Production phase: Building the animated short film

Danan animation, articles, new, tutorials 2 Comments

In this post, I’ll detail what the production phase of an animated short film usually encompasses.

This phase can make you very exhausted and thus you will need great patience. Many people have given up at some stage during this phase due to the seemingly overwhelming nature of modelling, lighting, staging, etc. When you complete this stage, you generally feel a great sense of satisfaction as well as a sense of excitement that you’re film is nearly ready to see the light of day. It’s a very rewarding feeling when you finally get there! This is one of the reasons why I keep making animated films!

Here is what the Production phase entails:

  • Modelling – All the models required for the film are created. This involves set and environment building and props. If you have many scenes, modelling everything can be a tiring process. Try to get someone with modelling skills to help you out. You can also post requests to 3D modelling websites that you need certain props/models that conform to specific requirements. There are also many 3D marketplaces where you can buy 3D models such as TurboSquid and the Blender Market. If spending is not your option, there are FREE 3D model download websites like BlendSwap and Archive3D.
    Free downloadable models on

    Free downloadable models on

  • Character development – This stage requires a LOT of work. You will need to create your main character (based off your concept art), and also the other characters as well. In my own project, I created a relatively detailed character and spent about a month. Since I used the same mesh and modified it a bit to create the other characters, I spent about a week for the other characters. The character development phase involves:
    – face and body sculpting
    – body modelling (and/or retopology)
    – rigging
    – texturing and shading
    – clothing
    – hair (and beard)
    – and facial shape keys.
    All of this takes a long time depending on how detailed your character is. Character development is a separate topic in itself and requires a lot of explaining. I’ll post about this in detail later.


    “Uyir”. A character I made for a short film took me 2-3 months to make!

  • Lighting and Staging – You can now put all your characters and models in scenes and set up lighting to get the mood that you’re after. This is the first step of “lights, camera, action”! Make sure the scene and lights are ready before the action. In the animation genre, the order is more like “lights, action, camera”.
  • Animation – Now it’s “action” time. You go in and animate your characters, props and scenes. Here you use all that 12 principles of animation to imbue life into your animation. The two well-known methods of animation include pose-to-pose animation and straight-ahead animation. Pose-to-pose allows you to build poses at specific times and you get an idea of the timing of the poses, great for dramatic shots. Whereas straight ahead animation is animation where you step frame by frame and animate each movement individually. This produces more natural and spontaneous animation. You can select whichever one works best for you or even use a hybrid of the two.
  • Rendering – Finally, the rendering itself! With all the animation out of the way, you can start rendering. This stage can also overlap with the animation stage. You can animate the next shot while rendering the previous shot. If your scenes are too heavy, I recommend using a renderfarm. There are tons of good renderfarms out there. If you’re a Blender user, check out these free renderfarms.
How exciting, you’re film is nearly done by this stage! Have a cup of coffee and wait for all those frames to render, you deserve it at this point!
Click here to go to the next part: Post-Production!
Click here to go the previous part: Pre-Production!