Whether you need to explain the flight path of charged ions through a mass spectrometer,
why a SNP can cause so much trouble, or just how a bacterial pathogen avoids detection
by the immune system, there's always a story to tell.
And that story is fascinating.
Now that we know the story...
We write it up in a form known as a treatment. Generally one or two
pages that describe the story, and what you will see in the animation.
This gives everyone a good idea of what the project will entail, and
leads us to the next stage...
Here's where everybody comes to an agreement on what the scope of the
project will be, and whether the client's budget will support that.
If not, then we look at the storyline again to see if we can bring expectations
into alignment with the budget.
Even if you don't want to have voiceover narration as part of your project,
we feel it is essential that we have a script to work from.
This is because we need to know how long to make each shot we'll create.
Plus, there've been lots of times when the client didn't initially want a
voiceover, but... then they did. And it's hard to retrofit voiceover script
to an animation that's already done.
We can write it, you can write it, we can all write it together, it's your choice.
But it's time well spent.
Storyboards & Styleframes
This is where we first begin to visualize what the animation will look like.
The storyboards do two things - they define what the objects in the
animation will be, and they dictate what they will do.
The styleframes are still images that define what the overall look
and feel of the piece will be. We ask clients to refer us to work
they've seen that they like... and don't like, as well as why.
Not every animation needs voiceover, but it often helps to explain
particularly difficult concepts. And people respond most easily to
the human voice, so we think it's generally a really good idea
to have it.
Also, since not everyone learns the same way (some people focus
on the visuals, others on the audio, still others on text) it's great
to have it all packaged into one cohesive experience that'll hit
everybody where they live.
Animatics give people who haven't worked on 3D projects before a tiny
moment of heart failure. It's so, well, grey. Is that what it's going to look like?
Relax. Two things are happening - we're blocking the movement of the
objects in that shot. We may use simple stand-in objects, so we can quickly
render the shot to see if the motion is right. And we're checking
We post all work throughout the project to a password-protected website
for review and comment, making it easy to track progress.
Using reference materials and client direction, we start building the 3D models
that will populate the animation. It's important to know at the outset what the
models are supposed to do, since there are many ways of building objects in 3D.
And do these models need to live somewhere, or are they just floating in space?
If they need an environment, we'd build that at this point as well.
Initially, they'll look grey, like the animatics. But once you've signed off on the
shape of an object, it's time to move on to the next step...
There are a lot of different techniques for animating models in 3D, but suffice it
to say that we use whatever flavor is best for that particular animation, often a
combination of techniques.
But regardless, we bend them to our will, and they dance.
Scale is an interesting thing. How do you make something look incredibly small,
or amazingly large? Especially in the molecular world, where scale is difficult to
assess, because none of the visual cues are ones most people recognize.
Here's where we apply all the visual goodness to the models. We can make things look shiny,
transparent, gooey, dry, lighter than air, massively heavy and more - whatever is required.
In fact, the art of texturing has come a long way from the days when you just slapped a
bitmap on an object and called it a day. Now you can “paint” textures and colors directly
onto objects that give them much more detail and believability. It's all in the wrist...
Actually, in a typical 3D project, animation, texturing, lighting
and camera work are often done in parallel. We just broke
them down sequentially for simplicity's sake.
For instance, lighting will impact the way textures look, so we'll
tend to go back and forth between the two until we get
something we/you like.
And we may need to tweak camera moves programmed during
the animatic phase. It's an iterative process.
Think of it this way - the camera is you.
What do you want to see?
The movement of the camera is a wonderful tool
for telling a story, and given all the bells and whistles
of what 3D can do, sometimes a forgotten player.
The camera tells the story, just as much as the
3D objects in the scene.
Persistance of vision. It's what enables your eyes and brain to stitch
the images together, making a continuous movie in your mind.
In our world, that translates to thirty frames per second, or 30 fps,
and that's what rendering is, computing each frame, thirty frames
a second, sixty seconds a minute, to make an animation.
Well, sometimes it's twenty-four frames per second, or 24 fps.
But that's for another day...
Where everything comes together. Rendered frames, music, voiceover, text, and
more, brought into our compositing software and delivered to you in whatever
format you need.
And if we've done it right, you get something that's much more than the sum of its parts.
The production process is one of constant refinement, and we never feel we're really
done. But the deadline comes, and it's time to say goodbye to our creation,
even if we don't want to. Just one more tweak...
Beth formed Arkitek Studios with co-founder Doug Huff in 1997. In other lives she has been a professional ballet dancer, musician/composer and biotech instrument manufacturer, but finally found her niche in 3D, where art and science are equally important.
From creating visual content for high profile broadcast projects like Monday Night Football, the World Series and National Geographic to illuminating scientific discoveries such as RNAi for Nature Reviews Genetics, Doug’s goal has always been to both enlighten and entertain the viewer, using his unique cinematic design sensibilities.