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Help required for animation workflow

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Will SnowHelp required for animation workflow
by on Nov 8, 2009 at 6:47:50 pm

Hello!

I've found various tutorials and topics on CreativeCOW extremely helpful before, and have now decided to get involved myself.

I am embarking on my own private animation project, have almost neared the end of storyboarding, and am now sorting out the workflow. The finer points of which I am slightly hazy on, and would be deeply grateful for any insight that can be offered.

In terms of broad brush strokes, the workflow is this:
1. Begin with handpainted artwork
2. Scan in, and create individual elements using Photoshop
3. Import into After Effects and animate
4. Export from AE into Final Cut
5. Complete offline edit in FCP
6. Online grade in Color
7. Export graded image sequence from Color and
8. Export graded HD movie back into FCP to...
9. sync to completed sound and export final movie into various sizes and formats.

(The reason for also exporting an image sequence from Color is for the slim and distant possibility of going for a film-out.)

It's the finer points of format of exchange between these stages that I'm getting tied up in knots over.

Originally I thought exporting image sequences from AE would be the best bet. I would then transcode to ProRes 422 for the offline, use Cinema Tools to keep track of this relationship, and to then co-ordinate the online into Color.

However, as I understand it, for Cinema Tools to work properly with the image sequence coming out of AE (i.e. the 'film negative'), it would need timecode. Yet I am deeply unsure if an image sequence can have timecode. While an image sequence file name would store frame numbers, could Cinema Tools work with just these?

This led me to consider the plug-in 'Glue Tools' and using the DPX format for exporting out of AE, which I believe would allow me to use timecode properly.

Or, am I just over complicating the whole process?

Should I just export out of AE as some 24p format, perform an offline with a ProRes 422, then using Media Manager simply create a duplicate of the project once a final cut is done and relink the clips to the original 24p video?

My experience in film so far has always been with a tapeless workflow, first with the RED camera then Genesis, and I've always left before the online.

So as I say, any insight offered would be a great help!

Apologies if this shouldn't be in the AE forum, I will repost in another if more apt.

Many Thanks

Will Snow.


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Dave LaRondeRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 9, 2009 at 4:39:55 pm

I think you're getting far too elaborate, and your workflow reveals working with footage shot on a camera. The thing is, AE can sidestep a lot of the steps you think you need.

Why don't you just work in online resolutions in AE? Why not Render using the AE Render Queue (Exporting: a bad idea) in the codec you'll use in FCP? Prores, perhaps? Why not bring the completed audio track into AE and use it as a reference for your animation? Don't worry about rendering the sound: it really shouldn't be necessary. I render out lip-sync video all the time in AE with nary a problem.

And why do you think you need Color when you've got a ton of color-altering effects in AE? Okay, maybe you're more used to Color's tools... there's nothing wrong with that.

Remember this, too: 24p and 23.98 are just nicknames for the actual NTSC film frame rate, which is 23.976 fps. You must work in 23.976 in AE, because unlike so many other applications, AE actually calls a spade a spade.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 9, 2009 at 6:03:51 pm

Hi Dave, thanks for the response!

[Dave LaRonde] "Why don't you just work in online resolutions in AE?"

Apologies for not being clearer in my original post. I do intend to work in 1920x1080.

[Dave LaRonde] "Why not Render using the AE Render Queue..."

Again, my bad. I fully intend to use the Render Queue, not export.

[Dave LaRonde] "...in the codec you'll use in FCP?"

Do you mean offline codec, e.g. 422? I could, but does this presuppose I'm also rendering out at full res? So with each clip coming out of AE I'll have the online and offline?


[Dave LaRonde] "And why do you think you need Color when you've got a ton of color-altering effects in AE? Okay, maybe you're more used to Color's tools... there's nothing wrong with that."

Mmm, once in Final Cut I was thinking of sticking with the other programs too.

[Dave LaRonde] "Remember this, too: 24p and 23.98 are just nicknames for the actual NTSC film frame rate, which is 23.976 fps. You must work in 23.976 in AE, because unlike so many other applications, AE actually calls a spade a spade."

I'm in the land of PAL, does that change matters?

So just to recap, would you stay clear of an image sequence format altogether?

Thanks again W:)


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Dave LaRondeRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 9, 2009 at 7:27:14 pm

[Will Snow] "So with each clip coming out of AE I'll have the online and offline? "

Correct. That offline/online stuff is for cameras, where you have outrageous shooting ratios. In AE, you typically work on projects where the shooting ratio works out to 1:1. But, hey: if you're resolved to do more AE work than you actually have to do, knock yourself out.





[Will Snow] "I'm in the land of PAL, does that change matters? "

It matters a BUNCH. Personally, I would avoid 24p like the H1N1 virus if I were in PAL-land. The only reason to use it: a film-out.

If a film-out is indeed in your plans, you then have a choice to make: "Do I conform my 24p edit to 25 for TV, thus speeding up my video and audio by about 4%... or do I go to a proper post house where the 24p-to-25 frame rate conversion job is done on hardware, which preserves the speed but is extremely expensive... or do I work at 25 and conform my completed project to 24 for the film-out and slow it down?"





[Will Snow] "So just to recap, would you stay clear of an image sequence format altogether? "

Not necessarily. If you want to use image sequences, by all means use image sequences. They're particularly handy for those folks who overtax their computers, which can cause AE to crash. With an image sequence, you simply pick up the render at the next frame... until the next crash, or until you opt for slower renders, learn how to utilize RAM in AE, or get more RAM.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Walter SoykaRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:11:18 am

[Dave LaRonde] "With an image sequence, you simply pick up the render at the next frame... until the next crash, or until you opt for slower renders, learn how to utilize RAM in AE, or get more RAM."

