As part of Pre -production month on thedevanimationsource, I'm going to be talking about Layout. I've found an old example of a layout I did in school to use as an example, so wherever it says "image example" it should link to an example image of whatever I described.
layout is one of those areas of animation that is barely talked about and it's hard to get real examples of what it actually is!
What is Layout: Essentially a layout artists takes the storyboards and translates each scene into a usable set of drawings for the animators. In the old paper and pencil days they would be kept in a folder and passed onto the animators and background artists, now they'd be stored digitally in most cases in shared folders.
Elements of a layoutThe field guide and camera guide, dope sheets, The character poses, the cleaned up background, the overlays or underlays, and effects elements. Every element should be labeled - usually on the bottom right corner - with the artists name, the element name (ani1, ol4, fg1 etc) and the scene number. This way if a stack of paper gets dropped...Lets hope that never happens.
- Camera Key: Camera Keys are used to show the TV cut off (if applicable) the aspect ratio of the film. It's very similar to the blue lines on comic board, if you're a comic artist. In many cases the poses of characters are indicated on the field guide as well as the order of the various elements in the scene to show which layer overlaps etc. It should also include any camera moves such as a truck in, shake, or pan.
- Dope Sheets: Or x-sheets, or Exposure sheets. The section of the shows Dope sheet should be included in the layout for each scene.
- here is a great example of a filled in dope sheet from Jadellewellystopmotion. Dope sheet's are a big beast on their own, I won't go further into these in this article.
- Animation Elements that are added to a layout folder should have a rough and a clean version of each file:
- Background: The layout artist draws the background. Of course this varies depending on the production. if the background is being done digitally, the layout artists bg would just be the base drawing of the digital background. In many cases though, it's the full ink drawing of the bg, which then would go to the bg painter.
- Animation poses: The poses from the storyboard of the animation - this isn't necessarily the main key frames - just poses to indicate the position of their character or object in the acting, as well as in the frame.
- Overlays and underlays: still elements that have to be separated from the background so that objects or animation can pass between them. Things like foreground bushes, or panning objects.
Setting up a layoutOnce you have all these elements, you need to put them in order.
The Dope sheet is often attached to the outside of the scene folder along with a mini copy of the storyboard itself - with all the necessary labelling on it. It would also include a list of what's in this folder. Alternatively for a digital layout one could place a txt file in the folder with a list of the items included, then the storyboard could be placed in there. The other elements should be placed in there in Camera order (as outlined in your Camera Key) Clean first, then rough (separate). They could be labeled in whatever way is most comfortable. generally bg1.jpg ol1.jpg is useful enough, but for large productions with many hands a more detailed labelling including scene #'s would be good such as sc3-ol2.jpg (scene 3 overlay 2).
The layout is one of the most crucial steps of any production. It's the first step from translating storyboards into the animation process. It take a high understanding of all aspects of the production process!
I hope this was moderately useful!