9 step guide to film production at KLH.
On this page you will be able to follow your own production or simply get an idea of how we work. If you are a client and you feel lost always feel free to ask us by mail, phone or in person - but if you are in doubt or in need of explaining the workflow we are taking you through to a collegue then always refer back to this page. It will clarify and outline the major steps of film pipeline. While there are many small processes that happens inbetween these steps this will give you a clear vision on how we operate in a typical 3d production.
The first of our three iterations is pre production. This is the stage we build with as few resources as possible. This part of the film pipeline is where we try to tell our story with a core team of people. Normally a preproduction unit consists of the client, a director, a writer, an art director and a storyboard artist. In our Studio KLH many of our supervisors wear many different hats and are oftentimes fulfilling more than one role.
Story Treatment & Idea Development
A story comes from an idea, most ideas are build upon a clients wish to tell a certain target audience an opinion or sell them a product. The Story and development of it is the driving force of making animation. Without it we have no substance and no message to tell, but with a good story we can bind our crowd to the edge of the seat. We try to take the idea of the client and make a concept we can develop into something visual. First by writinga treatment - meaning a small script that explains the film in the order we want the story to progress, then we support this story with some art pieces that can explain the mood. This is an important step to start demystify the plotpoints and agree what the msessage and tone is for our target audience.
Most of the time idea development starts with a bunch of post-it notes that we sit togther with in KLH. The client tells us what they need and we disapear into a development phase. After an agreed amount of time (depending on budget) we deliver a story treatment to the clients and talk about our ideas, why we believe they will serve well and how we plan to tackle their challenge of attracting as much audience as possible. This is where we are good and a stage that can be iterated multiple times.
Concept & storyboarding
The story starts to take place and we begin to develop concepts and storyboards. As with many other projects we need to start pencil down a look - a mood if you will. Up until now we have written some text but the way we all interpret that text as images in our heads are very often if not always completely the same - actually it never is. That is why we start to draw out storyboards - giving us some camera angles to find compositions and key points of our story. How do we tell our tale the best.
As the storyboard develops we pick specific areas of the film that will give us an idea on how we see the final frame. We paint pictures that give us an idea of light and tone as well as color. These elements are as much a part of making the final film as the story and characters are. Concept drawings can explain situations better and give us an insight in our final look. These paintings can be done for both the environments, the characters the color scheme we need. All which supports our story. We will often times also create a color script that tells us how the colors develop throughout the film. Everything is there to support our story.
First Pass Edit
This part of the pipeline is crucial to our clients. We make a presentation of storyboard cut into an edit. This means that our clients can have a sense of early sound, colors and overall story plot points. It is a rough version that is a representation of the final product. What you are suppose to gain from a first pass edit is overall mood - are we going in the right direction? Have we aligned our expectations in the same direction as our clients? And are we agreeing to move forward.
Many things in a first pass edit will change over the duration of the production. Often the timing of the shots starts to get refined because we starts to see actual animation and what we before anticipated will get tested if its fits in timing. An example will be a character runs over the screen. Now we can only anticipate how long time that is going to take and the storyboard wont tell us - so only once the shot is actually animated in the production stage can we make a reassessment if our assumptions were correct.
The production stage is where we enter the world of 3d. We start to make our character from 2d to 3d. This is a big process and is often demanding a much bigger workforce. We need to make every single detail from a bush in the background to the hairs on a characters head, grass on the ground, water in the sea or birds in the sky that we up until now have only drawn. This stage is big and we commit ourselves to the looks of the characters once we see how they translate into 3d.
3D Modelling Environment & Characters
Once all environments and characters have a drawn look we all approve and like we begin the to enter the world of 3D. First we block out the big shapes and later we we finalise the character models. In modelling we try to find the appeal that we liked from the 2d prodution and translate it into a 3d universe. As the models start to come to life we begin to color them. The 3d Software does not know which color we want and so we tell it to no longer display our characters in grey but in the colors our concept is. The same process happens with the environement and we begin to see how our world is coming together.
Once our characters and environements are done modelled and textured (colored) we make a 'rig' this means we place a skeleton in the character so our animators can start to move around the skeleton and begin the process of animation. Much more on that in the next section but for now think about it like pinicio - we need to breath some life into them by making them in to puppets with handles.
