animated movie

How to Make 3D Animated Movie at Home

Here are the steps on How to make 3D animated movie at Home for beginners:

1. Pre-Production

  • Storyboarding
  • Layouts
  • Model Sheets
  • Animatics

2. Production

  • Layout
  • Modeling
  • Texturing
  • Lighting
  • Rigging
  • Animation

3. Post-Production

  • Compositing
  • Sound editing

Making an animated movie is no easy task. If you’ve never made one, it looks like an impossible task. And even for those who have, it’s a daunting task.

But is it really impossible for a beginner? To be frank, it’s quite difficult but never impossible if you really want to make it work.

At this stage, it’s almost impossible for a beginner or even an expert animator to make a full animation movie. Making a full animation movie is a teamwork.

Even if you know every part of making an animation movie, it will take years of hard work to be able to make a full movie. And it will probably not come out good like a team effort.

Having said that, one option that will really work if you want to make an animation movie at home is a short animation movie.

Short doesn’t mean easy though, when you look at all the work that goes into building your characters, their movements, and other aspects you need to get right.

But with commitment, you can make a short animation movie and then go up from there. So how do you go about it?

There are many processes involved in making an animation movie. And all are important to its success.

These processes are split into 3 broad stages:

    • Pre-production stage

    • Production stage

  • Post-production stage

Pre-production stage

This is the planning stage where you outline your story and its characters. This is the foundation of your movie and it affects how your movie will look when it’s completed. It could be the difference between a poor movie and a great one.

The important aspects of the pre-production stage are:

Story

Before you can make your movie, you need to have an idea of what story you’re trying to tell and why it’s important. Even if your skills are good, a poor storyline would make your movie a poor one.

Here you have to define the main concept of your story. Is it a story for children or a funny one? People who watch your movie wants to see a great story even if its short.

Script

The next thing to do after having an idea of your story is to write it. Here you have to develop all your characters and their dialogues.

Writing it down is also important because you can see the flaws in your story here. Your idea of your story is usually sketchy and you can’t see everything you need to. Writing it helps you to see the characters that work and those that need to be eliminated.

Developing your dialogue also gives you a clear view if it’ll achieve your aim of the story.

Storyboard

This is where you transform your story into a design on paper. You outline each scene, its characters, and the dialogue. Just like a comic strip.

On your storyboard, you can see how your story moves from the beginning to the end and how fast the action is. Your storyboard doesn’t have to be too detailed but it has to show every important scene in your story.

On your storyboard, you can also have notes that give explanations about the position of characters and the camera movements during the scene.

Apart from these, you can always refer back to your storyboard during production as a guide to see if your movie is still on track.

Model Sheets

After storyboarding, you already have the characters for your movie and have an idea of what they’ll be doing. Model sheets show every angle possible of a specific character.

These drawings will display all the sides and expressions of a character that will appear in the movie. Having a detailed drawing here makes modeling of the characters easier later.

Animatics

To have a view of how your movie will look like, you have to create a mockup of your characters and include their dialogues. This is like a ‘pre-movie’ and you can still change many things later.

Here, you see in motion how the characters interact and if their conversation makes sense. You can also add parts needed or remove parts of your story that doesn’t work well.

With your animatics, you can plan the sequences of your scene and the visual effects you’ll have to add later on. At this stage, you should finalize your scenes and dialogues as it will be more difficult to make these changes during production.

Production stage

This is the stage where you begin to make your movie. You’re through with your planning here, you know your characters and you know how your dialogue will go.

This is where you have to make your concepts work and turn it into a great movie. What are the important aspects you need to work on at this stage?

Modeling

At this aspect of your animated movie, you turn your 2D characters into 3D models. The drawings of your characters are built into a 3D structure. This gives you a picture of how individual characters will look like in your movie.

This is where your model sheet will be useful as it becomes easier to transform your character to 3D since you have already drawn all the angles. You have to note that a 3D model of your character itself is static.

This means it’s unable to talk or show facial expressions at the moment. Life will be added to it in later stages. You may also need to make changes to your model later. If you find an issue during rendering, then you may need to add or remove parts of your model.

Rigging

After modeling your characters, they’re still unable to move which means you can’t use them in your movie yet. Rigging allows you to give a skeleton and joints to your 3D models.

With rigging, you can specify all the movements you want your characters to make and to what extent. For instance, one important movement that you’ll usually find useful is the movement of your character’s mouth.

Another is the movement of their eyes or ears as they talk. You also have to add the normal joints to characters that have similar structures to human beings. This will allow your characters to walk, run, and move their hands along as they do so.

