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Speed Magazine

Make a 3D animated movie

Make a 3D animated movie
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The process of making a 3D animated movie can be divided into 3 main stages: pre-production, production, and post-production.


It all starts with a story. Having a great story and script is the most important part of the process for an animated movie to be successful. How the film looks only comes second. This is where writers and directors spend a lot of time rewriting the script and making sure it’s good; people are not going to like the film if it sucks. Once finalized, we can now start drawing character designs and storyboard.



Programs: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere
Storyboard is like a comic strip that shows the camera angle and positions of the characters in every scene. It doesn’t have to be detailed, just enough to get the flow of the story. After storyboarding, we now proceed to animatic, where we put all those drawings in an editing program, and add the initial sound and voices.








Program: Autodesk Maya
At this stage we build our 3D model based on the character and set designs made during the pre-production stage.





Program: Adobe Photoshop
To add color to our character, the 3D model is unwrapped to a flat 2D image. The extracted 2D image is then brought to an image manipulating program where we paint colors and put textures on it. After finishing the 2D texture, we go back to the 3D program, map the texture to a shader, and then assign it to the 3D model.








Program: Autodesk Maya
In order to make the character move, we put a skeleton into our 3D model. We make sure the rig can do what we want it to. For example, make the character smile.







Programs: Autodesk Maya, Adobe Premiere
Before proceeding to the animation process, we create a pre-visualization or previz. This is similar to the animatic but in a 3D environment with the final camera movements and 3D models in it. Final voice recordings are added for correct timing in animating the character.





Program: Autodesk Maya
Once the previz is finalized, we take each shot from the previz and start animating. The character is posed and keyframed. In this process, we spend a lot of time and effort to give life to the character and make sure the movement flows properly.






Lighting and rendering
Program: Autodesk Maya
After the animation is done, we take each shot, put lights in the right places, and make it look really good. Much like in a live action shot, we make sure the light complements the characters and the shadows look right. Rendering is a process of generating image frames from a scene file. This process takes a lot of time and computing power.




Frozen fact: The scene in which Elsa walks out onto the balcony of her newly constructed ice palace is 218 frames long, and includes the film’s longest frame to render. The single frame took more than 132 hours to render. That’s more than five days! (Source:


Programs: Autodesk Maya, Blackmagic Design Fusion

This is the third and final stage of making a 3D animated movie. During this stage, the compositors take the rendered images, add FX elements, and put them together to form the final shot. Color grading is also done during this stage. Because the editing was done way before we even started animating, it is now just a matter of compiling the final shots, inserting it into the previz, and adding the final sound mix for the final film.

Words Herbert Agudera
First published in Speed January 2015 issue

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