When referring to the word 'animation' within this section, we are actually speaking of all the potential variables in and around this industry including, but not limited to, still renderings, 3D modeling, Virtual Reality, the Internet, and graphics presentation as a whole.
Many companies are now starting to look at animation like they did when computers first started appearing on the market. They realize it can and will be beneficial for them to incorporate animation into their setup in one way or another. Even companies that may not have an apparent need for animation may come to realize that at the very least it can assist in the enhancement of their marketing materials.
There are numerous markets that can benefit from this technology. The purpose of animation for individual companies will become much clearer as time goes by. Some markets are starting to employ this technology as others are still unaware of its benefits. Many companies will not see a purpose until it has been introduced in many of its competitors operations.
Animation: It could be perceived as the way the computer industry itself was established and accepted. Many knew that it was the wave of the future, but many companies did not join up until it was well underway. The key concepts are progression and competition. Change is the factor that has and will dominate most industries. Technology happens to be on the forefront of change. With technology come all the different aspects of that technology: Internet, animation, interactivity, virtual reality, artifical intelligence, and many others along the way and yet to come.
Physical models are excellent for portraying a certain perspective. They do however, for the most part, lie in the same economical range as computer animation. The problems with these models are that they are limited to cost-effective changes, they are not distributable (say to send one to a potential client), they are limited in motion (pending costly setups), and that they (unlike animation) are not likely to become interactive. Basically, what you see is what you get.
Photographs are a likely candidate for as-is (existing) scenarios, but lack the ability to show futuristic or conceptual arrangements. These are also static images and cannot show movement of any kind. Video lends its helping hand in this problem, however, as stated, they are fine for something that already exists, but lack certain other possibilities.
Both photographs and video also have their limitations such as aerial views, tight spots (such as crawl spaces), the time of day and/or season, and conceptuals. Don't get this wrong, these are excellent and extremely cost-effective for portraying aspects that need to be displayed this way. Not to mention, photography and video will (and should) be used in animations themselves.
3D Computer Models
There will not always be a need to 'go all the way' as far as the creation of renderings and animations. Models created and displayed (or printed) as wireframe have a few very useful purposes themselves. For construction, they can be seen and changed relatively quickly to show the design process. For those interested more in hand renderings, they can be used to set up the initial layout of the design to save the renderer time in the preliminary setup stages. These are only a couple reasons for the use of wireframe models created on the computer. Either way you look at it, they are very beneficial in the saving of time and money.
These can be derived from the previously mentioned wireframe models. These models are brought into a 3D rendering package and given materials, lighting, perspective, and possibly motion (if desired). These renderings can show how the project will basically look when finished, or a little more time can be put into the project to give it more of a 'realistic' effect. Still renderings are great for presentation and marketing purposes.
The next largest factor other than the project itself, would be advertising what you've accomplished. Utilizing your rendering or animation in marketing presentations can surely increase the prestige of your material, in addition to making it stand out when clients are comparing your information to other competitor's materials.
Using renderings and animations can be utilized in a few unique methods compared with traditional advertising. Renderings can be converted and printed in brochures and other such printed materials. Renderings and animations can both be utilized in computerized presentations. If your firm gives any type of open house, these can be presented during the entire session. Setting up presentations for display at conventions or seminars are some other uses. In addition, a presentation television or laptop computer can be used for presenting your work at the client's location.
Animations and quality renderings are selected by the animation firm for their own marketing and presentation purposes, just as the company that has them completed does. These graphics are, more times than not, copyrighted by the animation firm, however, usually both parties consent to marketing the material individually. One of the benefits the animation firm has by marketing the graphics it has done for its clients, is the relation from the material with the firm it was done for. In displaying the company's name with the graphic, this also gives the company it was done for exposure.
For example, if Animation Design Group created an animation for ABC Photography, Animation Design Group would want to show ABC Photography as the firm they created it for so as to associate the animation being done for an established company. At the same time, ABC Photography is also being given exposure from Animation Design Group's marketing procedures. In retrospect, the same would also happen for Animation Design Group when ABC Photography markets their material. In fact, both companies would receive additional advertising in areas they would not normally be portrayed in.
There are very few steps in getting started with your first animation. Few as they may be, these steps can indeed be time consuming. It is strongly advised to do your homework when first entering this market. Many companies have gotten a bad taste due to expectations that were not and could not be met. At the same time, many other aspects should be taken into consideration before choosing where and how the project will get off the ground. These are explained below in "What To Expect". The following segments also assume that you have an animation project in mind (as opposed to 3D models, still renderings, etc.).
