Making your very own animated film nowadays is possible and many are doing it with zero budget (including myself). In this post, I’ll outline the general process in making an animated short film! Hopefully, this inspires you to make your own animated short films one day!
There are tons and tons of animated short films being made in recent times. This is due to more resources being available to artists and up and coming filmmakers then there was even just half a decade ago. There’s free open-source software such as Blender and GIMP which are more than capable of creating high quality animated films. This, coupled with hundreds, maybe thousands of free tutorials on YouTube which teach you how to make basically anything in 3D. This blog is also one resource, among many others, that can teach you how to make an animated short film all on your own.
Even watching animated short films like Meet Meline can inspire you, especially considering it was made just by 2 people in their spare time! I watch animated short films on the CGBros YouTube channel. These guys are awesome inspirers (is that a word?!). There’s also great animated shorts from ShortOfTheWeek and FilmShortage. I consider it a dream to be featured on one of these sites! (Don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but I’ll keep dreaming..). The image above is a still from my own upcoming film “Uyir”. This film is being made with a budget of $0. Actually, come to think of it, I may need to spend a bit on the music..
Anyways, there are 3 stages of production in bringing an animated short film to life: Pre-production, Production and Post-production. They’re not in order and can overlap a couple of times during the project life-cycle.
In the pre-production phase, you plan out your film. Things like story, concept art, storyboards, etc. It’s important that time is spent here to plan your film. You generally shouldn’t even touch your 3D application (no matter how tempted you are) until you’ve nailed down the planning. Generally, projects are doomed to failure when the projects aren’t planned adequately enough. Many newer filmmakers tend to give up due to lack of motivation, or just being overwhelmed how hard it is. The truth is, it isn’t hard at all! They just lacked proper planning. Planning your project in advance and spending a good amount of time doing it, not only ensures you get an awesome film at the end, but you also find the production of the film a lot more enjoyable and FAR less overwhelming. Besides, the pre-production phase is considered to be one of the most enjoyable parts of filmmaking as it allows your creative juices to flow. You’re not bound by the limits of your 3D software and you’re free to imagine and come up with an awesome idea for a film.
Once you have the pre-production out of the way, the next step will be the production phase. This is where you get your hands dirty and start building and animating everything. You follow the plan that was set out during your pre-production phase (Whether it be following a timetable or creating shots based off the animatic). In this phase, you model your sets, create your characters, animate them and render them. This phase is one of the more challenging phases technically, as you will need the technical know-how in order to pull the film off. Everything you’ve learned about 3DS Max, Blender, Maya, Photoshop, GIMP, etc will come into play here. You’ll utilize these tools as best as possible in order to bring your creative vision to life. The production phase is also where many filmmakers start to lose motivation. Due to the sheer amount of work required, there may come a point where you start to feel a bit exhausted. Generally, you may put your 110% initially, but as time goes on, you realise your motivation dipping away. This has happened to me a lot. I think a way to counter this and get a better result, is to work on your best shots first (for instance, the climax and the intro maybe). That way, you fully make use of the 110% of energy and motivation that you have to work on the best moments of your film!
Once all the production is done, you can breathe a sigh of relief and start to work on the final phase of production, the post-production phase. Here you add a final polish to your film and put it all together to have your first digital copy of your film. This involves adding in all the rendered animations, compositing effects, background sounds and music, dialogue and doing all that video editing stuff to bring it to life. This might not have been documented much in the past, but nowadays I guess marketing is also involved in the post-production phase. This involves finding ways to get your animated films out there to a larger audience. Without proper marketing, all that hard work may end up frustrating you if no-one is interested in it. Marketing animated shorts aren’t easy though. I describe ways of marketing your film in this post.
Here are more detailed posts covering each of the phases of the project!
- Pre-production phase: Creating an awesome idea for an animated short film. Click here!
- Production phase: Building the animated short film. Click here!
- Post-production phase: Putting your animated film together and marketing. Click here!