In animation and film production, animatics are popular and used quite often. In fact, the global animation and VFX industry was valued at approximately $259 billion in 2020, and this figure is expected to reach over $270 billion by 2025.
So it’s not surprising that animatics is seen as a helpful pre-production tool for animators and filmmakers, and its significance is often overlooked.
In this post, we'll take a look at what an animatic is, its benefits, and how it's used. We’ll also provide some handy examples.
What’s an animatic?
An animatic typically combines black-and-white sketches with a voice-over and music. At its core, an animatic is a preliminary version of a movie, animation, or sequence before the final production begins.
Unlike a storyboard, which is a series of still images, an animatic brings these images to life by adding movement and sound. It captures the essence of the animation, allowing the creators to get a sense of how the final product will look and flow.
See the below animatic made by the Gorillaz band for their song, Feel Good Inc (2010).
The purpose of an animatic is to help the team involved in the animation process better understand the narrative and make necessary adjustments and improvements before investing time and resources into full-scale production.
By seeing the images come together in a rough animation, the team can assess the story's overall impact, identify any potential issues with pacing or visual coherence, and make changes accordingly.
Animatic vs storyboard vs animation
Animatics and storyboards are both integral parts of the pre-production process in visual storytelling. Animations are the final product.
Here’s a quick summary of the different techniques:
|Animated visual representation of the script and shots
|Static visual representation of the script and shots
|Fully realized movement and character actions
|Timing of storyboard panels with minimal animation and sound effects or voice-overs
|Sketching or digital drawing of key scenes
|Frame-by-frame animation or rigging for movement
|Level of detail
|Minimum detail, focusing on sequence flow
|Minimum to moderate detail, indicating key visuals
|High detail, depicting fully animated scenes
|Collaboration tool for early-stage planning
|Communication tool among various stakeholders, also used for pitching ideas
|Final product for audience consumption
|Storyboard artists, animators, special effects teams, and directors
|Storyboard artists, animators, character designers, and directors
|Animators and animation specialists
|Collaboration and planning stage
|Essential for pre-production collaboration and communication
|Visualizes ideas and ensures a shared vision
|Represents the final product for the target audience
|Storyboarding, visual storytelling, and animation skills
|Storyboarding and visual storytelling skills
|Animation skills, understanding of movement and timing
|Cost-effective in the pre-production stage, a wide variety of materials may be used
|Cost-effective, depending on artists’ fees
|Resource-intensive, depending on animation style and length
Animatic vs storyboard
Storyboards consist of a series of panels or illustrations depicting a story's key scenes and shots. They typically include simple drawings or rough sketches and written descriptions detailing the actions, camera angles, and dialogue.
A storyboard focuses on visualizing the narrative sequentially, providing a visual blueprint for the final production. It’s primarily static and lacks motion, making it useful for planning shots and visual compositions.
They use storyboard images, often higher quality and refined than those in storyboards, combined with short animations, sound effects, music, and voice-overs. This creates a dynamic and cohesive representation of the final film or animation.
Animatics include elements of motion, timing, and pacing, helping filmmakers visualize the flow and overall impact of the story. Unlike storyboards, animatics are video outputs capable of showcasing transitions, camera movements, and other dynamic elements.
Both an animated storyboard and an animatic are crucial in visual storytelling because they facilitate effective communication between the creative team and stakeholders. Storyboards help to outline the overall narrative, plan shots, and establish visual consistency.
Animatics, with their added motion and audio, enable a more immersive experience, making it easier to gauge the potential impact of scenes and sequences.
Animatic vs animation
An animatic and animation are both visual representations used in the creation of video content, but they have distinct differences in their purpose and execution.
The animatic phase is a rough sketch or storyboard that serves as a blueprint for an animation. It’s typically created using still images, rough sketches, or low-quality video footage to give an idea of how the final animation will look and flow.
