Tradigital Television: Digital Tools and Saturday Morning
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For most traditionally animated television series today, the actual animation production takes place at an overseas studio. The production category for "traditional" animation covers the pre-production stage of layout (sometimes called character layout or production layout.) The production stages covered are animation, animation assist or in-betweening, background paint, ink and paint (usually digital these days) and camera (or rendering and compositing with digitally painted shows.)

Once overseas, the storyboard and lead sheets are sent out for translation into the language of the overseas studio's country. The pre-production package material is reviewed by the episode's animation director and various department heads at a hand out meeting for the episode. The animation director for the episode goes through the storyboard with the animators and assigns sequences for layout. Layouts are completed for each scene. During layout, the action for each scene is broken down into its basic components. All characters, background elements and any props or efx in the scene are included. The animator draws the rough key poses and the rough background on animation paper. All elements within the scene are registered to the background. As the layouts are complete, and the final background designs are added, the director goes through the scenes and approves the animator's work moving forward with animation. The animator then animates the scenes using the exposure sheets as reference for timing. The animator also adds any pertinent animation notes to the sheets for color and shooting reference down the line. Once scenes of the rough animation are approved, animation assistants finalize animation before it moves on for color.

If a traditional show still uses a film format, the painted backgrounds and the painted animation cels are shot onto 35mm film. The positive and the negative film elements are shipped to the home studio for retakes. Retakes and show assembly during the post process will be handled with this format in mind. Today, the vast majority of traditional shows have the final color done with a 2D digital system. After final rendering and compositing, the show is outputted to a video format (Digi Beta for example) and shipped to the home studio for retakes. A typical overseas schedule is thirteen weeks. This schedule can be longer if the show is design or action heavy.

The hardware render of the same character. Courtesy and © Mainframe Entertainment.

CG Production
3D television animation varies in execution. Creative Capers' directors, Terry Shakespeare and David Molina go over the wire frame mesh created by the modelers to give the characters greater refinement. Sue Shakespeare comments, "It is the care taken with these subtleties that produces the highest quality animation. We want to be known for great, great character animation...the best character animation in 3D." She also says that CG tends to be more compartmentalized as far as learning to use the tools. "Creative Capers' animators (who come from a traditional animation background) specialize in using the animation tools on the computer, the designers specialize in the tools for design. The programs are so complex and this seems to work best." Creative Capers' directors meet regularly with the animators and use exposure sheets as reference tools for animation.

Mainframe does not use exposure sheets, but close communication between the director and the animators is key. Once the show has the digital, animatic storyboard completed on the AVID, and all modeling and lighting are established, the animation can begin, using the digital storyboard as a reference. Asked if motion capture was a primary element in the animation for the show, Dent-Wilder explained, "Motion capture is used at the director's discretion. When mo-cap is chosen, it's usually for a humanoid character and for actions like fight sequences that would take longer for the animator to do. In some cases the client may request motion capture." Throughout the process, the animators are in frequent contact with the directors as they work.


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