It will allow your characters to gesticulate as they talk or even clench their fists. This is where you give life to your character as movement is one of the main signs of life.

Animation

After rigging your characters, you have to bring them together. This includes pre-visualization where you bring in your camera movements and models into the scene. You can also record the voice for each character and scene at this stage of production.

In the animation stage, you have to create the movements of each character frame by frame. This is one of the longest stages of production. It’s also where you can make your animated movie great or poor.

During the animation, you’ll specify when each character moves, what part of their body moves, and the direction they move to. Here you’ll also create special effects like water drops, dust, explosions, smoke, etc. to bring your movie and characters to life.

Lighting

This is an important part of the scene setting. Too little light make your scene dark and too much affects the viewer’s eyes. With lighting, you can specify where you have lights and how your characters cast shadows.

You can also set how much light objects in your scene will absorb or reflect. You can add textures to your characters and other objects in the scene.

Lighting allows you to set the mood and create a color harmony of a scene.

Rendering

You need a high-end computer to render your almost completed animated movie. This is because you’re rendering many frames and your processor’s computing power could make a lot of difference in how fast you can perform the task.

For a short movie, you can have hundreds of storyboards or even thousands. This is one of the reasons it’s difficult for an individual to produce a full 3D animated movie.

For instance, a movie like ‘Rise of the Guardians’ could have 100,000 storyboards. This requires high computing power and that’s why some animation studios have render farms.

Post-production stage

Now you have your animated movie. But that doesn’t mean you can now release it to the public. There are still few tweaks to make to your movie to make sure everything comes out great. What are the steps to take after production?

Compositing

This process involves bringing all your 3D elements into the animation pipeline. This is where you render the different passes to form your final shot. This is also where you fix your paint and colors in general.

Sound editing

During this process, you have to make sure that sound synchronizes with each character. You also have to make sure that their lips sync with their speech.

One other thing you can add during sound editing is sounds that create special effect during your scenes. For instance, every click, breath, step or slap has to sound right and sync with the story.

You can also add music where it’s needed. Without proper sounds or lip syncing the words, your movie looks poor and can become confusing to viewers. You want to avoid this.

Video editing

Here, you rearrange your shots to make sure that the scenes flow. During video editing, you also get to remove shots that you find redundant in your movie. This is where you add the finishing touches to your movie.

You can add visual effects, texts, or correct colors as applicable to your video at this stage. When you’re through with this, you have successfully completed your video.

Tools for making a 3D animated movie at home

To create an animated movie successfully, you need some tools, both physical and software packages, to make it work. What are the tools you need to undergo all the stages of making your movie?

Here, I’ll talk about both physical materials and software packages that you need to create your movie successfully.

Sketch pad and drawing pen

You need this during your storyboarding to draw your characters in various scenes and their dialogue. You can also use your pen to add an extra note that you may need later in your production.

You can also use your sketchpad for your model sheet. You can draw all the views of your characters on each page.

Celtx app

This is an app you can use for scriptwriting and storyboarding. It makes it easy to outline your characters and their dialogue.

The application is available on both Android and iOS for mobile but only available for Mac on the desktop.

Blender

This is a free tool for making animated movies. And that might arouse the suspicion of Blender being an inferior option to the paid tools.

Far from it. Blender is a robust option for anybody who wants to create an animated movie and want to do it at a low or no cost.

How do you use Blender to implement important functions like 3D modeling, rigging, animation, and rendering?

3D Modeling on Blender

To perform modelling on Blender, there are some tools that come in handy. Some of them are:

Modifiers: these are tools that can affect how your object is displayed and rendered but without an effect on the base geometry of the object. To use these tools, you can add many modifiers to form a modifier stack.

You can see the changes to your object and you can apply these changes if you want them to be permanent. This allows you to see the effect of your modifiers on your object before applying it.

Below is the effect of a stack of modifiers on an object.

The arrangements of your modifiers also determine how it affects your object’s appearance. When you have a stack of modifiers, Blender will begin to apply changes from the top modifier to the bottom.

For instance, this example shows 2 modifiers, Subsurf and Mirror, acting on a shape. Here, subsurf comes first and mirror comes last.

In this second picture, mirror comes first and subsurf comes second. You can arrange your modifiers with regards to the changes you want.

Sculpt mode: This is used to alter the shape of a model. It achieves this by altering an area of the model with a brush. You can select sculpt mode from the mode menu of your 3D view header.

The panel shown for sculpt mode include brush, texture, tool, symmetry, stroke, curve, appearance, and options. Below are the examples of brushes available under the sculpt mode.