What to Expect
The animation industry is still relatively young, and its expertise is sporadic. Many animation firms and independent consultants specialize their animations in one or two different markets. You will find that some firms only do broadcast or movies, games, litigation, architectural, medical, special effects, or the Internet itself. With this in mind, you will want to find either a firm that does not limit the tpyes of projects they will handle, or one that specializes in your particualr field.
There are limitations when it comes to an animation project. Two of the biggest however are surprisingly in the hands of the client (or their client) and not the animation firm. These include cost and time constraints. These two issues can make it nearly, if not absolutely, impossible to complete a specifically requested project. Animations are definitely not done with the 'touch of a button'. The animation project may have to be refined in order for the constraints to be met. This is not uncommon for any type of project.
There are other constraints as well. An example would be finding a firm that cannot place models into existing photographs, or overlay a model into a moving video file. Some companies cannot handle certain special effects, or others may not be able to build scaled architectural models within the scope of the budget.
Any company can contract out the work they cannot handle, thus, there is actually nothing that cannot be done: It simply comes back to the consideration of time and cost.
Before actually going out and finding the firm or consultant that's going to help get your project off the ground, there are a couple things that can be done that will facilitate the project and also assist you in locating the right company.
Getting acquainted with the project as a whole. This step has more than likely already been done. That is why you've come to the conclusion that it would be best to present it with an animation.
The Script, Storyboard and Visual Aids
After surveying the project, it is a tremendous help to both parties if you come up with a basic scenario or story that explains the general process you would like to have animated. Keep in mind that animation is just like a movie in the theater: It tells a story. Getting the story straight before contacting companies to potentially complete it will help in getting time and cost estimates. This storyline can be fairly basic. Its purpose is to familiarize the animation company with the project to better consider the tasks involved.
Accompanying the script, if at all possible, should be some type of visual aid. These items can greatly enhance the course of the project for the animator. Photographs, plans, models, sketches, or any other type of visual aid will also help in narrowing down the estimate.
Sketches, which when put together will form a storyboard, are in particular an invaluable aid to the animator because, no matter how poor an artist you believe yourself to be, it will get points across to the animator a lot better than words could ever get across. Sketches will also diffuse numerous confusion points that may not be caught until it may be otherwise too late. Consider sketches as important a part of material as the animation company would consider payment for the project.
Depending on the project in mind, estimates given can be based using a couple different methods. Many animation firms that complete projects for film or broadcast (T.V.) usually base their estimates or quotes on the amount of time the finished animation will run. Other animations such as litigation and architectural usually base their costs on the time it takes to complete the project.
Either way you're given estimates, there are other considerations. It is highly recommended to request a video or CD demo of samples from the firms you will be getting estimates from. Ask for explanations of these samples in addition to costs and time frames. This will help establish at least what universe their prices may be in. Many animator techniques will vary with the type of work they are used to doing. There are also some questions to keep in mind. Will the quality of your animation be the same as those seen in the samples? Will costs ever go higher than the given estimates? Do they include rendering time, meetings, previews? Can you be certain that the project will be finished in the time allotted? Will the script be shown as a whole, or will the animation be cut into segments?
Even after careful scrutiny of animation firms, there is still the chance of not getting what you were hoping for at the end. With the decline of pricing in the hardware and software fields, there are many independent consultants doing this type of work. Most are very talented in their own aspects, however, those talents may not have been what you were looking for. As previously mentioned, this is a very young industry. We are all still growing and learning. You do however get what you pay for.
It should be known what will happen if the project is put on hold for any amount of time. Chances are the animation company will want to get paid for the work they put into the project up to that point in case the project gets terminated before that time is up. Policies should cover what happens in case of Stop Orders, Change Orders, Change in Scope of Work, Pricing Policies, etc. These should be gone over at the time the estimates are being given to avoid any confusion later on.
The selection of the animation company you would like to do your animation has been established. Depending on the size of the project, signed contracts may or may not be an issue. Due to the aforementioned growth of the industry, It is strongly recommended that contracts be gone over and signed on any size of a project before any of the work has begun. This is the last step (pending retainers) before the actual work begins. Your project can now get underway.
