Honours Project:

An Approach to Independent 3D Animation Production

Bachelor of Arts in Design (with 1st Class Honours)

Chapter 1 - Introduction

1.1 Background and Initial Ideas

The area of design that I have specialised in is Multimedia Design, in particular 3D Animation. On commencing the Honours course, there were two areas I wished to research. One was the principles of storytelling, since animation and storytelling frequently go hand in hand. The other was the options and opportunities available to an animator in the creation of an animated work covering factors including project development, the acquisition of funding money and the marketing and selling of a concept to a final buyer.

The question I asked myself was how to investigate the two areas at the same time? My answer was to research the full animation process from start to finish. This then developed into the Honours project that I was to work on: An Approach to Independent 3D Animation Production.

The underlying motive that sparked my interest in this research topic was the belief that neither the technical or university design education in which I had participated to date, had adequately covered significant aspects of the animation process that I believe are important for my future career.

1.2 Honours Project Overview

The aim of the Honours project is to investigate the feasibility of creating a 3D animated series as an independent animator. This was carried out though researching independent animation production, and undertaking the animation process involved in the production of a presentable prototype of a pilot episode for an animated series, following the independent film-making production model.

There are two parts of the Honours project. 1) The theoretical component, where research of the independent animation production model and process from start to finish is undertaken; which is complemented by 2), the practical component, which involves the planning, development and creation of a presentable prototype of a pilot, the first episode of a proposed animated series.

1.3 Dissertation Overview

1.3.1 Part 1 - Theoretical Research

Part one of this dissertation includes theoretical research on aspects of the animation process. The theoretical research is relevant to the practical part of the project, and in some cases this information and knowledge was applied to the animation process carried out.

Chapter 2: What is Animation? Explains and discusses animation, covering technical, physiological and philosophical definitions.

Chapter 3: The Principles of Storytelling, outlines the definition and purpose of storytelling and its relation to animation. This chapter will also covers traditional story types, and includes an explanation of the principles of mythical storytelling and character archetypes.

Chapter 4: Funding a Film or Animation Project, describes funding bodies, the types of schemes they offer, and the funding process an independent animator needs to be aware of.

Chapter 5: Selling a Film or Animation Concept, details the processes involved in marketing, pitching and selling an animation concept to a final buyer.

1.3.2 Part 2 - Self-Reflective Case Study

Part two of this dissertation presents a self-reflective case study, on the practical design project worked carried out, recording the processes and methodology undertaken in the creation of the 3D animated series concept and presentable prototype of a pilot episode. The self-reflective case study records and documents each stage the animation process encountered in chronological order, from concept to screen.

Chapter 6: Conceptual Development, includes information on the idea background of the series and pilot episode, early research of the subject matter, and development activities.

Chapter 7: Pre-Production, covers choosing the story, story development and visualisation exercises, writing the story, synopsis, storyboard, creation of the final series concept, and early 3D modelling experiments.

Chapter 8: Production and Post-Production, covers creation of the animatic, soundtrack, narration, 3D environment and character modelling, 3D animation, rendering, compositing, output to video, and finally creation of the presentable prototype of the pilot episode.

The VHS videotape and CD-ROM included with this Honours dissertation is the completed presentable prototype of the pilot episode Lech, Czech & Rus, the first episode in series one of the Legenda series.

1.4 Practical Overview

The practical component of the Honours project, from which the self-reflective case study is based upon, is the creation of a 3D animated series concept and presentable prototype of a pilot. In reality, the pilot episode could be included as part of a proposal that will market the series concept to a potential buyer; either a television network or distributor, funding entity, or other interested party. This may occur in the future if I chose to do so. Though as far as the practical part of the Honours project is concerned, the work is carried out up until the actual point of the proposal, due to the academic and self-funded nature of the project.

The series concept is entitled Legenda: The Realm of Eastern European Legend, a definitive anthology of Eastern European legend in chronological order. The pilot episode is entitled Lech, Czech & Rus, the first episode of series one, which is on Polish legends. Both the series concept and pilot episode are discussed in detail in the self-reflective case study.

1.5 Expected Outcomes

By delving deeper into the animation process, I hoped to gain greater knowledge and understanding through research, and enhance my technical skills and production experience through practice.

Significant aspects of the project include the following:

- The identification of a workable production methodology for this sort of animation.
- Knowledge about the environment in which independent animators operate.
- Assistance in defining an approach to narrative structure in animation.
- Development of a cultural heritage content area not currently widely available in the 3D animated form.

It is intended that the final dissertation will become a useful reference source documenting the animation process for others and myself to use as a guide when undertaking independent animation productions.