You can also mask areas of your mesh so that they’re not affected by sculpting.

Rigging on Blender

You can use the BlenRig 5, an Auto-Rigging and Skinning system, to rig your characters on Blender. This allows you to make changes to parts of your characters like neck leg, fingers, toes, etc.

Rendering on Blender

To render on Blender, you have to use Cycles, Blender’s ray-trace based production render engine.

After you finish creating your animation, follow these steps to render your animation:

Under the ‘Render’ tab, click on ‘Output’. From there, you select the folder where your animation will be saved.

After this, select the image or video format you want to render your animation. However, it’s always advisable that you select an image format, even if you want to render as a video. This is because picking a video format has a high probability of corrupting your animation as you can’t stop or pause the render.

After rendering in image format, go to your video editor by clicking on ‘Choose screen layout’ and then ‘Video editing’.

Then click on ‘Add’ and select the ‘Image’ option. From here, navigate to the image folder you used earlier and select all the rendered images. Click on ‘Add image strip’. Click on ‘Choose screen layout’ and select ‘Default’. Then, select the video format you want for your animation.

After selecting your format, click on ‘Animation’ in the ‘Render’ tab. This time, the images will be converted to video.

One part of the render engine is the shaders. These help to describe lighting interactions at the surface or of the volume of your character rather than the color of the surface.

One of the shaders is the BDSF shader which describes light refraction, reflection, and absorption at an object surface. Emission shader shows light emission at an object surface or in a volume.

Volume shader shows light scattering inside a volume while the background shader shows light emission from the environment. The texture tool helps in applying color to objects.

Autodesk Maya

This is probably the industry standard software used by many animation studios and animators. What are the important tools on Maya that help you make your 3D animated movie?

3D Modelling on Maya

There are many operations you can perform in modeling. Some of them are:

Manipulation: three of the most important manipulation tools you’ll need regularly in Maya is the translate, rotate and scale tool. To use these tools, you can access them from the toolbox panel.

The second option is the faster option if you’re working on an object. That’s using the keyboard hotkeys. To use the translate function, press w on your keyboard.

Translate helps you to move an object from one point to another. When you press the hotkey, you see 4 options for translating your object. You’ll see 3 arrows that indicate axes to move your object to. You can click on any of the arrows to move your object in that axis.

To move your object without restricting to any axis, you can click on the center box which will allow movement to any axis.

The scale function allows you to either expand your object or shrink it. To use the scale option, press the e hotkey. You’ll be given 4 boxes as options on how you want to scale your object.

You have 3 boxes on the axes which give you options to scale to any of those axes. You can also click on the center box which allows you to scale on all the axes.

You can activate the rotate function by using the r hotkey. Doing this shows 3 inner rings (red, green, and blue colors) and an outer ring of yellow color.

You can use the inner rings to rotate your object around the axis you select. You can also select the outer ring to rotate object perpendicular to the camera.

Duplicate: One of the most important actions you’ll use regularly on Maya is the duplicate function. Sometimes, you want many copies of a mesh in your work space, and building one at a time is an issue. It’s also ineffective as the meshes may end up looking differently.

Your best bet is to duplicate this mesh as many times as you need it. To perform this operation, select the object you want to duplicate and press ‘Ctrl’ + ‘D’. this makes a copy at the top of your original model.

To create multiple objects with the same spacing between them, use the ‘Shift’ + ‘D’ command. When you press this command, you translate the duplicated object to a few suitable units on the left or right of the original object.

After doing this, using the ‘Shift’ + ‘D’ command again will automatically place your duplicated object using the side and spacing you used earlier. You can continue using this command until you have the number of duplicates you want.

To create a specific number of duplicates, and specify their translation, rotation, or scaling, you can use the advanced duplication option. Navigate to ‘Edit’ then ‘Duplicate Special’ then ‘Options Box’ to specify what you want.

Inserting Edge Loop: this tool helps you to add more resolution to your mesh. To use this tool, clear your workspace and drop a new cube into it. Make sure your cube is in the object mode, that is you have clicked on the object and the edges are now green. Navigate to ‘Edit Mesh’ and click on ‘Insert Edge Loop Tool’.

After selecting this tool, clicking on an edge on your object will create a new subdivision perpendicular to the edge you clicked. You can add more subdivision to your object when you click and drag on any edge. You can exit the tool by pressing ‘q’.

