In CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) animation, artists must create a three-dimensional world in the computer. Three-dimensional sets and characters must be built, lit and painted, much in the way that sets are constructed for live-action films. CGI also resembles live-action filmmaking in terms of spatial conceptualization, lighting, cinematography, scene hook-ups and blocking of actor’s movements. While the pre prodution stage of CGI animation is identical to that of traditional animation techniques, the production and post production stage involve several distinct steps and experts.
Autodesk’s Maya is a popular CGI software, but some studios use their own proprietary software.
The following text and images come from “Step-by-Step : How to Make an Animated Movie” by Pratik Gulati
Using lo-res models or blocks of geometry in the place of the final set and characters, the Layout Artist is responsible for composing the shot and delivering rough animation to the animators as a guide. What they produce is the 3D version of what the storyboard artists had previously drawn on paper.
During this stage the Director approves camera moves, depth of field and the composition of the models making up the set and set dressing. It is then the responsibility of the Modeling department to deliver these approved set, prop and character models in the final layout stages.
Modelers are usually split into two or more departments. Whilst organic modelers tend to have a sculpture background and specialise in building the characters and other freeform surfaces, hard-surface modelers often have a more industrial design or architectural background, and as such they model the vehicles, weapons, props and buildings.
Working closely with the Art Directors, Visual Effects Supervisors and Animation Supervisors, modelers turn the 2D concept art and traditionally sculpted maquettes into high detail, topologically sound 3D models. They then assist the Technical Animator and Enveloper as the model has a skeleton put in place and the skin is developed. Following this, the model may be handed back to the Modeler, who will proceed to sculpt facial expressions and any specific muscle tension/jiggle shapes that may be required.
Once the model is approved, it will be made available to the rigging and texture paint departments, who complete the final stages in preparing the model for animation and rendering. With luck, the model will move through the production pipeline without coming back for modeling fixes, although some amount of fixes are inevitable – problems with models sometimes don’t appear until the rendering stage, in which case the lighter will send the model back to be fixed.
REPORT THIS AD
Whether creating a texture from scratch or through editing an existing image, Texturing Artists are responsible for writing shaders and painting textures as per the scene requirements.
Working hand-in-hand with the surfacing and shading departments, textures are painted to match the approved concept art and designs which were delivered by the art department. These textures are created in the form of maps which are then assigned to the model.
Not only does a Lighting Artist have to think lighting the individual scenes, they also have to consider how to bring together all of the elements that have been created by the other departments. In most companies, lighting TDs combine the latest version of the animation, the effects, the camera moves, the shaders and textures into the final scenes, and render out an updated version every day.
Lighters have a broad range of responsibilities, including placing lights, defining light properties, defining how light interacts with different types of materials, the qualities and complexities of the realistic textures involved, how the position and intensity of lights affect mood and believability, as well as color theory and harmony. They are required to establish direct and reflected lighting and shadows for each assigned shot, ensuring that each shot fits within the continuity of a sequence, all the while aiming to fulfill the vision of the Directors, Production Designers, Art Directors and VFX Supervisors.
Rigging is the process of adding bones to a character or defining the movement of a mechanical object, and it’s central to the animation process. A character TD will make test animations showing how a creature or character appears when deformed into different poses, and based on the results corrective adjustments are often made.
The rigging department is also involved in developing cloth simulation – so as well as making a character able to clench their fist or rotate their arm, the rigging and cloth department is responsible for making their costume move in a believable manner.
In modern production companies, the practice of meticulously planning a character’s performance frame by frame is applied in 3D graphics using the same basic principles and aesthetic judgments that were first developed for 2D and stop-motion animation. If motion capture is used at the studio to digitize the motion of real actors, then a great deal of an animator’s time will also be spent cleaning up the motion captured performance and completing the portions of the motion (such as the eyes and hands) that may not have been digitized during the process.
The effects team also produce elements such as smoke, dust, water and explosions, although development on these aspects does not start until the final animation/lighting has been approved as they are integral to the final shot and often computationally heavy.
CompositingREPORT THIS ADREPORT THIS AD
The compositing department brings together all of the 3D elements produced by the previous departments in the pipeline, to create the final rendered image ready for film! Compositors take rendered images from lighters and sometimes also start with compositing scripts that TDs develope in order to initially comp together their dailies (working versions of the shot.)
General compositing tasks include rendering the different passes delivered by a lighting department to form the final shot, paint fixes and rotoscoping (although compositors sometimes rely on mattes created by a dedicated rotoscoping department), as well as the compositing of fx elements and general color grading.