THE STOP MOTION PIPELINE
EP 4: PRE PRODUCTION STEPS
The development phase is when the creative foundation for a project is set up through visual and written materials.
Composing a script or written outline of your story.
The translation of the script or outline into drawings that will define the animation.
Animatic (Animatic Editor):
A digital reel containing the storyboard panels cut together with basic camera movements and the recorded dialogue. The animatic is used to time the project and check continuity and story development (The Animation Producer's Handbook). An animatic editor is the person/role that assembles and times the storyboards into animatic form.
Voice Over (VO Records):
Recording the dialog that will be cut into your animatic and will be used for lip-sync in animation.
Concept Art: Usually refers to world-building artwork used in the development process and typically involves lots of iterations to help develop ideas.
Previsualization (previs, previz):
A way of defining complex scenes before shooting/filming. This is often a layout pass in CG that will determine staging, camera moves, scale, etc.
This phase includes many types of design that often overlap with each other, like production design, character design, environment design, prop design, layout design, and color keys.
R & D (Research and Development):
A process of testing in order to create something new or unique.
EP 5: FABRICATION DEPARTMENTS & ROLES
Puppet Department Roles:
Lead: Puppet Department Supervisor
Molding, Casting, and Seaming
Hair specialists (+other specialists)
Rapid Prototyping (3D Printing)
Costumes (sometimes this is it’s own department)
Art Department Roles:
Art Department Coordinator
Leads: Builder, Painter, Set Dresser, Shop Supervisor
Builders: Set Builders, Carpenters, Prop Builders
Painters (scenic painters)
EP 6: PRODUCTION DEPARTMENTS & ROLES
Animation Director (sometimes this is also the Director)
Riggers (sometimes it’s own department)
Assistant Director (AD) and/or Scheduler
Camera & Lighting:
Director of Photography
Last Looks Crew:
EP 7: POST PRODUCTION & PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT ROLES
CG elements & digital set extension
Associate Production Manager
Additional Support Department/Roles
IT (Information Technology)
Greenlit / Greenlight:
Used to signify that a project has been approved for production. When a project is approved for production, it means that the initial agreements have been signed and the finances necessary to produce it are in place. - The Animation Producer's Handbook
Location Scout (Location Scouting):
A live-action term for the process of searching for a suitable place to film that already exists.
A business that stocks a wide variety of props that are available to rent
When a studio uses a consistent visual language and become known for it
IP (Intellectual Property):
A work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.
A top-down layout of a designed environment, like a map
Duration or runtime of a project
A digital reel containing the storyboard panels cut together with basic camera movements and the recorded dialogue. The animatic is used to time the project as well as check continuity and story development. - The Animation Producer's Handbook
MOCO (Motion Control):
A tool used to create precise, repeatable camera moves
To transfer a recording from one medium to another. In this episode, the context refers to lip-sync.
Flocking (Electrostatic Flocking):
A textile engineering technique, uses Coulombic driving forces to propel conductive microfibers toward an adhesive-coated substrate, leaving a forest of aligned fibers (definition by Wiley Online Library). This is a technique often used in stop motion to create groundcover.
This is essentially the skeleton of a puppet—the framework used to support the subject's weight. In this episode, we refer to a “ball and socket” armature, which is a type of armature that uses ball and socket, or spheroid, joints (like a human hip or shoulder where the ball-shaped surface of one rounded bone fits into the cup-like depression of another bone).
A sculptor's small preliminary model
The extent of the project—the overall size of a project defined by all the parts that make it up
When a representative from each department checks a stage because a shot is starts animation, or is “launched”
To maintain contact with the set floor during animation, many puppets will need tie-downs. Typically, a puppet will have a threaded contact point built into the foot (like a t nut), and an animator can connect a threaded rod to that point, run the rod through the animation table, and can tighten the rod/contact point using a nut underneath the table.
The movement of objects within the picture plane caused by changes in the environment over time (like humidity and temperature). This is something that you likely will not be able to notice by eye, but can be seen when you play back your captured frames.
