How to Create an Animated Short Film

Author: Femma Sijtsma

Award-winning 2D animator and 3D modeler

I will go over how I put together animated short films, from story creation to composition. I will be outlining the steps and my personal experiences creating an animation short, called Needles and Thread. For the beginners, you should read and study more about the animation techniques and tools before you starting up. It is best to join a short term animation course and learn the basics and concepts of animation, if possiblle. There are a couple of tutorials are available online, so that you can check out at learn. The tools I used are Adobe photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Adobe Audition, Adobe Flash and Captivate

Step 1: Figure Out What Story You Want to Tell

First you need a story. A good story.My story is based on the love my grandparents had for each other. After the passing of my grandmother, my grandfather died not long after due to a broken heart.I wanted to tell a story close to my heart and dedicate my short to my grandparents.Once you figure out what you want to tell or show you can start to storyboard it.You can write a script as well, if you prefer a more definitive plan. But, if your story is still developing, start drawing and let your creativity dictate the direction of the film.

Step 2: Create the Characters

A good place to start is designing your characters.I developed my characters in a 3/4 rotation. This just means that your characters aren't directly facing the viewer; they're angled 3/4ths to the left or right.If you like, you can draw your characters from several view points (such as facing towards the viewer and away from the viewer so that they can see the details).

Step 3: Create Your Storyboard

A storyboard does not need to be super realistic, but I do recommend that you draw all the key poses. It will make things a lot easier down the road. Once you finish all the panels make sure to label them well for good organization.After you are happy with the result you can scan them so that you can have them in digital format. When you finish scanning in your panels, you can move them into an editing program. I used Premiere Pro because it worked well with After Effects and Photoshop. It will be a bit of work to separate all the panels and save them all as layers in your favorite graphics or video editor. The amount of work will depend on how many panels you drew.

Step 4: Create the Animatics

At this step, you're at the fun part of making animatics.What are animatics? They are a simple mock-up of how the film will roughly look. This is basically layering the storyboard frames on top of each other. It's still a rough sketch but the viewer will start to get a better understand of what the animation will look like. In our case, it could just be a video of our panels in sequence to give us an idea of how the story flows. You can start timing how the elements work together as they move.

Step 5: Creating the Background Layout

Now that we have a solid story and the animatics look good, we can start the video production. We can start with the background layout. You can get started drawing them in the right field size based off of your field-guides. Since you know what your backgrounds look like already, be sure you only draw what will be in the shot. For example, you don't need to draw an entire room when you will only be using a piece of a table. If you are re-using the background later in a different field size, draw a bigger-sized background so you can use it for both without losing any pixels.

Tip: If you decided on a close-up at the beginning, and later you change your mind to a mid-shot, you need to move the camera to get the shot you want. This is when cam keys come in handy. Cam keys show the field size you will use for each scene.