3D Animation & Visualization
At Brightraven Studios, we are highly skilled in creating fluid, 3D computer generated films, videos, and interactive media to suit your business needs. Animation can be a powerful tool for a variety of applications, including:
- Marketing new products
- Corporate and professional training
- Visualizing architectural and remodeling projects
- Forensic animation involving crime and accident scene recreation for the courtroom
- Illustration of medical & technical situations and procedures
- Film, video game, interactive and virtual reality projects
Whatever your needs, animation can communicate your ideas in an eye catching manner and explain complicated concepts, while quickly and effectively telling a story that transcends words and static images for your audience. Every client has specific needs, and below you will find an overview of our animation process to help make informed decisions during each phase of the project and ensure a successful result.
CREATING A PLAN
What is the goal of your project? If animation is employed in the marketing of a product, then a common goal would be to inform the audience of the product’s features and benefits in an appealing manner. For an animation dealing with a legal case, the goal may be to accurately present how a sequence of events unfolded to a judge or jury. Every project has its own unique set of objectives, and understanding these objectives serves as the springboard for developing an animation that communicates these points in the right way to your target audience. Through proper research and planning we can specify a list of requirements that address all the objectives for the project and create a plan for production that conveys the necessary information and accomplishes your goals.
Before the process of creating and constructing storyboards and assets for your animation begins, it is imperative to gather as much information and data about the subject as possible. This can include the collection of related reference materials, including:
- Measuring and surveying existing or similar environments and props for accurate 3d recreation
- New and existing reference photographs & video footage
- Drawings, illustrations, and existing or related marketing materials
- Legal documentation, patents, or evidence for forensic animation
- Interviews with technical experts or witnesses
Accurate reference material and information about the subject can provide a strong foundation for creating a powerful animation that clearly communicates your message.
STORYBOARDS & ANIMATICS
Once a project’s objectives have been determined and research has gotten underway, it is time to begin creating storyboards and animatics. A storyboard is a sequence of drawings, typically with some directions and dialogue, representing the shots planned for the animation. An animatic is an extension of the storyboarding process, with a range of elements that may be animated in a simple fashion as a precursor to fully detailed animation. Storyboards help to establish resources and assets that will be necessary for the animation, and timing for key visual elements during the sequence of events to ensure that each of the project’s objectives are successfully covered in the final animation.
The storyboarding phase is a good time to make some executive decisions about how to achieve the best results for meeting a project’s objectives within the desired budget. Certain situations may require a more complex series of animations, or simulations for crowds, fluids, or particles, which can add to the overall production time and cost of the project. But through storyboarding, decisions can be made to reduce, or in some cases, completely alleviate the need for these complexities, while still maintaining the same narrative and message. For example, if an animation called for a speaker to give a speech in a crowded auditorium, a shot from the speaker’s perspective looking out over a fully animated crowd could be both costly and time consuming. But if the shot were reversed, and the crowd was instead represented by showing the heads of a few audience members in the foreground as the camera focused on the onstage speaker, this decision could alleviate the need for crowd simulation and reduce the project’s overall cost.
So how much is this going to cost? Every project is different in its scope, content, and objectives, and we strive to provide the best value possible for your animation investment. There are many factors that can affect the overall cost of an animation, including:
- The complexity and number of models used throughout the animation
How detailed are the models and characters needed for the animation? How many are there?
- The quality of individual character and object movement
How detailed will the actual movements of the characters and/or objects be? Will they walk, roll, slide, or fly?
- The number of moving characters and/or objects in a scene
How many characters of objects will move throughout the animation?
Will physics simulations be required to reproduce effects such as fluids, fur, hair, particles, or large crowds?
Will the animation be integrated with live action video footage?
- Render quality & video resolution
Will your animation be seen in standard resolution (720p), high definition (1080p) or higher? How realistic will the final animation need to look? Higher resolutions and greater realism require more time to render and process.
- The overall running length of the animation
How long will your animation be? Longer animations generally require more time to produce.
- Voice-overs, voice acting, and audio
Do you have existing royalty-free audio and narration to be used? Or will we need to supply voice-talent/music/sound-effects for your animation?