Estimates given, policies discussed, and contracts signed, it is now time to get together with the persons who will see this project through to the end. This will include you, an animation representative (if not the animator themself), and should include anyone else having firsthand input into the project. This will establish a formalized script, storyline, and get the materials needed into the hands of the animator. The animator (or representative) should have enough information, reference materials and contact information to inform you of what will happen from there. They should also let you know when, how often and in what manner you will be kept up to date on the project status. Once the meeting has adjourned, the animator should keep in touch with those who have the most input to answer questions that may arise during the course of the project.
The animation has been completed and you should now have a good feel for what to look for in your next animation. Hopefully, everything went well, and you now have a reliable animation contact. If not, in addition to the list of potential companies you had before, you should check your sources to see if new animation companies have been established.
The above reference is an overall outline of beginning the animation process. The following segment gives a more detailed explanation of what occurs once the project is underway (i.e., the use of animation has been approved). There are situations and instances that may vary, but for the most part, the animation process is quite straightforward.
The initial meeting should be setup leaving enough time to complete the discussion of the animation with room for changes and such. The animator will likely have input and questions that are unique to those requesting the animation.
This is usually a very good time to discuss completion time. This could be either a hard deadline, an approximate completion time, or a preferred with a no later than completion time. This is a very important factor in the determination of actually completing the project.
The initial meeting may not be the only meeting that needs to be held. Communication between the animator and the client should be of utmost importance. The key persons involved will be speaking throughout the entirety of the project. There are various methods of keeping in touch to progress the animation. Other than one on one meetings, some additional methods are telephone, fax machines, e-mail, and internet/on-line services. In addition, delivery services may be used if necessary to ensure proper delivery while maintaining both parties time constraints on other projects.
This is also a very important factor. The animation company must know what format this project's intended medium is to be. In other words, how will the project be displayed when complete? These can be of numerous types including VHS, Computer, Laser Disc, and CD Rom, to name a few. If it will be used on a computer, it should be known which platform it will be used in. There are quite a few factors involved in displaying animations on a computer: The first of which would be whether it will be PC or Macintosh. Will it be on desktop or laptop? If on a PC, which operating system will be used? These are very important questions that should be answered at the initial meeting.
Length of Animation
If there is a specific length of time that is required (as in Broadcast animations), the animator will need to know this information so as to plan out the number of frames. This also assists if any video editing is to be done along with the project.
Finalize Script and/or Storyboard Pictures
The animator will have many notes to assist in the efforts of completing the project. The most prominent of materials, those that will be beside the animator throughout the project, are the storyboard and the script.
Approach with caution. Too much text can be overwhelming in an animation. Text is best integrated into a still shot during the animation. The animation plays, stops at a certain point, text fades onto the screen, stays for a moment or two, fades out, and the animation continues on. This is even better portrayed when the animation is being played back off a VCR or laserdisc due to the fact that you can pause the output.
KISS. Not only can too much text overwhelm the animator, it can also overwhelm the audience. The animation is intended to tell a story, and cannot do so as effectively if there is to be text everywhere. In addition, moving text with a moving camera is also not a good idea: You could get either dizzy or dyslexic (flying logos and such have their own rules of thumb). However you prefer to have your text, keep in mind this is an additional time frame for the animator to take into consideration. The more you know at the outset, the better the animator will be able to estimate the cost.
Fonts / Typefaces
Before text can be input into the animation, it is best if a typeface has been thought of. Other considerations would be size, color, location, and moving paths, if any. If this is going to be up to the animator's judgement, do not be too critical when they are finished. Trust the animator, or set the guidelines. Artistic freedom is something all animators enjoy, but needs to be kept within the bounds of the project.
Attain All Necessary Materials and Receiving Retainer
If the meeting is a success, and the animator is to start on the project, they should leave the office with all the materials they can get their hands on. Additional materials will be requested and sought after while the animation is in progress. Materials, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, the animator should have, are:
Review of Animation Segments
There are many methods to showing the client the work in progress. Almost all should be obvious to anyone considering animation work in the 1990's. The following list would be considered to be the most facilitative.
If the meeting is a success, and the animator is to be retained for services, they may have a standard contract for you to sign. Usually, a few items a contract would consist of would be the retaining of copyright, itemization breakdown, payments, and penalties (if not COD). After all parties are in agreement, a retainer (if requested) will be given to the animator which will enable them to begin work as discussed.
Throughout the meeting, the animator should be able to point out things that they can see at that time, that others probably wouldn't have considered otherwise.
That's it! The animator should have what they need, you have a good idea of what you'll be getting, and all parties now have partaken a work in progress.