1. It all begins with a story.
Whether you need to explain the flight path of charged ions through a mass spectrometer, why a SNP can cause so much trouble, or how a bacterial pathogen escapes detection by the immune system, there’s always a story to tell.
And that story is fascinating.
2. Now that we know the story…
We write it up in a treatment. Generally one or two pages that describe the story and what you’ll see in the animation.
This gives everyone a good idea of what the project will entail,
and leads us to the next stage.
3. Where the rubber meets the road.
Here’s where everybody come 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 how to 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’s essential to have a script to time the action to. Plus, it’s hard to retrofit a voiceover 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.
5. Storyboards & styleframes
Storyboards are the visual roadmap we create that defines what objects will be built, and what they’ll do.
Styleframes are still images that define the overall look and feel of the piece. We ask clients for examples they’ve seen that they like, and don’t like, and why.
Not every animation needs voiceover, but if often helps to explain particularly difficult concepts. We’ve worked with many voiceover talents, and can help you find just the right voice.
Also, since not everyone learns the same way, it’s great to have it all packaged in 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. Using simple stand-in objects, we can quickly render the shot to see if the object and camera motion are right.
Using reference materials and client direction, we start building the 3D models that will populate the animation.
Do these models need to live somewhere, or are they just floating in space? If they need an environment, we’ll build that at this point as well. Initially, they’ll look grey, like the animatics. But just wait…
There are a lot of different techniques for animating models in 3D, but suffice it to say that 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 gauge?
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.
The art of texturing has come a long way from the day when you just slapped a bitmap on a sphere and Bob’s your uncle. Procedural, UV, normal, displacement mapping, and other techniques bring models to life. It’s all in the wrist…
In a typical 3D project, animation, texturing, lighting and camera work are often done in parallel. We broke them down here sequentially for simplicity’s sake.
Lighting will impact the way textures look, so we go back and forth between the two until we get something you like. 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, it’s sometimes a forgotten player.
Persistence 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 into thirty frames per second, or 30 fps. Rendering is computing each frame, thirty frames/second, sixty seconds/minute, to make a complete animation.
14. Post production
This is where everything comes together. Rendered frames, music, voiceover, text, and more are brought into our compositing software and delivered in whatever format you need.
And if we’ve done it right, what you get is 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 farewell to our creation.
Because it has a bigger purpose to play, for you and your company.
A note on delivery…
No one will see any of these steps until you want them to. We post all work throughout the project to a password-protected website for review and comment, making it easy to track progress.