Here’s the animatic for the commercial we’re shooting in the next week. The idea was to capture the feeling and idea of what Starting Arts does without just coming out and saying it. That’d be an informercial. So instead of telling about what’s going on in the animatic, I’m going to talk about the process of making it.
The process started with the storyboards. Andrew drew the boards for this project (after James and I made thumbnail sketches of each panel). I scanned the boards and started the process of breaking them down into photoshop layers. This is the most time consuming part. Any part of the frame that you want to move will need to be cut out and put on a separate layer. Also backgrounds will have to be recreated using the clone tool.
I started by making a new image for each frame. In this case I chose the NTSC DV preset.
Animatics don’t really need to be in HD, so this preset is fine. The nice thing about using this preset is that you get guides to show you the title and action safe areas of the frame, and that may help in some situations. So here’s frame two of the storyboard when I started:
I started by duplicating the flat storyboard layer, making a new layer for each element that will be animated. I also named the layers at this point. That makes it easy to just go down the list and isolate the element in the layer name.
I like to tackle the background first before starting with all the cloned layers. This is where the clone tool comes in handy. The objective is to make a clean plate so when the elements move we don’t see a blank canvas behind them.
With this particular frame, I selected the upper left section, copy and pasted it, and flipped it with the transform tool to recreate the upper right corner. Then I finished up with the clone tool.
Once the background was ready I moved on to the rest of the layers. I used a drawing tablet and the eraser tool to cut out the elements, but it could also be done using the selection tool. The only tricky part is recreating the parts of each layer that is covered by another layer. I used the clone tool in some places and just drew freehand in other. It doesn’t have to perfect because, again, this is only an animatic. Here’s an example of the resulting layers:
Notice that I didn’t add on the fingers on the right hand. That wasn’t an important element to add, but I did need to recreate the bottom of the box since it was not originally drawn.
I repeated this process for all the frames of the storyboard, which for this 30 second commercial was only seven images. Bigger projects with more panels would be very time consuming, so it would be best to choose to make animatics only for important sequences.
On other thing to consider is actually creating all the layers when drawing the storyboards. This is a little bit difficult when drawing on paper (but it’s a good idea to continue drawing the elements that will move beyond the storyboard frame) but separate layers are pretty easy to make when drawing digitally.
Once all the layers were set for each panel I moved on to After Effects. I made sure to import the files as photoshop compositions. Also my files were named sequentially (Frame 1.psd, Frame 2.psd, etc) so I had to uncheck the Photoshop Sequence box.
Now I had a separate composition for each storyboard panel. I’m not going to explain exactly how I animated the layers, it just basic keyframing of positions and rotations. I also used the puppet tool. One thing to note is that storyboard frames tend to be at the end or at the very least the middle of the action, so it helps to set key frames at the half-way point of the comp and work backward when animating. I chose to do the animating in each composition and make a master composition to combine each of the separate animations. The advantage of this, beside keeping things organized, is I was able to adjust the timing of the animation of each frame just by changing the layer’s time stretch value.
After the animation was working well I did a few other things like coloring the layers to help them stand out and I added the particle effects to show where we’d have particles in the final.
And that’s the basics of making animatics.