Animation is the final product that viewers see. It involves bringing characters, objects, and scenes to life through a series of frames or digital movements. Animations are created using more advanced software and techniques, resulting in a higher level of detail, smoothness, and polish compared to animatics.
Here are some specific differences between animatics and animations:
Animatics are static or minimally animated sequences that serve as a pre-visualization tool. They are more about conveying the storyboard and shot composition rather than detailed movement.
Animated drawings involve the creation of fully animated sequences with detailed movement and character actions. This is the final stage of animation production, where the animatics are brought to life.
Storyboard to animatic: Animatics are typically created from storyboards. Storyboard panels are arranged in a sequence and then timed to create a rough representation of how the final animation will unfold.
Frame-by-frame animation or rigging: Animated drawings can involve traditional frame-by-frame animation, 2D or 3D animation, and may use character rigging for more efficient movement.
Early stage collaboration: Animatics are crucial for collaboration and communication between various stakeholders (writers, directors, animators, etc.) to ensure everyone is on the same page before investing in detailed animation work.
Animation team: Involves animators, riggers, and other specialists focusing on bringing characters and scenes to life with fluid motion.
Animatics are primarily created by storyboard artists and graphic designers who translate the script into a visual sequence.
Animations are done by skilled animators who are responsible for creating the detailed movement and bringing characters to life.
Software and hardware
Animatic tools like Adobe Premiere, After Effects, or specialized animatic software are commonly used. In terms of hardware, standard computer hardware is sufficient for animatic creation.
Animation tools include software such as Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, Blender, or Autodesk Maya. More powerful hardware may be needed to handle complex calculations and rendering, especially for 3D animation.
Use Linearity Move for animatics and animation.
Our powerful marketing animation software can create anything from preloaders to social media ads.
Why should you use animatics?
Animatics help you make quick changes
Animatics assist in making quick changes by utilizing working sketches instead of final images, which allows for easier adjustments and elimination of scenes that don't work.
Unlike the time-consuming process of creating highly detailed final images, animatics provide a storyboard-like visualization of the animation, using rough sketches or even sometimes stick figures.
By using animatics, creators can easily identify scenes that need adjustments or, when necessary, eliminate them entirely. Less precious time and money wasted in producing a final product that may not meet the desired outcome.
The working sketches of animatics allow for a more fluid process, as adjustments can be made quickly and efficiently.
Animatics save you time (and money)
Animatics can save both time and money for graphic designers and illustrators by providing a preview of the timing and flow of a piece without the need for extensive filming or drawing of the finished product.
With animatics, creators can get a sense of how the scenes will play out and realize whether changes are needed before producing the entire animation.
Animatics speeds up production
Animatics aid in the production phase. They give the production team a clear vision of how the final animation will look, facilitating project planning, resource allocation, and budget estimations.
This helps to minimize costly mistakes and ensure a more efficient production process.
Animatics allows for voice-overs
Animatics provide an opportunity for voice-over experimentation. They allow for different voice actors to try out their lines, helping directors select the most suitable voice for each character.
This helps to enhance the storytelling aspect and the story sequence of the animation, as the right voice can bring the characters to life and strengthen the overall narrative.
Animatics help convey ideas
Lastly, animatics are invaluable in conveying concepts and ideas. This visual representation of the animation, often using individual images, allows for easier communication and collaboration between creatives, ensuring everyone is on the same page before investing substantial time and resources into the final production.
Animatics are used in animation for their ability to determine timing, aid in production planning, facilitate voice-over selection, enhance storytelling, and convey concepts more effectively.
How are animatics used?
The role of animatics in the production of films, animations, and even in advertising is multi-faceted. Let's look at the various uses of animatics in the creative process.
1. Pre-visualization and planning
- Visualizing the story: Animatics help graphic designers and illustrators visualize the narrative flow of their project. This pre-visualization is crucial for understanding how various scenes will transition, how characters will interact, and how the story will unfold.
- Identifying issues early: By creating an animatic, narrative structure, or scene transitions can be identified early in the production process. This early detection allows for adjustments before committing to expensive and time-consuming animation or filming.
