The animation process can be complicated, but CelAction2D makes it easy by integrating well with other software and yet being the cornerstone that your production pipeline can rely on.
No drawing is done is CelAction2D itself - artwork is created by drawing or scanning images into applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash or Freehand, in order to produce vector or bitmap-based files in either .AI, .SVG or .PSD format. Images can also be brought in from TGA/PNG stills or MOV/AVI sequences.
This is where the ink and paint stage happens, but it only has to be done once for each individual piece of artwork - it never has to be done again, no matter how many times the artwork is re-used in the animation.
The artwork stays in its original format so that it can be changed and re-imported into CelAction2D when necessary.
Drawings of each shot are produced as a storyboard and then timed out correctly with sound in an editing package to create an animatic. This becomes the blueprint for the production, enforcing the length and timing for each scene. The storyboard panels or clips from the animatic can be loaded into CelAction2D for reference purposes.
Prior to commencing animation, a sound file is taken from the animatic that is already cut to the length of the Scene. This is saved as a .WAV file.
In CelAction2D, the artwork is loaded in and the various drawings are either connected together to make a skeleton or used as replacements to be swapped in and out when necessary. An example of such a replacement would be for mouth drawings.
Actors can be automated to make set-ups easier - there is no limit to how complex an Actor can be, and the most important thing is to make it as easy as possible for the animator to access all the special tricks an Actor can perform.
CelAction2D Actors include Backgrounds, Overlays, Characters and Props - they can all be automated and animated.
This is the stage where all the Actors (including Backgrounds, Overlays and Props) are brought in to a single file for the animator to work on. The starting Actor positions are set up, along with basic camera moves. The sound file is also loaded in at this point, so that the "acting" can be animated according to the dialogue. The scene breakdown stage is largely unnecessary for CelAction2D productions, because it is so easy for the animator to time out the action themselves, ready for the director to approve. Panels from the storyboard or clips from the animatic can optionally be brought in at this point for reference.
It's from this point that rendering can begin to provide image sequences that can be dropped into the animatic to make a cutting copy - the first result is a full colour animatic, using all the actual artwork. Mistakes and areas that could be improved can be spotted at even this early stage, so that the issues can be addressed before too much work is wasted.
At this point, if live action or other type of footage that the animator needs to use as reference is required, it is linked to the Scene so that animation, effects and camera moves can be matched perfectly.
With the Scene all set up and the dialogue in place, the animator can then manipulate the Actors to create the animation.
Animation can be performed straight-ahead, pose-to-pose or keyframed with computer inbetweening - whichever method the animator needs for a particular Scene.
The animation itself can be reused between similar Actors, so quite soon a library of movement will be accessible to all animators on the production, that can be just dropped in and adjusted when appropriate.
Should an animator require extra artwork or require an Actor's set-up to be changed to make a particular Scene work better, the Actor can be updated easily by the design department and then placed back in the Scene.
Lip-sync is normally done last - in many cases this leads to a better acting performance from the animator because they have had to rely on body movement to "sell" the performance, and not the mouth drawings. Our clients have found that it is quicker for their animators to lip-sync from scratch than it is to use a track-reading service or computer-automated lip-sync system, because all the other methods still require tweaking to get them just right - in CelAction2D, animators can get it right first time, meaning that lip-syncing just takes a few minutes per Scene for perfect results.
At every point during the animation process, previews can be made of the animation for director approval, and also renders can be made to go into the cutting copy, so that every day the cutting copy is updated with the latest shots - this means that the director can have more control over the production, fixing story and timing problems before the final edit stage.
Multiple cameras can be set up within a Scene, and even Multiplane cameras can be used. Camera moves can be computer inbetweened for the smoothest possible movement. Imported video can be locked to follow the camera, and camera movements can be copied to or from items in the Scene.
Blurring, masking, colour changes and many more effects can be placed on any or all of the Actors and can be animated over frames.
If the timing of the effect doesn't work with the animation, the animation can be changed easily, or vice versa, because it is the animator who is setting up the effects.
"Thanks, however, to a piece of desktop wizardry called CelAction2D, the impossible has become reality..."
If the Scene is destined for stereoscopic 3-D output, the Convergence or Off-Axis settings have to be adjusted to place the convergence point in the correct place for the action, considering the screen size and distance from screen that the viewer will be utilising.
Once the animation is finished and approved, a final render can be done either on-demand or as part of a batch process that runs overnight. CelAction2D renders are so fast that a separate Render Farm is not necessary, but if you do wish to use one, CelAction2D has a distributed network renderer built in, and can also integrate with third-party network render systems.
Rendering can be done to web, TV or film resolution (and for TV CelAction2D will automatically put on an interlace flicker reduction effect).
With the files produced by the rendering process, the final production can be assembled and have the finished soundtrack added. Because the cutting copy has been updated during the animation process, the final edit should be a formality.
CelAction2D outputs files at all standard resolutions, as TGAs, PNGs, AVIs or MOVs and even SWFs, ready for film, HDTV, PAL, NTSC, web or mobile phone delivery.