Tips from the Trenches: Animation Production Notes

Tips from the Trenches: Animation Production Notes

These are a list of compiled tips I discovered on the web for a Softimage class. Wherever possible, I have adapted and reworded some a bit to suit a general 3D animation audience. As the author pointed out in an introductory note, while some of these may be obvious, they are all the result of common production mistakes. Learn these well.

  1. Planning is crucial. Think your animation through before you start. Have a good idea of what you are trying to do before you start building something (the what first, the how second). Otherwise, you run a real risk of wasting time going down dead end streets.
  2. Keep your animation as simple as possible but do it really, really well.
  3. Available time, machine resources, and (in the professional arena) budget have a real impact on both what and how you can produce.
  4. Be sure to factor rendering, changes, and re-rendering into your schedule.
  5. Be willing to graphically plot out your animation in a time line or dope sheet (especially if you are animating a lot of things).
  6. Unless you have a true photographic memory – keep notes!
  7. Save early, save often.
  8. Create a separate database for each project.
  9. By default, the database keeps four versions of your files (that includes scenes, materials, textures, etc.) – consider setting the version number to two.
  10. Be aware of how your 3d software is operating – if it suddenly starts running slower, something is up.
  11. Keep the geometry of your models as simple as possible (the model looks great, but it takes forever to render…).
  12. Think of how you could substitute textures and bump maps for geometry.
  13. Animate the big movements first, then put in the fine details.
  14. Consider the use of compositing elements together rather than rendering one humongous scene.
  15. More lights in the scene generally means longer rendering times.
  16. Render your flip books at half to quarter size and on twosies or threesies (set the step on 2 or 3).
  17. Economize your time while using flip books – try to stay away from repeatedly re-rendering your flip book after just one change.

    Before rendering, check the:

  18. animation…have you left anything out that you meant to put in?
  19. triangle count – does your scene have 300,000 triangles in it?
  20. amount of available disk space
  21. start frame, end frame and step
  22. filename of the rendered file
  23. database you are rendering to
  24. antialiasing – is it turned on – if so what method are you using – antialiasing makes the image smoother but increases rendering time (especially the Bartlett antialiasing method)
  25. Be sure you know the aspect ratio (e.g., NTSC – 1.3333) and pixel ratio works best with a given piece of equipment.
  26. Sometimes, when your 3d software has been up an running for a long time, it starts acting flaky. To prevent this, save and exit out of your program after several hours of constant use.
  27. Again, save often!.
  28. Have faith, fear not, and make it beautiful.

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