Can you guide us through the animation process stage by stage?
The way that we work is generally once we've got the script and we're happy with it I'll start to work on the storyboard. Sometimes I work with other people, sometimes I do a very rough storyboard in advance and then get people to clean that up for me, and this is pretty much what happened o this one. I went into it and did a very scribbly, sketchy storyboard and I got other people to make it look nice.
Once we've got that what we do next is we record with the actors and actually get all the voices and we shoot the storyboard and I do a few extra panels in order to portray the movement that there's going to be. Then we shoot the storyboard so that we can set it against the track and we can see it operating as pictures and sound and get a general feeling of the length of the project and where I've got dialogue or conversation it's relatively easy to decide how long it's going to be. Where I've got somebody who says something and then performs an action and then goes on to say something else then I've got to guess and judge exactly how long that will take and that's where the sense of timing comes in and I've got to get a feel for how long the shot should be and how long the action's going to take etc. So what we get eventually is what we call an "animatic" which is the proper length of the film but it's just got dialogue on it so we can watch that through and we can get a sense of the overall film.
Once we've done that we know that that's the length of our shots so we have to break down the whole film into individual shots and all the soundtrack is broken down so that it's all frame-by-frame on what we call "bar charts". When the animators come to do their animation, they use these bar charts to see exactly what vowels or phonemes are on which frame so they can do the lip-synch, they can get the sense of the action and do the timing from that. At that point we then take each shot as we've prepared it and we do "layouts" for it which means we draw a rough pencilled version of the action which obviously doesn't have the whole thing in but it just gives an indication to the animator off where the character comes from, where he goes to, vaguely what he does and sizes that within the shot. Those then go to the animators and they do a rough version of the animation which I get back, I take a look at and I'll make any comments about it.
Once the animators have got the bar charts and the layouts they start on the "key animation" which is basically the very rough version of each shot and I get the tests of that for approval and once I've approved that, I may make changes, but once it's approved it goes on to the assistants who clean up the rough "keys", and then they "in-between" the animation itself. The keys are generally every 8 frames - that's a rough rule of thumb - although sometimes they're broken down more if there's more action I a scene or if it's very complex, then the key animator will actually break it down even further. Sometimes they put little rough in-betweens in to indicate to the assistant what needs to happen.
Then once it's approved the assistant will take it and clean up and put onto the character and into the style all of the drawings then someone will actually do the in-between drawings i.e. the drawings in between each key. Once that's been approved that goes off to "Animo" i.e. we scan all the drawings into the computer and they're painted on the computer and then once the paints have been approved that will be composited with the background.
On this film we've got an extra stage which is a render level. In drawn animation terms this is a level of pencil shading which goes on top of the character and we can colourise it or change it, and what it does is it actually gives the character a lot more complexity and it's intended to marry the character a lot better with the background.
So all those levels and layers come together in the "Animo" system and they're put together with the background and we put blurs on things, we change the opacity so you can see through things, you've got a whole range of effects which will go on there and once the computer graphics come in they will go together at that point.