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How to Improve Animation Workflow in 7 Simple Steps

Tidying up your animation production workflow can shave hours off your workload, and help you become a more efficient professional animator while you’re at it. 

No matter how convoluted or inefficient the animation workflow you’ve grown accustomed to is, whipping it into shape is always doable.

The best way to start is by understanding your current animation workflow process, and getting to grips with what works and what doesn’t. 

You’ll need to do this for every phase of animation, including pre-production, production, and post-production. Then, you can start to transform your current system using animation tips and tricks that’ll boost the quality and efficiency of your work. 

Taking the time to refine your animation workflow process feeds into the success of your business as a professional animator in a big way. So don’t skimp on the amount of effort you put into upping your animation workflow efficiency. 

In this blog post, we discuss how to improve animation workflow in 7 simple steps so that you can get started straight away.

How To Improve Your Animation Workflow In 2D Or 3D Animation

Every professional animator knows that 2D and 3D animation processes have similarities as well as significant differences. 

But when it comes to making work more manageable, there are a few essential steps that can be considered 2D and 3D animation tips.

production workflow tips can be used for 2d and 3d animation

GIF by James Franco via Giphy

Essentially, the best 2D and 3D animation tips are those that:

  • Offer guidance on how to break down any job into its most important parts
  • Assist you in reorientating your approach to completing tasks. 

If you’re looking to improve, don’t get bogged down by the technicalities that come with animation styles and software. Just take a breath and follow this prescription of animation tips and tricks.

Animation Workflow Tips And Tricks in 7 Steps

Our animation tips and tricks cover all the major categories of animation production workflow—whether you’re focused on freelance animation workflow, or animation studio workflow. 

one step at a time for improving your animation workflow

GIF by Teen Mom via Giphy

And, they’ll get you up to speed on how to boost your workflow efficiency in each of the 7 steps of animation—researching, conceptualizing and scripting, styling, creating a storyboard, animating, adding after-effects, and ending off. 

Here are our 7 simple animation tips and tricks on how to improve your animation workflow:

1. Build Your Animation Workflow On Rigorous Research

The pre-production phase of any animation project makes up a big chunk of the overall work. It includes the strategy, scripting, styling, and creating a storyboard of the animation before any actual animating is done.

Because it’s a big part of the work you’ll do, pre-production is also a prime phase for tweaking your animation workflow and improving your work efficiency. 

You’ll need to gather key information from the person calling the shots. Who this is will depend on if you’re working for yourself or a boss, as a studio staff member or freelancer. 

You can reign in your pre-production workflow by gaining a solid understanding of what you, your client, or your boss want from the start. This will ensure that your work meets all expectations.

what a freelance animator would say about their animation workflow

GIF by Kim’s Convenience via Giphy

To streamline this process, you need to develop a comprehensive creative brief that includes essential information like: 

  • The brand style to be used 
  • Target audience
  • Type of animation required
  • Duration and format of the animation video
  • Timitations of the project.

Be sure to have a professionally developed creative brief ready to complete before you start every new project. 

2. Have A Clear Concept And Script From The Start 

There aren't many things as frustrating as trying to shoehorn a good narrative into an already animated scene. 

This can happen if you skimp on conceptualizing and scripting at the start of a project, and can seriously slow down your animation workflow process.

That’s why one of the best animation workflow tips involves clarifying your animation concepts and script right after your creative brief is confirmed.

While writing the script for your animation video, you’ll be bringing together the project’s creative vision and brand considerations. 

To add to your animation workflow efficiency at this point, focus on:

  • Developing clear narrative that’s on-brand
  • Ensuring your narrative gets the intended message across within the projects time constraints
  • Refining the narrative through a few rounds of editing. 

3. Develop A Style That Speaks To Brand And Creativity

Styling is an exciting step for any professional animator because it’s when the vision you’ve had in your head starts to take shape in the outside world.

anime animation style for the animation workflow

Image by Willian Fujii via Pixabay

Just don’t let that excitement take over and cause you to favor creativity over client preference. 

Your creative brief will give you loads of useful insight into the style that’s most appropriate.

Here are some animation workflow tips for styling that’ll make your approach practical and improve your animation workflow:

  • Remind yourself of the budget and time constraints.
  • Use the creative brief for prompts on the movements expected.
  • Think about how the animation style and narrative will work together.

