Tips On Getting Started:
there are a number of ways to start the process of learning animation. One is to buy books and teach yourself. Another is to take classes where professionals can help. The Union, ASIFA in Hollywood offer classes to beginners as well as professionals desiring to move around in the industry. Another great location is the Associates In Arts school in Sherman Oaks, California. Ive taken these classes and they are worth the time and money. The classes are taught by professionals in the industry from Disney, Warner Brothers and Dream Works Studios. One of the finest teachers you will encounter is Teresa Martin from Disney Feature Animation. Here is her description of who does what in the studio as taken from my notes when I was in her class. NATAHA LIGHTFOOT
ANIMATION: WHO DOES WHAT Definitions written by Teresa Martin a current Disney Animator
WHERE IT ALL BEGINS
DIRECTOR: Responsible for supervising all the work that ends up in the picture. This not only includes working with voice talent (actors), writers, composers, layout artists, animators, cleanup staff, ink and paint staff, musicians, but also supervises any live reference shots for the film. They issue scenes to the animator and approve ruff pencil tests when the animation is complete.
STORYBOARD ARTIST: Makes simple sketches that help set the pictorial context and flow of the picture. Takes liberties with preliminary scripts and makes suggestions for changes that will improve the entertainment value of the picture and make it read graphically (pictorially). Most funny stuff (gags), as well as most dramatic stuff (staging), starts here.
LAYOUT ARTIST: Takes the storyboard and translates with an eye toward enhancing the dramatics of a scene with interesting lighting and composition. Sets the basic size relationship between characters and their environment which includes backgrounds and props. Also responsible for calculating size of field (area seen by the camera) and any changes of field within the scene, and pans. Once the rough animation is completed, this department will prepare the rough backgrounds for the background painters.
EDITORIAL: This department is responsible for indicating the start and end frames of a scene on the exposure sheets before a scene starts it journey through the production pipeline. Editorial is also responsible for reading the dialog tracks onto the exposure sheets in addition to any musical tracks. The Editorial staff is charged with cutting completed scenes into the film and accounting for any subsequent changes in scene length so the soundtrack synchronization remains true despite them.
THE ANIMATION DEPARTMENT
LEAD ANIMATOR: Senior animator in charge as assigned by the directors. Responsible for designing his character in a style comparable with that established for the film by the directors and the art director. He can have some input into layout and story especially concerning how to best stage an action and may make suggestions that might improve how his character is portrayed. His main considerations are maintaining consistent quality in both acting and execution of the work produced by his unit, training of less experienced animators, and assisting work that is in keeping with an animator¹s skill level.
ANIMATOR: Responsible for the planning and timing of the scenes assigned to him. His animation manner that is consistent in style and characterization elsewhere in the picture, and is compatible to that done by the supervising animator, and should work appropriately within the story context. His style of animation needs to work consistently with the style of the film. His work must work with the background. His work should also be clearly drawn so it doesn¹t confuse the departments who handle it next as to his intent.
RUFF INBETWEENER: Assists the animator by filling in the drawings the animator doesn¹t have time to do. Places drawings according to the charts made by the animator.
ANIMATION CLEAN-UP DEPARTMENT
CLEAN-UP ARTISTS: The titles for these artists are changing and they will soon be called final animators. This is the main department that handles the animation once the animator has finished working on it. The artists in this department need good constructional drawing skills and sufficient animation skills to maintain the integrity of the animation as originally done by the animator while closing color areas in preparation for the paint department. It is not their responsibility to completely overhaul the animation in a scene, or to add elements the animator forgot. Good clean-up can make your scene look really good, or really ruin it, so make it easy for them to follow it. It pays to thoroughly prepare your scenes.
LEAD KEY ASSISTANT: Senior artists in charge of making sure the character look consistent throughout the film. Usually in charge of one character in a picture. Corrects for the drawing idiosycrasy of various animators while maintaining the integrity of the animation. Must be able to work in a variety of line styles as required on the films to which he may be assigned. Works closely with the lead animator and the directors in designing the charters. Oversees work of clean-up staff working under him. Prepares and distributes work to the Key Assistants.
KEY ASSISTANT: Picks up scenes from the lead key assistant and prepares it for the Assistant Animator. Makes remaining key extreme drawings over the animator¹s rough sketches in a manner consistent with the established character model and line quality. Should have sufficient animation skills to follow a mass, in order to carry through model changes established by the lead key, but with basic placement, timing and acting that is established by the animator.
ASSISTANT ANIMATOR: Finishes putting the animator¹s extremes on model while maintaining a finished look consistent with the work completed by the artists that proceeded him while maintaining the integrity of the animation. May do breakdown drawing depending on the difficulty. Prepares work for the breakdown and in-between artists.
BREAKDOWN ARTIST: Follows the animator¹s charts and spacing, one of two types of follow-up artists that finish off the animation. The breakdown artists are skilled enough to track a mass for a limited distance while maintaining both consistencies in construction and line quality.
INBETWEENER: Responsible for making the final drawings to smooth out the action as indicated by the animator¹s charts. This is the entry level position in animation. Generally, these artists are not experienced enough to do a span of more than two drawings. While there are some career inbetweeners, most are new and just learning to track masses and the necessary line quality before becoming an assistant animator or key assistant.
Hopefully these tips will help you understand more about the process of animation and spark your interest in the field of ³The Fine Art of Animation².
"The editing features are invaluable for character animation"