Anime Production in a Nutshell
If you need to make a series of drawings depicting the swing of a baseball bat, how would you do it? The industry-standard way to do it is to lay out your “key” poses first. The key poses might look like… like: 1, 2, 3, and 4! And you draw the “inbetween” drawings until the motion looks smooth enough. The key poses are the important thing, though, so experienced animators tend to draw the keys, while the less experienced draw the in-between drawings. This way, you can make the best use of your top talent. But how do animators know what to draw? There are various design sheets for characters, mecha and so on. Also, there’s a storyboard, which is basically a visual script for the animation. The director will delegate the various “cuts” (shots) to the animators, and these animators will typically draw everything that’s in the cut: characters, mecha (i.e.
“mechanical”), and effects. If there’s a cut that’s especially heavy with effects, mecha, or battle choreography, a director might delegate it to a specialist animator. The director also determines the length of each cut and sometimes orchestrates the voiceover sessions. Before animating, the key animators will use the storyboard sketches to create layouts, which are detailed drawings depicting the characters, backgrounds, and exact diagrams for camera movement within a cut. Sometimes, in high end feature films, there will be a team just for layouts, but most of the time it’s the key animators translating the storyboarder’s vision to the screen. Anyway, after these layouts are approved the animators can begin animating. Now that you have various key animators & inbetweeners working on a production, how do you make sure that every drawing looks the same? You have a position called the “animation director”, who is better described as the animation supervisor.
The supervisor will clean up drawings and make sure visual continuity is maintained. Here’s a piece of keyframe-only animation. Here’s the same piece after it’s been corrected and inbetweened to the point where it’s buttery smooth. And here it is after coloring & compositing. The animation workflow is like this: The storyboard is approved, or sometimes created by the director, who then delegates cuts to the key animators based on their skill.
After their layouts are approved by the director and the animation director, key animation begins. The keys are corrected by the AD, and then sent to the inbetweeners. Sometimes the inbetweens go back to the AD for correction. And finally, the finished drawings go to the coloring and compositing team. Regarding the inbetweening process, the key animators make their keys, and then, on an animation sheet, they get to mark how many inbetween drawings they want and where they should go. Those instructions then get passed to an inbetween animator. Now, if we go back to this original key animation here, you can see these rough construction lines. These are inbetween guides to help the inbetweener, so key animators actually have a fair bit of control over the inbetweening process. All that is the basic anime production process, but it’s a simplified view. Some shows will have many directors, and any episode can have many animation supervisors. If you see an absurd number of ADs on an episode, that’s sometimes indicative of low-skill or offshored key animation, necessitating a large cleanup crew to make the shoddy animation drawings look okay. Anyway, when we’re talking about these big name animators, who we are referring to are the people who make the key drawings.
This is what they’re really creating. The guy who animated this scene is Hironori Tanaka, and I’ll be talking about him later in this presentation. Alright, we’re gonna move on and Neil’s gonna talk to us a little bit about the history of Japanese animation, and cover a few guys from the early years. Go ahead..
As found on Youtube
Anime Production in a Nutshell