20 Steps to Make a 3D Animation Movie

Posted in 3D Animation on Jan 16, 2018

Make a 3D Animation Movie

The 3d animation production pipeline is the path by which an animated movie goes from a creator’s brain to the screen for the world to see. Understanding the process of all the elements is the first step to creating the vision. Before starting the animation movie (3D Animation Film making), first, you need to have a plan that includes the scope of the project, the budget and the team you need to help your production to life. Understand the animation workflow is essential to successfully manage your production so that is can get made promptly and can be completed on budget. We have broken down the 3d animation production process into the steps that identify each phase so that you can create a better plan for the smoother experience for everyone involved.

20 Steps to Make a 3D Animation Movie


1. Story

It is the essence of the piece you are going to create. It is the great movie idea you have developed. It is the “vision” of the film. At the stage, the creators need to write and develop the script. This is the reference point for all the other elements involved in the production process.

2. Storyboarding

This is where the script is broken down into scenes and drawn into panels much like a graphic novel. The storyboard allows the director to envision the movie so he/she can decide what works and won’t work in the movie and make appropriate creative decisions with the other artists involved in this stage of the production. Click on Link: How to Create a Storyboard Using After Effects

3. Editorial

Once the storyboard is finalized, they are sent to the editorial person who will then create an animatic out of the boards. Working closely with the create an animatic out of the boards. Editorial will slow the various beats of a story with the rough timing and dialogue where necessary. The reel that the editorial creates includes the storyboard images, scratch voices and temporary music and sound effects. It becomes the foundation of the movie. Once the script and animation are complete, the voice talent records the final dialogue for the movie. Editorial swaps out the scratch dialogue with the real dialogue.

4. Visual/Look Development

Visual development and the concept artists create the film look like including fully designing elements such as character, props, color pallets and backgrounds. It gives the director and team a clear path forward as they go into production, so they know what the look is that they are shooting for.

5. Pre-Visualization

Pre-Visualization is where artist work with the script and storyboards to create the film in a 3-dimensional environment on the computer. It is the gateway to animation production and if the time is put in so that the characters and environment are to scale this work can often be used to go directly into animation.


6. Modeling

Modelers transform the 2D concept art into the 3d models. They sculpt the characters, sets and props in 3D and refine them until the director is satisfied.

7. Surfacing

Surfacing artists create colors, textures and shader for characters, props and sets. They work to ensure the textures match the approved concept art and designs created by the art department; i.e. visual development.

8. Rigging

Riggers build and attach 3D skeletons to the characters. This skeleton becomes the “puppet” that the animators use to bring the characters to life. Riggers create and place the controls that move the joints of the “puppet” and allow the animators to move the face and body so that the character can act and emote per the needs of the story.

9. Layout / Set dressing / Animation Preparation

Animation Preparation is the artists who place the artwork from the other departments into the 3-dimensional environment. They also do set dressing, and stereo composition, if necessary.

10. Character Animation

Character animators bring the characters to life. 3D animators use a computer to pose the character using the rig that was created by the rigging department. Character Animators are the actors in the animation. Their job is to figure out how to tell the story through movements and expressions. The character animators often act out scenes via video to use as the reference for their animation.

11. Crowds

The crowd’s department is responsible for the “extras” in large crowd scenes in the movie. They work to create realistic looking actions for the crowd characters in the movie.

12. Character Effects

Character effects artists are responsible for everything that is moving on a character including clothing, hair, or feathers. They also create any interactions of the character with the objects. For example, when a character sits on a couch, they are the artists who make the couch cushions bulge.

13. FX Artists

FX artists are responsible for all the little details you take for granted in live productions such as what happens when there is an explosion or an action that leaves traces such as footprints. FX artists must ensure that these details provide realism and support to the story.

14. Technical Director

Technical directors are responsible for problem-solving and troubleshooting any issues that occur in the production pipeline.

15. Matte Painting

The matte painting department creates everything outside the set including mountains, skies, and cityscapes. They use color keys. They create paintings that are the images the slide into the background of the animation. Create the look of the world that lives inside the animation.

16. Lighting

Lighting is a key element that takes the 3D elements and 2D visual development work to create the look and tone. There is a great deal of technical direction that happens at this stage.


17. Compositing

Composite is where additional elements are brought together with final rendered frames from lighting such as atmospheric elements. The depth of field and color tweaking happen at this stage. This is where the final look of a film comes together. A good compositor can make a good shot look outstanding.

18. Music and Sound Design

Final edit must be locked before these elements are added. Changing things by a few frames will throw sound design and the score off as they work to time things to the frame. That is why this is typically left to the final stage of production.

19. Editor

Whenever new animation, lighting or compositing comes in for review, this is pulled into the edit by editorial. They work to keep the production in sync with the latest work so that it is as current as possible. First, the film is in editorial via boards and previs. The animation, lighting and comp replace those elements as they come in.

20. Color Grading

Color grading is often the last stage of a production’s look. Although lighters and compositors work to have consistency, they are often only working on a small part of the film. The color graders job is to ensure the picture is consistent throughout each sequence, so there are no jarring changes in the light or look.

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