A stage is actively shooting and the only person who should be moving anything on stage is the animator, unless the animator has requested assistance from someone else. If working on a HOT stage, it is important not to bump or touch anything unnecessary.
Maintaining continuous action and detail in the various shots of a sequence—this relates to character positions, wardrobe, and props when cutting a scene together.
This is a reference to live-action "sound stages". In stop-motion, these are light-controlled rooms where sets are "landed"/set up and where the animation takes place. Depending on the project, there can be anywhere from a handful of stages to dozens of stages shooting on a given day. Stop motion stages are usually set up in warehouse subdivided by black duvetyne curtains to delineate individual shooting spaces.
This term is referencing "model-sheets" from 2D animation—drawings that define the visual features of a character that establish their likeness. Staying on-model means that you are maintaining the essence of a character consistent with their intended design. Our hosts compare an off-model puppet with a character's evil twin—even though two identical puppets can have all the same visual ingredients, misinterpreting one can lead to a divergent character.
Character Rigging: Rigging a 3D character typically translates into the role of an armaturist in the puppet fabrication department. This is someone (or a team of people) who creates a puppet's skeleton and joints. Armatures change depending on the design and acting needs of a given character.
On Set Rigging: Rigs are used to support characters when they can't be tied down (tie-downs are typically screws from a puppet's feet through the set "floor" to prevent floating/sliding). Other rigs are used for elements that fly through the air or for animatable art department assets.
Track Reading & X-Sheets (Exposure Sheets):
Track Reading is the process of translating audio tracks (usually dialog tracks) into X Sheets, a frame-by-frame sound breakdown guide for the animator. Check out this tutorial by Dragonframe explaining the X-Sheets within the software's Animation Workspace: https://vimeo.com/210991971
Printed cards that contain all of the high-level information about a shot related to each department. Short cards usually contain a representative storyboard image, the shot code/number, frame count, dialog, and notes for each department.
This is a directory of shot cards organized by stage and day, usually assembled by the Assistant Director/Scheduler. At Big Board, you can see the anticipated order of shots on a stage and what shots are shooting across all stages at any given time. Big Board can be analyzed to spot potential efficiency issues, like asset conflicts.
POV Shot (Point of View):
A point of view shot is a film angle that shows what a character is looking at in the first person. In other words, the camera acts as the eyes of a character, and the audience sees what they see. It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something and a shot showing the character's reaction. - Studio Binder
The process of combining multiple elements and layers and marrying them into a final composition. This is usually done in a program like After Effects for stop motion.
Clean-Up & Rig Removal:
Clean-up is comparable to digital retouching—adjusting and removing unwanted or distracting pixels. Rig Removal is a type of clean up where rigging like wires are painted out of the final composition of a shot.
This is usually referring to a green screen (or another easily isolated color) background. This is typically removed in a process called “keying”.
Keying (Pull a Key):
Keying or Pulling a Key is the process of removing a chroma background (usually green) to create an isolated element that can then be composited.
FLBL (Front-Light-Back-Light) Stage:
This is a matte pass exposure that is used as an alternative to chroma keying. This process is generally preferred because it can provide a higher quality key without spill. This is an alternate exposure generating a black and white image that can be used to create an isolated element.
Second Exposure (Multiple Exposures):
These are additional photos taken of the same frame, but they usually have lighting adjustments (like an FLBL pass or an effect that you would like to have more control over in compositing like firelight flicker).
When shooting multiple exposures, this is your primary pass that will likely make up the majority of the final composite composition.
For more on chroma, keying, FLBL, exposures, and passes, check out this article and The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation book.
Hero (Hero Character / Hero Prop):
Hero characters are typically made up of the main cast/character lineup. These tend to require more thorough fabrication to meet their performance needs. Hero props are the more detailed pieces that interact with a character, are seen on screen for a long amount of time, or are otherwise important in some way.
QC (Quality Control):
This is the process of inspecting your final renders with a fine-tooth comb for any necessary corrections. This can be done by eye, but for larger productions renders are sent to QC specialists to be inspected and tested for approval.