What Happens When You Hire an Animator

Although others may follow a different path, the typical steps taken after hiring an animator is as follows:

1. Create a VERY detailed storyboard. The storyboard is basically making a cartoon that describes what the scene will look like, lighting, camera angle, camera zoom, and duration every single moment of the imagined animation from start to finish. For example,

"At 0 seconds, start out showing the front of a woman's face filling the screen. The background is a light grey. Lighting is diffuse and even. Over the next 5 seconds, slowly zoom into the woman's face such that the nose fills 75% of the screen. Once zoomed in, over the next 3 seconds, turn the camera angle 30 degrees to the left such that the side of the nose is centered."

The storyboard should include reference illustrations and videos to try and explain to illustrator what you envision. Reference images are typically obtained from Google Images, YouTube, and textbooks.

Cut out anything that is not necessary since every additional second/minute adds significantly to the cost.

2. Based on the storyboard, decide which type of animation style would work best at conveying the information you have. Although 3D animation for everything would be great if you have an unlimited budget, it is not always technically necessary. For example, a 2D animation can be utilized if 3D really will not add to the information portrayed. However, in other instances, 3D animation is extremely important as 2D may not convey all of the information required.

Once the storyboard has been completed, work can begin, but here's a few things to keep in mind to prevent surprise expenses and to get your animation completed as quickly as possible.

• ALWAYS respond promptly to questions. The animator can not continue working on the animation without constant feedback and approval to go on to the next step in the storyboard. If it takes 24 hours for you to respond, the animator will have to wait 24 hours before continuing to work on your animation. This wastes their time.

• Have the animator create still shots of storyboard scenes first for your approval before they animate anything.

• When animation finally created, keep the amount of detail to a minimum initially. Make sure that the camera angles, sequence of events, zoom, etc are all looking good first. Once draft animation approved, final animation with full rendering of textures and details can be produced as the last step. Why? Because it takes time for a computer to create the movie with full detail whereas "draft" animations can be produced quickly.

• Try to avoid requesting changes AFTER you have already approved something. The biggest faux pas is to request a change after you have already approved of an animation sequence. Why? Because even a small insignificant change may require the animator HOURS of work to implement. To use an analogy, it's like a homeowner asking a builder to make the basement slightly bigger after the first and second floors have already been built. Or deciding to change the color of a yarn pattern after the sweater has already been knit.

If you request changes after initially approving something, you may be charged extra for additional work that needs to be redone. Most animators will forgive one or two such changes, but WILL charge extra if you keep making changes beyond that.

Typically, the animator is paid in thirds: 1/3 of the project cost immediately or after stills approved; 1/3 after first animation draft; and 1/3 after project completion.

FINALLY...

Once an animator has created something for you... keep in mind that additional animations based on the same model can be made for much less.

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