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Milestones in 2D Character animation: A Complete Guide

The animation industry is a colossal world which rests on skills that are alike in basic structure yet consists of diverse ways to achieve the same dream. The dream of turning fantasy into reality! Speaking of which in our last article A Journey through Traditional Animation we touched upon a few milestones we meet along this amazing journey. Well, let’s take the ride to the finish in this one.

So, here are a few more landmarks 2D animation studio close in to reach the finish line.

Layout or Mapping

After the completion of the designing of the storyboard, layout is basically the listing of different shots to be presented in the scenes. The animation team here decides on the camera angles, shading of the scene, lighting etc. This helps in conceptualizing poses of the characters in the scene and each pose is visualized in a drawing. The storyboard and these drawings are then incorporated with the audio and by the end of it an animatic is formed.

Animation the story begins

This is the point where the real action begins. It kick starts with by drawing sequences of animation on sheets of transparent paper one picture or frame at a time using colored pencils. The lead animator draws the major drawings in a scene using the character layout as reference. Not the entire animation but his job is to draw the major portions of the action.

Timing here plays an important role in the lives of animators as each frame must exactly coincide with the soundtrack being played the time when the frame appears on the screen. Usually, a pencil test is carried out by the captain of the ship, which is like a prep version of the final animation. These pencil drawings are captured in photos, scanned and synced with the music track. The remaining scenes and detailing is done by a bunch of assistant animators.

Once the key animation is finalized, the clean-up department takes a lead. This department is in charge of taking the drawings on new sheets and take care of all the details present on the original model sheets to make it look like a single person animated the entire film. Inbetweeners will fill in frames missing in-between drawings by other animators. This process is called tweening.

After done with the cleaning up process, all the drawings are photographed on an animation camera normally on black and white film stock. Video cameras and computer software usually carry out pencil tests these days.

While the whole animation is being done, background artists paint the backgrounds on to be portrayed in the scene. Generally, acrylic paint and gouache is used for the purpose. Careful detailing is required as the backgrounds have to be in harmony with the tone of designed characters.

2D character animation is no doubt a time-consuming artform. But the result of hardwork and intricate detailing in each stage never fails to really bring dreams to life. And we can truly say that yes, in the world of animation fantasy does merge with reality.