Progression of a timeline: animatic

For several years now, the Twitter editing community have been doing #TimelineTuesday - in which you screengrab the timeline of the project you're currently working on, and share it with the other editors. To us, it's an interesting look at the way other people set up their timelines, and some pretty big editors have joined in in the past, sharing various reels of major feature films with varying degrees of VFX and sound work.

I appear to be one of the few people sharing animation timelines, and they're quite different to what most other people are used to seeing. Indeed, they're quite different to my own live-action timelines (a comparison briefly discussed as part of Avid's own #TimelineTuesday series).

So, I'm going to show how I get there. What the various stages are, and a brief explanation where possible of what's changed and why. A previous blog post has a flow chart which shows the 'typical' route through the edit of an episode, for reference to how each part sits in the whole.

I'm using an episode from the series I'm currently editing as an example, and this post covers the animatic stage of production (for additional information see "editing an animatic", a previous blog post based on a different series). For animatics, I use Adobe's Premiere Pro.
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Avid Blogs - "Editor Judith Allen Illustrates the Difference Between Cutting Animation and Live Action Films"


In live action filming, every action on set is accompanied by the corresponding sound. Often these are replaced or enhanced, but the sound is there and used within the rhythm of the cut whether consciously or unconsciously. In animation, every single sound needs to be purposefully placed – and often created from scratch by a foley team. It’s often a delicate balance between knowing which temp sound effects are best to place during the animatic to help tell the story and do the best cut, and which ones should be saved until after animation so as not to restrict the animators.

At the moment I tend to make my sound choices based on how the characters need to respond to them in their headspaces more than how the final sound should be, because I know that the sound’s going to be completely replaced once we have the final picture, and because it will help the animation before that.

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An Animation Editorial Workflow

I put this together pretty quickly for the internal project wiki at work as a basic overview of what goes in and out of my remit as editor on a 52 x 11 min animated series, where within the process sequence reviews typically happen, and where things come from/ go to.

It's not as entirely linear as this in practice (locks happen before all of the animation is done, for example - so that any extensions can be accommodated), a lot of things end up happening as simultaneously, and I'm typically working on anywhere between 5-26 episodes at a time... but this is the basic system.

I'm sharing it here because I get asked a lot where the editing happens in animation ("surely the work's all done by the time you arrive on the scene?"). Answer: everywhere. I haven't even included the script changes and pickups/ ADR here. They basically get added throughout, ideally less frequently as time goes on - the further we are in an episode; the more people are affected if something needs to be changed.

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Cinema 4DX

4DX cinema is programmed by a South Korean company, building on the older theme-park style immersive experience (I have memories of an Alien 4D experience at a Disney park in which you could feel the simulated breath on the back of your neck as the speakers in the chair implied it was right behind you), but expanded out to mainstream feature films. The chairs move, and various effects of light, water, fragrance, and air surround the audience in complement to the on-screen action. Having recently moved out of London to the suburbs (greener, MUCH more affordable, ample opportunity to listen to podcasts on the rail commute), I find myself now living near the UK's first 4DX cinema in Milton Keynes.
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The Making of Q Pootle 5

Q Pootle 5 was the animated television series I worked on over 2012-13. This 'making of' video was released on one of the series DVDs, and gives a basic overview of the process of creating an animated series: from concept art to foley and compositing.


For additional information on the editing side of things running through animatic, animation, and delivery, I wrote a series of blog posts while working on this series, which are linked to from a roundup post which includes examples of how the edit may change throughout production.

Article: "A Quick Look at Adobe Premiere Pro, and the Creative Cloud" - First Frame, Spring 2014

I was asked to write something for "First Frame", the magazine of the Guild of British Film and Television Editors about Adobe Premiere; who are one of the Guild's sponsors. The article was aimed at editors who were not already users of the software, and it was published in the Spring 2014 issue.
N.B. Pricing information was correct at time of publication, check the Adobe website for the latest pricing.
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Notes on syncing and slating from an editor

The film slate. It's one of the big symbols of film-making. But... there's a point to it. And that point is understood to a greater or lesser degree throughout the industry.

But for an editor, it can be essential communication. We're usually not on set (we're editing the previous day's shots), and the less time we need to spend figuring information out, the more time we can spend being creative. 

Here are some notes based on some past difficulties I've encountered when syncing video and audio. A lot of it isn't necessarily intuitive if you haven't spent any time ingesting dailies, so I thought I'd get some general thoughts written down. They essentially form my wishlist of what I'd like to see when I get a new set of dailies.

Other editors may disagree with some points or prefer other solutions, but this is what I am happiest with. Regional variations may apply; almost certainly in terminology.


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A note on notes (from Creativity Inc)

If you haven't read Creativity Inc, on the formation and rise of Pixar by Ed Catmull (one of its founders); you're missing out. As well as a business biography, there are a huge number of philosophical theories on how to best nurture creativity in the film-making process, and how to bring all employees together to make the best product possible.

My Kindle informs me that I've highlighted 35 sections in this book - for non-technical manuals, I usually will make around 2 maximum per book. So, it's fair to say that a lot of it struck a chord.

I'd like to share a short passage on giving meaningful feedback, which applies to many stages in the film-making process, and certainly not just animation. As an editor, I receive a lot of notes - and sometimes send them out, either on cuts I've made or on scripts and films that other people I know are working on.

A good note says what is wrong, what is missing, what isn’t clear, what makes no sense. A good note is offered at a timely moment, not too late to fix the problem. A good note doesn’t make demands; it doesn’t even have to include a proposed fix. But if it does, that fix is offered only to illustrate a potential solution, not to prescribe an answer. Most of all, though, a good note is specific. “I’m writhing with boredom,” is not a good note.