Animation & simulation
Now the animators goes to work. They follow the direction from the storyboards that we created in the pre-production. This tells them where to put the character in the frame, what they are going to do or say and generally what actions they are going to do. They import the environemtns and the characters into a set just like characters on a real film goes to a movie set. They keep moving everything around till we have an appealing movement. This means both from a camera move perspective but also the character itself.
Short notes on simulation. Once an animated shot is done we can take their clothes and give them secondary movement. Now what does that mean? It means that our characters are in truth moving and their clothes with them but it is practically impossible to animate things like cloth and hair manually. This is where we apply simmulation. The computer calculates how the cloth should move once we have given it a guidance. This can be if we tell it to move like a t-shirt or like silk, is it a chainmail on a warrior? We add our settings and the computer simmulates its for us. Simulation needs to be planned out well and approached with care. Our years of expertise in this area can take the look of your animation from good to great.
Let there be light! Now we really need to look back at some of our ground pillars. By this I mean our concept. In the concept phace we created a few pictures that gave us an idea of what the light might be, the mood or the tonality of the environment. Imagine you live in a world with no light, not darkness but just no light. Everythign would be flat and you could only see the differnce between object because of their color, but you could not tell if they were round or had a rough surface, why? Because without light there would be no shadow. We determined with our concept if our scene takes place in the night, day, winter summer, scary, happy. The animation is playing out to make a role but we also call our light a part of the characteristics of our shot.
Now our light has been set and we have a shot with a lot of appeal and likeness to it. We have characters and animation, light and shadows! Once we are happy with the way this looks we print out a picture of this scene. Each 1 second in a film is 24 frames that plays really fast after each other. So if our film is 10 seconds we need to creat 10 x 24 pictures = 240 pictures. When you watch a movie it is actuallly just a long sequence of images that are stacked really close together.
Post production is the final steps that combines all the animation clips and shots we have spend months putting together. This step is crucial to finishing the film as we tie everything tightly together. Some of the common things are compositing and color correcting. This means that we make sure everything has a common flow from shot to shot, including timing, lighting, mood, sound.
Our computer might work for days throwing out our film in images, we have ceveral computers helping us making these images to speed up the process. We take all our of our images and put them together, we group them in to sequences that fit our storybard. Typically we have our storybard in our edit and replace the storboard with the final pictures as we go along, this way we can track our process and see which areas we need to update.
Every scene has been lit but it is time to add small details, typically we will highlight certain parts of the shot. If we want to direct the audience to to look at our character we will typically blur out the background, darken it and put some sharper light on our characters face. It is possible we also blur our other characters or we change the lighting a little bit if the shot needs to convey a different mood then we anticipated. This is where we add details that are icing on the cake, but a very nessecerary step to make our film function well.
In the production thruoghout the entire film we keep updating sound. Sound is something like the edit - we keep improving it but as everything else in making a film we try to block in something first. Then once we have timed our film out, found a mood and figured out whats happending when and where we can start to block in sound. Normally sound consists of three stages.
One stage is recording of voice actors. If the characters have dialogue we need to animate to this sound. This means that recording sound for dialogue actually has to happen before we animate. Imagine you see a movie where they dub dialogue over the film after the animation is done it looks like the mouth shapes are not fitting to the character any more
Second kind of sound is the music. Music can be assigned to characters or environmetn. An example could be a happy character walks down a road, he's happy so a happy piano is playing, now he enters a dark scary room, so we assign a scratching violin to represent the room.
Third kind of sound is called foley sound. This kid of sound is basically everything else. Wind in the trees, a sword hitting a shield, knife on a chopping board. Basically another tool to interact with the audience on more then a visual level.
Final Edit - Film Delivery
Now we have all our pictures. They are treated and composited have the correct colors, the depth and the focus they need. Besides that we have all our sound, both dialogue, foley and background music - everything is supporting the story we began at the very beginning of the project. The last touches are being done to the edit, maybe we retime some shots but over all we add everything toghether.
Once everything is in the edit we look if we like the development of the colors, this stage is called color correcting. We look at all the shots as a whole, do we have the transitions as we want it. If the character is sad we want the colors to portray this. We have of course been lighting our shots in this direction but we can no chose if we want to empahsise these things or take them back a bit.
As soon as everything is in the right spot we deliver a final film to our clients.