Workflow for Animate

I’m starting up a new set of tutorials about using Storyboard and Animate together. I was inspired by the new video tutorials on Toon Boom’s site. They’re good to show the details, so I’d like to go over some of the higher level stuff and put it all into some sort of context.

I’m using both Storyboard and Animate and I’ll use Final Cut Express and Logic Studio for the post processing. I know that other people use After Effects, but I’m pretty far from that level at the moment.

The first tutorial is an overview of the workflow. It’s based off the traditional “Disney” workflow, but since the tutorials are going to be specific to Toon Boom, I am hoping to have more experienced people look it over and make suggestions on anything specific to Animate that I should add in?

I posted a similar question in the storyboard forum asking about Storyboard. Apologies if this seems like cross-posting.


Before jumping into the details of animating with Toon Boom Storyboard and Animate Pro, let’s discuss the workflow from idea to finished movie. It’s essential to understand the workflow because animation is a creative process. Adhering to a well-structured process will minimize the amount of time, money and energy wasted on rework.

Some people will refer to the process as the “pipeline.” The analogy is that activity, like oil flowing through a pipe, moves in a single direction. We prefer the term “workflow” because in reality, the activities branch and sometimes circle back.

Here are the major steps in the workflow that we will use in these lessons:

character design
sound effects
post processing
finished product

The idea is our starting point. It can be as simple as a school assignment (“Prof said to animate a walk cycle”) or as complicated as a full-blown movie.

Once the idea is in place, work begins on the screenplay. The screenplay (or script) describes the location of each scene, which is needed for drawing backgrounds, as well as the action and dialogue.

After the script has been accepted, work begins recording the dialogue. The dialogue will be used by the storyboard team to create the animatics and by the shot editors to time the action. Of course, it will also be added to the final product.

The storyboard graphically lays out the script. The storyboard artist creates a sequence of panels that follow the script and provides a picture of the events as they will appear in the animation. To save money and time, the storyboards are usually very simple.

After the panels are completed, they are converted into animatics. An advantage of Toonboom’s Storyboard Pro is that it can integrate both dialogue and a sound track as well as camera moves so that the team can get a good sense of the timing and how well the story flows. If issues are found, the script or scene will be reworked. Rework at this point is significantly cheaper than later on.

Note that on some animation projects, the storyboard completely replaces the script. For our workflow, though, we keep them separate.

Our workflow has character design following storyboarding, but they are usually worked in parallel. The design team works out the look and style of the characters as well as the colors used. The team also sketches out the backgrounds to show the animators the style to be used. Final designs are rarely reworked into the storyboards. Instead they’re used by the animation team.

The animation team starts by building roughs (some teams call them line tests or pencil tests). The roughs are used to show the major elements of the scene/shot. They are built quickly so that the director can be sure that the animation team shares the same vision.

Ideally, the roughs replace shots in the animatics reel as they’re completed. This way there’s something for the production team to review at the end of the day. Additionally, they can be shared with clients or investors.

After each rough is approved, an animator begins working on the cleanup. This is the most labor intensive part for the animation team since it requires reworking the roughs to match the character design, adding color, lip-synching and camera moves to the shot. The animator works hard to deliver the shot that the audience will finally see.

As with the roughs, the cleaned up shots should be spliced into the animatics. As more of the shots are completed, the result approaches the finished product. At this point, rework due to script changes is extremely expensive.

The final step is post processing. This involves editing all of the shots together, integrating the sound track and audio, building scene transitions such as fade in or our for a more cinematic experience, and adding in special effects that are too difficult to do directly in Animate Pro.

Always good to have people sharing. I don’t use storyboard, but I am always happy to see people take the time to help others :smiley:

Thanks. There a lot of good tutorials on YouTube that I can point people to for details, so this may end up being a link farm. I know that it’s bad web mojo to send visitors to other web sites, but my goal is to help people learn a good process for animating. If someone else’s tutorial is better than I could do myself, it would be the right thing to do.