, other things such as the script, shot sequence and camera angles are worked on.
Some major components of pre production are Story Boarding, Layouts, Model Sheets and Animatics.
…they also provide a visual reminder of the original plan; something that can be referred back to throughout the production.
The Storyboard helps to finalize the development of the storyline, and is an essential stage of the animation process. It is made up of drawings in the form of a comic strip, and is used to both help visualise the animation and to communicate ideas clearly. It details the scene and changes in the animation, often accompanied by text notes describing things occurring within the scene itself, such as camera movements.
Not only can storyboards be especially useful when working in group environments (something quite common in the animation industry,) but they also provide a visual reminder of the original plan; something that can be referred back to throughout the production.
Once the storyboards have been approved, they are sent to the layout department which then works closely with the director to design the locations and costumes. With this done they begin to stage the scenes, showing the various characters’ positions throughout the course of each shot.
Model sheets are precisely drawn groups of pictures that show all of the possible expressions that a character can make, and all of the many different poses that they could adopt. These sheets are created in order to both accurately maintain character detail and to keep the designs of the characters uniform whilst different animators are working on them across several shots.
During this stage the character designs are finalized so that when production starts their blueprints can be sent to the modeling department who are responsible for creating the final character models.
In order to give a better idea of the motion and timing of complex animation sequences and VFX-heavy scenes, the pre-visualization department within the VFX studio creates simplified mock-ups called “Animatics” shortly after the storyboarding process.
These help the Director plan how they will go about staging the above sequences, as well as how visual effects will be integrated into the final shot.
Now that the storyboard has been approved the project enters the production phase. It’s here that the actual work can start, based on the guidelines established during preproduction. Some major parts are layout, modeling, texturing, lighting, rigging and animation.
[layout artists] produce the 3D version of what storyboard artists had previously drawn on paper.
Using lo-res models or blocks of geometry in the place of the final set and characters, the Layout Artist is responsible for composing the shot and delivering rough animation to the animators as a guide. What they produce is the 3D version of what the storyboard artists had previously drawn on paper.
During this stage the Director approves camera moves, depth of field and the composition of the models making up the set and set dressing. It is then the responsibility of the Modeling department to deliver these approved set, prop and character models in the final layout stages.
Modelers are usually split into two or more departments. Whilst organic modelers tend to have a sculpture background and specialise in building the characters and other freeform surfaces, hard-surface modelers often have a more industrial design or architectural background, and as such they model the vehicles, weapons, props and buildings.
Working closely with the Art Directors, Visual Effects Supervisors and Animation Supervisors, modelers turn the 2D concept art and traditionally sculpted maquettes into high detail, topologically sound 3D models. They then assist the Technical Animator and Enveloper as the model has a skeleton put in place and the skin is developed. Following this, the model may be handed back to the Modeler, who will proceed to sculpt facial expressions and any specific muscle tension/jiggle shapes that may be required.
Once the model is approved, it will be made available to the rigging and texture paint departments, who complete the final stages in preparing the model for animation and rendering. With luck, the model will move through the production pipeline without coming back for modeling fixes, although some amount of fixes are inevitable – problems with models sometimes don’t appear until the rendering stage, in which case the lighter will send the model back to be fixed.
Whether creating a texture from scratch or through editing an existing image, Texturing Artists are responsible for writing shaders and painting textures as per the scene requirements.
Working hand-in-hand with the surfacing and shading departments, textures are painted to match the approved concept art and designs which were delivered by the art department. These textures are created in the form of maps which are then assigned to the model.
…lighting TDs combine the latest version of the animation, the effects, the camera moves, the shaders and textures, and render out an updated version every day.
Not only does a Lighting Artist have to think lighting the individual scenes, they also have to consider how to bring together all of the elements that have been created by the other departments. In most companies, lighting TDs combine the latest version of the animation, the effects, the camera moves, the shaders and textures into the final scenes, and render out an updated version every day.
Lighters have a broad range of responsibilities, including placing lights, defining light properties, defining how light interacts with different types of materials, the qualities and complexities of the realistic textures involved, how the position and intensity of lights affect mood and believability, as well as color theory and harmony. They are required to establish direct and reflected lighting and shadows for each assigned shot, ensuring that each shot fits within the continuity of a sequence, all the while aiming to fulfill the vision of the Directors, Production Designers, Art Directors and VFX Supervisors.
Rigging is the process of adding bones to a character or defining the movement of a mechanical object, and it’s central to the animation process. A character TD will make test animations showing how a creature or character appears when deformed into different poses, and based on the results corrective adjustments are often made.
The rigging department is also involved in developing cloth simulation – so as well as making a character able to clench their fist or rotate their arm, the rigging and cloth department is responsible for making their costume move in a believable manner.
…planning a character’s performance frame by frame uses the same basic principles first developed for 2D animation.
In modern production companies, the practice of meticulously planning a character’s performance frame by frame is applied in 3D graphics using the same basic principles and aesthetic judgments that were first developed for 2D and stop-motion animation. If motion capture is used at the studio to digitize the motion of real actors, then a great deal of an animator’s time will also be spent cleaning up the motion captured performance and completing the portions of the motion (such as the eyes and hands) that may not have been digitized during the process.
The effects team also produce elements such as smoke, dust, water and explosions, although development on these aspects does not start until the final animation/lighting has been approved as they are integral to the final shot and often computationally heavy.
Post-production is the third and final step in film creation, and it refers to the tasks that must be completed or executed after the filming or shooting ends. These include the editing of raw footage to cut scenes together, inserting transitional effects, working with voice and sound actors and dubbing to name just a few of the many post-production tasks.
Overall, however, the three main phases of post-production are compositing, sound editing and video editing.
The compositing department brings together all of the 3D elements produced by the previous departments in the pipeline, to create the final rendered image ready for film! Compositors take rendered images from lighters and sometimes also start with compositing scripts that TDs develope in order to initially comp together their dailies (working versions of the shot.)
General compositing tasks include rendering the different passes delivered by a lighting department to form the final shot, paint fixes and rotoscoping (although compositors sometimes rely on mattes created by a dedicated rotoscoping department), as well as the compositing of fx elements and general color grading.
This department is responsible for selecting and assembling the sound recordings in preparation for the final sound mix, ensuring lip sync and adding all of the sound effects required for the final film.
Video editing is the process of manipulating and rearranging shots to create a seamless final product, and it is at this stage that any unwanted footage and scenes are removed. Editing is a crucial step in making sure the video flows in a way which achieves the initial goal. Other tasks include titling and adding any effects to the final video and text.
The production pipeline detailed above is broadly common in most studios, however each studio is likely to have a custom pipeline determined by the type of project they are currently undertaking. A 2D production pipeline starts with workbook and goes all the way through final checking, composting and film output, whilst the 3D CGI production process emphasizes the design, modeling and rigging and animation stages. Moreover, animation production is a very coordinated process where different teams of artists work together while utilizing optimum resources and achieving the initial goal in the time available.