2. Communication and collaboration
- Team alignment: Animatics serve as a common language for various teams involved in a project, such as animators, directors, editors, and sound designers. It ensures everyone is aligned with the vision and timeline of the project.
- Pitching ideas: Animatics are often used to pitch ideas to producers, clients, or other stakeholders. They provide a more concrete representation of the proposed final product than a storyboard alone.
3. Timing and pacing
- Scene timing: They allow creators to maintain audience engagement by creating the perfect timing for every scene.
- Synchronizing audio and visuals: Animatics are instrumental in determining how dialogue, sound effects, and music align with and enhance the visual narrative.
4. Specialized applications
- Advertising and marketing: In the advertising industry, animatics are used to test commercials before they’re produced, allowing for market research and feedback.
- Gaming and virtual reality (VR): In game development and VR experiences, animatics help map out interactive sequences and user experiences.
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Unlocking the magic of animatics: 4 real-world examples
Animatics are an essential part of the production process, and they’ve been used for many years. Here are some real-life examples of popular animatics:
1. Psycho (1960) shower scene
Alfred Hitchcock's groundbreaking film Psycho featured one of the most famous shower scenes in cinema history. Renowned motion graphics artist Saul Bass created the storyboard for this sequence.
It was meticulously planned to capture the intense emotion and suspense of this horror scene.
Although not an animatic in the true sense of the word, Bass' detailed sketches helped choreograph the rapid cuts and camera angles. His work contributed to the scene's chilling and memorable effect.
2. Star Wars
The Star Wars franchise is known for its elaborate space battles and complex action sequences. Storyboards and animatics played a crucial role in visualizing these scenes.
They allowed for precise planning of special effects and computer-generated images (CGI), ensuring that the grand vision of these battles was effectively brought to life.
3. Jurassic Park (1993) raptors in the kitchen scene
Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park was a milestone in visual effects. Due to the complexity of the scenes, animatics were crucial for planning the interactions between the animatronic dinosaurs and the live-action elements.
Phil Tippet is the mastermind behind the dinosaur animations and created the animatic below to map out the raptors in the kitchen scene. Here, we see a blend of stop motion using puppets on set combined with storyboard sketches.
This approach enabled a seamless blend of practical effects and CGI, setting a new standard for visual effects in cinema.
4. Frankenweenie (2012) maypole dance cut scene
One of film director Tim Burton's highest-grossing box office movies, Frankenweenie is an off-beat stop motion animation about a boy who resurrects his beloved dog.
The entire movie is in black-and-white, but some of the footage was shot in color and then translated to black-and-white. All the characters and most of the stages and props were made in grayscale. This unique approach gives the film a tactile depth like never before seen.
Below, we see an example from Frankenweenie of an animatic created of a scene that was eventually cut from the final film. This shows how animatics help visualize a part of the story that may not fit the entire storyline and pacing of the final product.
Other types of animatics
Animatic storyboards combine static storyboard panels with rough 3D animations or motion effects. Advertising agencies often use animatic storyboards to present commercials or ad campaigns to their clients.
By adding motion, sound, and timing, these animatics provide a more immersive experience, making it easier for clients to envision the final television or online advertisement.
With the rise of online content creation, animatics have become a useful tool in the digital world. Using a range of software tools, YouTube creators often use animatics to plan and storyboard their videos.
By visualizing their ideas in animatic form, creators can gather feedback from their viewers or clients, ensuring that the final product meets their expectations.
Use animatics in your creative process
Whether in the form of 3D animatics, animatic storyboards, or low-res images to illustrate creative projects, they help clients and creators unlock the magic of their visions and ensure everyone is on the same page before investing further resources.
If you're a marketer or graphic designer who would like to give animation a try, use Linearity Move for your marketing videos and bring your brand to life
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Ben is a Content Lead for Linearity living in Berlin. His hobbies include board games, cooking, reading, and writing.