Editing animation

This is part 2 of 3 detailling my processes as an editor on an animated series - for part one see "Editing an Animatic".

As in the previous post, the following notes relate to my specific experiences - mainly as editor on a 52 x 11 minute animation series. Review stages and timings vary significantly for features and other forms, and in my experience by project too.

This workflow is based more on a CG workflow within a 3D* environment, although the principles of the early stages are similar to the previz processes we used on Pirates!


Whilst the bulk of the creative editing work is done in animatic, there are multiple stages during animation where the film is translated from the animatic in which there are decisions to be made - and an opportunity to correct and improve storytelling.
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Q Pootle 5 - UK broadcast from next week

A bit of self-promotion here: the series I've been editing for the last year... almost to the day, Q Pootle 5, is beginning transmission on Monday 29th July.

It's on the UK channel CBeebies (various worldwide deals are in place, so hopefully not too long before it reaches other territories),  at 8.15am weekdays. Further information on the CBeebies website (click the image to go there and view the opening titles and a short clip).

Q Pootle 5 - on CBeebies from 29th July 2013

Q Pootle 5 - on CBeebies from 29th July 2013

It's all very exciting. And quite a few of my friends both in and outside of the industry have children in the exact target age range - so I'm looking forward to getting feedback from them.

Production continues apace - I'm currently on the 45th episode animatic, with another 7 to go after that - and then the workload starts to decrease. We just delivered episodes 23-26 this week, marking the half-way point... which means that on Monday I was responding to requests from people at various stages of animatic, layout, blocking, animation, amends, lighting, and compositing for 23 different episodes. At the rate of one episode per week, there are still 26 weeks to go until the series is complete - at which point there will be 520 minutes of animation across 52 episodes, not including titles and credits.

 Animation: it takes a long time.

Editing an animatic

An animatic is the first stage of the edit in an animation. It's the combination of the storyboards, audio (possibly with temp voice acting), and timing. It's used as the base for the animation: animators will take the shot angle, durations, certain actions, and timings as a starting point for their work on each shot.


Animatics are also sometimes used in live-action films, in the same way as directors will storyboard certain sequences, and they may be the stage used prior to previz for VFX work on large action films.
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A Sinister Character

Today I asked a difficult question at work. I asked whether any of the characters in our preschool-targeted animation series were left-handed. This may seem like a bit of an odd question to ask - especially for an editor. After all, we're not in the dark ages where we consider lefties to be the acquaintance of the devil, and although modern world languages seem little biased, it surely doesn't matter? As far as story goes, it's like asking what colour a character's eyes are, right?
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Working with the edit department (from the outside)

A few months ago I rather rapidly acquired a new job - my first on a feature, a stereoscopic stop-motion animation. But I'm not working in the editing department. They've been in place now for some time. I'm working in Previs and VFX. On an Avid.

Now, this was a rather contentious point. In fact, it still is. The previs reviews bring in a number of changes to the edit, where the editor isn't even present. As an editor, you become used to people making changes to the shots that you've selected - even not being present at the decision and therefore not being able to argue your case is something you have to live with on occasion. But this involves entire sequences being shaped away from the department. And is, understandably, somewhat frustrating.

I'm in a rather unique position on it all. I sympathise entirely with the editor's wish to be the one in control of these decisions. But from the previs perspective, the sequences need to be viewable at our reviews with the director. It was one of the reasons I was hired in the first place - to be able to tidy up sequences and show the director different possibilities within reviews without the entire thing having to go into the main edit suite and involve about twice as many people. But with the massively hectic schedule we have, the added complications of dialogue selects coming back on a near-daily basis, sequences being updated in edit with incoming shots and newly recorded/approved dialogue whilst they're being updated in previs to solve issues with sets, models, actions.... well, it's impossible to request the editor to attend all of our reviews, and impractical for previs notes to be given within edit reviews when there are so many feedback sessions required per sequence before they're approved.

The upshot of it all is that our approval workflow is changing on a monthly basis, as we sort out what's working and what isn't for our relative departments as well as the overall production. The meetings are vastly interesting as we all get to say what would work best for us, and then hear what that would imply for the others further down the line. It's a masterclass in communication and adaptation. And it's actually pretty damn enjoyable.
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