Susan Erokan gives an overview on animation production workflows

By ANAND GURNANI | 23 December, 2009 - 16:32

In a very informative session, Sue Erokan, Production Supervisor for Character Animation at Dreamworks gave an overview of work-flows and pipelines and how the various departments interacted and co-ordinated with each other.

"My role at Dreamworks is so special because it is incredibly fulfilling. In managing the character animators I get to take part in a creative, collaborative atmosphere that is constantly moving and changing. It's a challenging role, to be sure, with schedule changes and making sure we feed other departments in a timely fashion, but there is truly never a dull moment!" she began.

Talking about the recently completed and upcoming projects at Dreamworks Animation she enlisted..

Penguins of Madagascar - TV series
Monsters vs Aliens Halloween TV special
Merry Madagascar Christmas TV special.
This one shared Sue, was done quite a lot in the Dreamworks facility in Bangalore, India.

How to Train Your Dragon
Shrek Forever After

Kungfupanda 2- Kaboom of doom
The Guardians

Puss in Boots
Madagascar 3
The Croods

Next, giving an insight into the pipeline, she shared

PIPELINE (Though this session report lists all the processes in a linear manner, the slides shown by Sue illustrated how some of the processes were worked on in parallel and non linear flows)

Story editorial
Story dept translates scripts and ideas into visuals
Script divided in sequences (20-30) per film

One story artist per sequence
80-120 panels per sequence

Sequences pitched by artist to director, approval and hand off to editorial

Art & Visual Development
Character Design
Set Design
Environmental Design
Color Keys
Lighting Keys

Creates Characters and environments (Maya exported to proprietary tool set)
NURBS Architecture

Character TD /Rigging
Develop and create animation controls, primarily to character models
-Close collaboration with modeling on correct deformation and with animation(nd user) on range of motion and performance
- Proprietary Toolset
-AMPAS Technical achievement award winning facial animation system

"Right now we are working on Megamind and are 12 weeks into production" she shared, and commenting about the character TD department she pointed out that, "While they work very very hard for animation, sometimes they have to work to their schedule as well"

Painting of textures


Pre viz integrates 3D originated visual development assets from the art /viz dev , story, modeling & layout departments to facilitate the early creative development and 3D workspace. The front end leadership can utilize the 3D viz dev workplace to communicate more effectively about the creative direction of the film

Rough layouts
Turns storyboards into 3D sets with character blocking and cinematography

Final Layouts
Replaces rough layouts with final assets…

Character Animation
Create Performance and personalities for film's characters
Focus on acting, physical movement
Keen behavior observation skills

"Its marvelous and really great to see what the animators do with our characters, taking them from T Poses and bringing them to life.. we are all key frame and no motion capture" said Sue.

"We have animators in our department from all over the world…..but one of the most important things to us, is that on every film we do, is to do the best quality possible…we are constantly looking for top talent…we are all the time also looking for resources to get our animators -anything that we can do to spark more creativity in our animators" she added.

Character Effects
Creates complex character systems including Hair & Cloth simulations
Create complex deformations

"We create complex procedural crowd animations, we work closely with effects and character animation departments and the crowds in our films are looking better and better" she said.

Places and regulates lighting sources within each shot , per art department/director approval. Very Critical to how each frame and the film looks.

MATTE Painting
Filling out whatever we cant do with 3D

Anything that is moving that is not a dramatic character

Problem Solving

"The real challenges of my role are due to making sure we are getting inventory into and out of our department in a timely fashion. There is typically a lot of scheduling and re-scheduling people on shots, how long things are going to take, making provisions for other departments if things go longer than anticipated. There is also the challenge of keeping the morale of 50+ people high during lengthy productions! We try to make things fun and keep giving our animators growth possibilities (drawing and acting classes, etc) to keep their creative juices flowing." she concluded.