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Animatic vs Animation in the Production Pipeline

To grow and maintain a successful freelance animation business, it’s important that your animation projects reflect the desired ideas and end goals of your clients.

One way to do this is to create a basic blueprint in the form of an animatic so that your clients can get a sense of how you’re bringing their vision to life.

Depending on how they choose to structure their respective animation production pipelines, creating an animatic is a step that some animators tend to skip, when in fact it can be very crucial to improving the quality of the finished product. 

It can also help save you time and money, decide what revisions to make, and develop a better production workflow, resulting in more satisfied animation clients.

In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look at what animatics are, how they’re implemented in the animation production pipeline, and how they benefit freelance animators and their clients.

1) Animatic vs Animation: Breaking Down the Difference

animatic in an animation production pipeline

Image by Redzin via Tenor

An animatic is an animated storyboard. It shows you a sequence of timed, low-resolution storyboard images (typically hand-drawn) that convey how your animation project will flow.

In addition to timing, an animatic helps you gauge the pacing, the character and camera movements, and the progression of your project. Unlike a storyboard, an animatic typically has subtitles, is set to audio files (voice-overs, sound effects, etc) or music, and consists of varying frame lengths.

Similar to an animation, says Filmmaking Lifestyle, the purpose of an animatic is to bring a story or idea to life.

However, while animations are longer, far more detailed (as they consist of completed frame-by-frame drawings), and are presented as final projects to clients, animatics are shorter, less detailed, and are ongoing works in progress that can be adjusted at any time before key animation can begin.

2) Role of Animatics in the Production Pipeline

example of an animatic's role in pre-pre-production

Image by Benny_Box via Tenor

While it’s definitely not a requirement to include an animatic in every production pipeline, it's nonetheless a handy tool used by freelance animators and animation studios to map out complex scenes in the pre-production phase.

Compared to final animations, an animatic takes less time to produce. By putting in a few hours beforehand to sketch out your clients’ ideas, and subsequently put them together in animatic form, you get a feel for the entire piece and its overall structure.

Plus, you’ll have more time leftover, which you can then dedicate to other stages in the production phase.

It also serves as a reference point during the production phase so that you can make any necessary adjustments before you move on to creating a rough animation and – ultimately – the final animation.

Animatics may be hand-drawn or put together using video-editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, or Boords.

3) The Best Way to Utilize Animatics vs Animations

a perfectly utilized animatic in a production pipeline

Image by Slanted Studios via Giphy

Animators tend to jump straight from storyboarding to key animation, which can be a missed opportunity to apply revisions to the script, character designs, and storyboard.

Most freelance animators or animation studio owners include the cost of revisions in the total cost of the animation project, albeit only after the project has received the finishing touches.

Resultantly, says MOWE Studio, this could have a severe negative impact on the project’s budget.

Animation clients may not be pleased with the thought of having to spend more money on revising portions of a fully animated sequence, such as re-recording voice-overs, redesigning or removing characters, and discarding scenes.

It's simpler and less expensive to scrap a scene, a piece of dialogue, or a character during the animatics phase rather than later in the animation production pipeline.

To ensure a smooth production workflow, it’s important to remember the following if you choose to include animatics:

  • Test, test, test! Test and refine each shot in an animatic as early as possible. Issues that arise here are easier to resolve than when the production process is completed.
  • Keep it basic. Animatics are works in progress, so not every image has to be time-consumingly detailed. Clients will likely expect you to share your progress with them as soon as possible, rather than wait until the animation project is completed in order to review it.

    Keep animatics as low-res as possible. The more reduced the quality, the less time in total it takes for you to make.
  • Make the most of your skills. Your individual skillset, as well as your access to viable tools, will form the basis for how you will create an animatic for your clients. On the other hand, as a freelance animator, learning 3D animation can give you a significant boost in not only crafting unique animatics but also helping you to meet the requirements of potential clients who are looking to hire freelancers with 3D-animating skills.
  • Get feedback from your teammates. Communication is key when multiple animators are working together on different aspects of the animation production pipeline. If you’re tasked with working on the animatic, let your teammates watch it; listen to their feedback so you can make any changes to the animatic before showing it to a client.

4) Presenting Your Animatics to Animation Clients

animation vs animatic presented to a client

Image by Fede Cook via Giphy

The pre-production phase of the animation project is the best way to fulfill your client’s brief, as well as plan out the budget and animation steps accordingly.

As pointed out by Boords, the animatic may be the first time that your client gets to see what you’re working on before you finally start animating. As such, the client can ascertain whether the animatic captures their vision and conveys their message from the get-go. If it does, then you’re on the right track to creating the desired animation.

Test-screening your animatic gives the client the opportunity to provide input, namely giving feedback that you can use to enhance the project before moving on to the next stage of production.

The client will also feel like they’re an active part of the creative process, which can strengthen their trust in you. By building a long-standing relationship with an existing client based on trust, regular communication, and integrity, you’re guaranteed to have repeat business in the future and to garner glowing testimonials about your services, which in turn could attract potential clients.

5) How an Animatic Benefits You and Your Clients

animator and their animation client benefitting from the use of animatics

Image by Krakenimages via Unsplash

Including an animatic in the animation production pipeline is totally optional, although it can’t be denied that it’s a big advantage if you want to make sure that your final animations flow well.

As a freelance animator, it’s a small yet significant step that doesn’t require huge resources, plus it will be extremely helpful for clients to visualize the scenes, find potential problems, and request tweaks that can make the animations better.

Animatic vs Animation and Why Animatics are Important for Animators

What you need to remember is that the purpose of an animatic is to show your intention for a sequence of shots without having to go to the trouble of creating a polished project from scratch.

After all, you want your clients to be fully aware of what they’ll be seeing, why the animatic looks and sounds the way it does, and when they’ll see new iterations of the same sequence with more detailed graphics and audio.

animation client commenting on the animatics being made

Image by Berthold Brodersen via Pixabay

You also want to show clients that they can readily trust you with their brands and that they can always rely on you to bring their ideas to fruition. Repeat business combined with testimonials means you’ll be able to generate a steady stream of income, as well as attract prospective clients – all of which can, and will, take your animation business to great new heights.

Now that you’ve got a good grasp of animatics, then we highly recommend that you check out more tips on animated videos and developing your business skills as a freelance animator, take part in our free masterclass, and download a copy of our free marketing handbook!

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