Due to the wide range of variables involved, projects can have vastly different requirements, but it is always our goal to create high quality professional animation that meets your needs within a budget that works for you. The best way to obtain an accurate cost estimate is to contact us to directly to set up a free consultation to discuss the details of your project. Animation costs can be estimated in advance and provided on a maximum budget allowance, or a storyboard can be developed as an independent project, and a fixed quote for the production of the animation can be supplied based on that storyboard. A typical animation project can range anywhere between $1500 and $12,000, with some larger projects ranging from $20,000 to $45,000 for highly detailed broadcast and film quality animation.
As the storyboard matures, the project can move into production, where 3d models are constructed, scenes are lit, animated, and finally rendered.
MODELING AND CREATING ASSETS
3D models represent real world characters, objects, and environments in virtual space. Modeling is used in various industries such as film, animation, gaming, interior design, architecture, and engineering. They are also used in the medical industry for the interactive representations of anatomy. In some cases stock models may be used to help reduce production costs, but unique models will often need to be created from scratch using advanced 3D software. The level of detail required of any given 3d model is dictated by the level of onscreen scrutiny that the model will be given via camera close-ups, scene prominence, or screen time shown in the animation. For certain projects, existing models from other industry formats such as those used in architectural or industrial design workflows may be imported into an animation project, saving time and money, but these imports often require some additional work before they are scene-ready.
Texture maps and material shaders allow the surfaces of 3D models to simulate different types of surfaces and real life materials such as water, glass, metal, concrete, plastic, or fabric. They are typically used to enhance the realism of 3D models and help to deliver high levels of realism within an animation. High quality textures may need to be created for some projects.
For most of us lighting is something we rarely pay must attention to, but in 3D Animation, lighting is an essential aspect. Good lighting enhances the appearance of models and textures, and can be a major factor in creating realism and an appealing onscreen composition.
RIGGING AND ANIMATING
Before an object or character can be efficiently animated, a system of controls known as a rig, or a digital skeleton, must sometimes be created for the animator to use. This usually applies to characters, but can be necessary for some complex objects or props. The process usually involves adding bones, and calculating and implementing skin weights in an effort to create natural movement. The animator will use the custom controls of the rig to bring characters, props, and vehicles to life. For character animation, the timing, expressiveness, and natural flow of motion are paramount. In forensic, marketing, or architectural animations, the goal is usually precision of motion and technical accuracy. Animation techniques and methodology can differ, depending on the needs of the project.
SIMULATIONS & FX
Some projects may require simulation for phenomena such as cloth, smoke, fire, hair, and water, or even smaller tasks such as an object colliding with another object or simulating liquid in a glass. The goal in creating all of these effects is to do it seamlessly so the audience doesn’t think about the fact that the effects are computer generated. This can take countless hours of research into real-life phenomena, reference videos, and can be difficult to set up and very intensive on computer resources; But when used properly, simulations can have impressive results.
In the most basic terms, 3D rendering is the process of producing an image (or series of images) based on three-dimensional data and given properties such as texture, color, and material. As one of the final stages of production, each frame of the animation needs to calculated and rendered, typically for a playback speed of 30 frames per second. The rendering process can produce many different aesthetic looks from cartoon illustration to photo-realistic, and range in quality with greater time and computer resources needed as the scene complexity, screen resolution, and render quality level increase.
Rendering sometimes takes a long time, even on very fast computers. It must be taken into account that one-minute of animation, played back at 30 frames per second, requires 1,800 frames of footage. If each frame takes two minutes to render, then the animation will require 60+ hours of rendering to complete!
EDITING & COMPOSITING
Video editing is the process of editing segments of animation footage, special effects and sound recordings in the post-production process.
Compositing takes all the elements of the film and layers them on top of each other. Here, we use elements like color correction, masking, and various other tricks to create the illusion that all elements naturally belong together. This process may involve putting an animated character into a live action scene, overlaying titles and logos, or even layering a simulated tsunami over a shot of a city street. Some special effects may also be incorporated into the compositing workflow.
The final step of our process converts the video to the intended format for delivery. We will work to make sure your video meets the specifications of your intended end use.
If this Information has been helpful to you in understanding the animation process, and you would like to explore utilizing animation to enhance your cases or projects, then the next step would be to contact us directly. We offer free consultation without obligation during where we can discuss the specifics of your project. From strategizing what visuals should go in to an animation cost estimates for a given project, our experience can help get your project started, approved, and on its way to production.