4. Use Storyboards in Your Animation Workflow To Optimize Integration 

Your storyboard is an invaluable tool for integration, so make it work for you! 

The storyboard brings together many of the creative and technical aspects of the project. And, when done right, it sets the scene for a smooth production phase.

Having already streamlined your animation workflow process every step of the way, developing your storyboard should be easier to do.

To create a top-quality storyboard, you’ll need to jog your memory on all the previous steps in pre-production and your animation workflow. 

If you’re working with a team, this will mean making sure that every individual is well orientated to the strategy, script, and style of the animation project before laying out the storyboard.

This way, the storyboard will speak to the project’s objectives from the start and reduce the need to edit out off-brand or impractical components later on. 

example of a storyboard used in an animation workflow

GIF by Plot Devices via Giphy

And, with a sturdy animation workflow process set up in pre-production, you can swiftly move on to the production phase. 

5. Find The Animation Workflow Process That Suits You

One of the best animation workflow tips for the production phase is focused on animators themselves.

In order to zip through production (and by “zip” we mean to put in an efficient 15 hours instead of a sloppy 20), you need to understand how you work best, and factor this into your animation workflow process. 

Since we’re all complex creatures, figuring out your working style isn’t always easy. One way around this is to join an animation community and learn more about the working styles of other animators. This way, you can start to gain clarity on what makes you tick too. 

There are also tons of animation podcasts that offer industry insight into working styles and why animation workflow matters. If you're looking for tips that cover more on animation studio workflow, iAnimate.net is an informative podcast to tune into.

Once you’ve figured out your working style, you can choose the animation production process (or processes) that best suit your skills and personality. 

animator working on the animation workflow

Image Antoni Shkraba by via Pexels

According to professional freelance animator Sir Wade Neistadt, every freelancer should pick a production approach that honors their working style if they want to improve their work efficiency. 

These are the animation production approaches Sir Wade recommends professional animators try out to get a feel for their working style: 

Pose-To-Pose

An animation production process focused on pose development.

Straight Ahead

An approach to animation production that considers scenes from a frontal perspective.

Layered

A production style where animation is done on the x, y, and z axes separately before layering. 

Sketch Blocking

This type of animation production includes sketching out most of the detail by hand before copying it over to a computer. 

Reference Blocking

An approach where previously developed poses are used as a reference for future poses. 

Extremes

A similar approach to the layered approach, but with much more added detail. 

If you want to learn more about these animation processes, watch this breakdown video by Sir Wade: The 7 Workflows of Professional Animators.

6. Sync Visuals And Sound for Your Animation Workflow

All that’s left now is to perfect the dialogue and pick the ideal sound effects and background music for your animation video. Simple, right?

microphone for voiceover recording in an animation workflow

Image Magda Ehlers by via Pexels

Well, unless you're a sound maestro, this step may not be simple at all. 

The first step in simplifying your sound selection is to refer back to that creative brief. 

Remind yourself of the feel and tempo the client is going for, as well as the personalities and quirks of different characters. 

If your client hasn’t been specific about this type of detail, then consider the type of sound that would blend in with the animation and brand style.

From this refreshed perspective, you can make informed and appropriate choices when it comes to sound selection for your animation workflow. 

By keeping on the straight and narrow of your creative brief right up until the end, it’s more likely that your animation video will come together seamlessly.

7. Reflect And Consolidate on Your Animation Workflow

Once you’ve been through the final edit, backed up the video several times over, and celebrated the end of post-production, you may be ready to move swiftly along. 

an animator working on their animation workflow

GIF by Better Call Saul via Giphy

But, this period is an important (and often overlooked) time to plan for better animation workflow processes—and better animations—in the future.

Look back on your comprehensive, real-life project experience and analyze your successes and failures.

Jotting down a short analysis that you can refer back to is very useful. 

But, even if this exercise is done completely in your mind, it’ll still highlight some interesting aspects. 

You’ll gain a better understanding of the best and worst parts of your animation production workflow, and be able to pinpoint areas that need improvement. 

Yes, figuring out how to improve animation workflow is a constant cycle of analysis and action. But there aren’t many other forms of professional development that will bring about the same benefits as better animation workflow. 

Benefit From a Better Animation Production Workflow 

It’s not just about better animations. Animation workflow tips that help you work smarter and faster are also an important part of building a successful freelance animation business. 

For even more information on how to improve your business’s success, check out our free masterclass and download our free marketing handbook.

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