To drag an edge loop to a specific location on your object, you’ll use the ‘Relative Distance from Edge’ tool. To use this tool, choose options at the side of the ‘Insert Edge Loop Tool’. To use more edge loops, select the ‘Multiple edge loops’ option which allows you to have up to 10 edges at a time.

Bevel: to reduce the sharpness of an edge, you can use the Bevel tool in Maya. To see this tool in action, make a cube. Go to edge mode and press Shift and select the upper edges of your cube. After doing this, go to ‘Edit Mesh’ and click on ‘Bevel’.

Bevel helps you to make your objects more realistic as most objects don’t have completely sharp edges. You can also edit this bevel if you want more roundness. To do this, bevel more edges of your object and the bevel parameters will automatically pop up.

Here, you can edit the number of segments, offset, roundness, and other parameters. Offset controls the width of your bevel while a high number of segments increases roundness.

Rigging on Maya

To rig on Maya, you can use the one-click rigging option for standard characters. Another option is the step-by-step where you can customize the rigging as you deem fit.

To create a one-click rig for a standard character, change your character to an empty mesh.

In the rigging menu set, select skeleton and click on ‘Quick Rig’. This opens the Quick Rig tool. From here, you can select the one-click option and then select your mesh. After that, click ‘Auto-Rig’ and a skeleton will be applied to your mesh.

To use the step-by-step option, select the step-by-step option instead of one-click.

Animation on Maya

Maya gives you many options for animating your characters. You can use its keyframe-based timeline editor and the powerful graph editor to create and control the motion of your characters.

You can also import motion capture data. The 3D motion trail editor can be used to tweak motions in the 3D viewport.

Some controls for the timing of your animations are:

    • Time slider

    • Range slider

  • Playback controls

The time slider helps you to control the playback range, breakdowns within the playback range, and key ticks.

With your time slider, you can set which frame your animation begins to move and when it stops.

You can use the range slider to control playback range on the time slider. You can use it to manually extend or shorten the playback range.

For instance, if you have 500 frames for your animation but want to work on just 50 frames, you can set your range slider to 50 and all you’ll have is the 50 frames. On the left side of your range slider is the beginning frame and on the right side is the ending frame.

Playback controls are used to play, pause, and perform other functions in your animation.

Rendering on Maya

To render on Maya, navigate to the settings for render. Here, you want to render your animation in a batch of images rather than video as that’s much safer for your animation work..

When you click on the settings, it opens up options. One of these options is the Frame/Animation extension. You can select the number of the frame followed by the extension.

Then you can select your image format. Here, the format chosen is JPEG. You can set the beginning and end of your frames.

In this example, there are 24 frames per second which are Maya’s default frame setting and you can set the end frame to 24.

After that, go to your rendering tab and select batch render. A small program will render your animation when you click on this button. After rendering, you’ll see that 24 frames have been rendered according to your settings.

The next thing you have to do is to convert these images to a video. To do this, you can use the F check, a program that comes with Maya. When you open the program, navigate to file and locate your images folder.

After doing this, select the first frame of your animation. F check will copy the rest and play your animation.

Once your animation is playing fine, navigate to file and click. In the drop-down, click on ‘Save As Movie’.

Then you select the location your video will be saved to. Before conversion, click on ‘No Transformation’.

In a few seconds, you’ll have your video. You can use a converter to convert it if it’s too large.

Adobe Audition

This is a software you can use to edit the sound of your animated movie. There are some important features that make this possible. Some are:

Unify Loudness: this helps to make sure that there is a volume consistency for your audio. This doesn’t mean that your audio will have the same volume throughout. Audition will calculate the original loudness value and make sure there’s consistency.

Repair Sound: with your slider, you can repair the audio of your movie with options like ‘Reduce Noise’, ‘Reduce Rumble’, etc.

Equalization (EQ): this helps to improve the quality of your sound. You can add reverb to your sound to give a feeling of a room, a hall, or other environments. Since you’ll have to add voice narration for your characters, you can also use a subtle boost for male or female to make the sound better.

Conclusion

Making your 3D animated movie at home is a task that requires a lot of work. But one that you should engage in nevertheless.

Because it gives you a good feeling when you produce a movie out of nothing except your imagination and genius. You must keep the three stages of making an animation video – pre-production, production, and post-production – in mind.

Executing any of these stages shabbily will lead to a poor movie which is the last thing you want. Also if you know people who can handle some parts of your production far better than you, you can outsource these parts.

Making a 3D animated movie takes a lot of practice. Don’t be discouraged if your first movie doesn’t come out as well as you want.

It means you have to practice more. Soon, you’ll be surprised at how well you can make animated movies.