Friday, 13 February 2015

The 3D Pipeline Part 1: Pre-production and 3D Modelling

By James Ball

In this post, I’m going to give a quick overview into the Pre-production stage of 3D animation, and the first half of the Production stage of 3D animation. The topics I’ll be discussing are idea, story, storyboarding, animatic, design, layout, R&D and last but not least . . . 3D Modelling. The example I will work from is the 2003 Pixar film Finding Nemo. 


Idea – Getting an idea can sometimes be a little tricky; And when we do eventually get one into our heads it is generally when we are in the shower or siting on a toilet. Be sure to always carry something to write on because remember that your brain . . . is a very unreliable friend. While we’re on the topic of ideas, the idea for Finding Nemo (FN) started back in the year 1997.

Story – Now that you have come up with your fantastic Idea you now have to flesh out and develop a story that will make a panel of executive at your place of work very happy with you that they give you the all clear and let you proceed in creating your masterpiece of a story. In the case of FN story that is told is the classic “Hero’s Journey” where the dad is doing all he can to save his one last child from a violent death by shacking.

Storyboard – It is at this point in Pre-production that you really get to see an early version of the films shots and sequences come into reality and also to change things up that don’t seem to be working. This is also a very necessary step in making the animation process down the track just that much easier. Below is an example of one of the story boards that was used in the creation of the Angler Fish sequence in the film.


Animatic – The animatic is the storyboard put into movie form with Sound FX and dialogue from the script added in over the top. At this stage the dialogue doesn’t necessarily have to be of the final voice actors and can be spoken by just the people available in the studio at the time of recording. Below is an Animatic recreation of the Angler Fish sequence recreated by user eMokid 64 on YouTube.


Design – It is in this stage of pre-production when the final designs of and art work for the film can be produced to finalise character design and environment design. Below are examples of both from the film.



Layout – defines the camera,  starting position, framing (which objects are seen), movement
It also the defines basic object positions or the starting point for that section of animation the storyboarding from before is used as reference. 

R&D – Or Research and Development, is a process where new software and hard ware are developed and created in order to save a studio time and money. For the film, they had to develop a whole new fluid dynamics system along with a particle system to create the correct effect of water.  

Modelling – When modelling remember to always be looking back and always checking the character turn around that you get from the art department. Remember when making the models, they have to look good to please the eye, be functional to fit in the pipeline and work when deformed for animation.


Untill next time, this is James Ball signing out.


projects in digital art - 2007 fabio pellacini - the 3D production pipeline -

10 Fun Facts about Finding Nemo - By Marc Deleon Posted on January 29th, 2015 -,manual

Find Nemo Animatic recreation - eMokid 64 -

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