Another big advantage for rendering to image sequences: if you make a small tweak, it's trivial to re-render only the changed frames, instead of working around it with proxies or re-rendering the entire sequence.

Walter Soyka, Principal
Keen Live, Inc.
Presentation, Motion Graphics & Widescreen Design
RenderBreak: A Blog on Innovation in Production



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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:43:03 am

Hi Walter

Thanks for that. I think I will be using an image sequence for the master quality, plus a ProRes 422 transcode to work with in FCP.


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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Nov 11, 2009 at 12:41:08 am

Hi Dave

I would have replied sooner, but I've been doing a bit of research on the whole shebang.

It looks like a film out will not be required. So that makes the 25fps option clearly the one to take ... right? I can do DVD-outs and tape-outs for PAL no problem. If NTSC is needed, then it's needed and a conversion must be done. I could even do a 50i 1920x1080 Blu-Ray without any major complications.

At least I think so...


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Rohit IyerRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 4, 2009 at 10:37:05 am

Hi,

This is to both Dave and Will and is a continuation of the conversation I was having with Will here: http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/2/967828#967867

I'm also having a hard time deciding between 24p and 25p for my short animated film which will be about 3-4 minutes long.

I won't actually be taking a film-out, but I have the romantic notion that some day I might. So in practical terms, this project will be either uploaded online on a site like Vimeo or written to PAL DVDs/tapes.

So I suppose my question is, in this situation, is it better to go with 24p or 25p?

Will there be any difficulty with a film out if I go with 25p?

Is the 4% change in speed really noticeable?

My intended workflow is the following:

1. Animate in TV Paint Animation Pro (a raster-based animation software) at 2048 x 858 (2.39:1) and export as PNGs. The animation would be mainly on a single layer and the whole film has only a few or no cuts. So no separate shots.

2. Composite and edit the PNG sequence(s) in After Effects at full res and export the final film as a new set of PNG sequence(s).

3. Put the video and sound together with Quicktime Pro and render an H.264 MOVs at highest quality.

I don't know what formats are usually used to future-proof this kind of stuff. But this is what I had in mind. What do you guys think?

Sorry if I'm asking too many things at the same time.

Best,
Rohit Iyer


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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 4, 2009 at 2:13:35 pm

Heya Rohit!

Right, first things first: framerate.

I'm now going to use 23.976. In AE, this is called 23.976, but Final Cut Studio will read it and output it as 23.98, even though it's really 23.976.

The reason I decided on 23.976, even though I am in the Land of PAL, is to not lock myself in to 25fps. Of all the framerates, it seems 25fps is the most inconvenient for changing to others. So unless you're uber uber uber sure that you'll never need an NTSC framerate, or a 24 framerate, then it's been recommended to me to use 23.976

Think of 23.976 as a lot more future-proof than PAL.

Compressor can do a fairly job with the speed up to 25fps, and 23.976 is the natural speed for a pulldown to NTSC (all original 24fps film when scanned in is slowed down to 23.976, then the pulldown is applied). Also, with all the Blu-Ray hubbub etc etc, it will be the most natural for that (I believe).

However, it's totally up to you.

One thing has occured to me: as your film contains few or no cuts, is it feasible to simply output the project in the various framerates required? That way you'll have a project at the natural rates for all.

As I say, it's totally up to you. If you're really sure you'll only ever out this to web and PAL then I guess the 25fps is the most natural.

Secondly, aspect ratio.

I've been reliably informed that though a lot features say their aspect ratio is 2.39:1, they were actually made in 2.35:1, and for some reason cropped to 2.39:1 for projection. Also, I believe if you make it in 2.35:1 this will make the whole letterbox issue for the DVD out a bit simpler.

Again, that's just what I've been told, and I'm deciding to run with it.

BTW, is 2048 a bit excessive in terms of dimension? I'm just using 1920. I believe when they do a full 2K scan of a film, the actual edge-to-edge picture of the film is never used due to sountrack etc. I could be totally wrong, but I worked on a big studio picture over the summer, which shot to hard drive and they used a 1920 width. Again, your call!

Can you sync an image sequence to sound in Quicktime Pro alone? Cool! I never knew it had that power. (On a side note, Snow Leopard's Quicktime X is PANTS! )

Finally, I would personally render it out to a ProRes of some kind first (ideally a 4444 I guess) to keep as a digital master, then from that render out H264s, MPEG-2s etc etc.

Again, this is all just what I've garnered from various sources, so do not take it as gospel!

Hope that all helps, best of luck with the project!

W:)


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Rohit IyerRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 4, 2009 at 3:18:40 pm

Hi Will!

Thanks again for the quick reply.

Think of 23.976 as a lot more future-proof than PAL.

I'm glad the animation software I mentioned above (TV Paint) can play at any frame rate, so this could definitely work. I must admit, I get a bit confused with these decimal frame rates and "pulldown"! :)

I've started compulsively checking frame-rates of videos that I download. With mainstream HD trailers, as you mentioned, it is typically 23.976. But with independent animation stuff, like on Vimeo, I've seen everything from this to 24, 25, etc. So, like you said, it probably depends on me.

Also, this still means that a PAL DVD will be a bit faster, right? I work on Windows, so I don't use FCP or Compressor. Am I right to suppose that any old DVD software (Nero, Roxio, etc.) can do the conversion?

One thing has occured to me: as your film contains few or no cuts, is it feasible to simply output the project in the various framerates required? That way you'll have a project at the natural rates for all.

I don't think I follow this. As I the animation will be synced to music and dialog, will this not cause problems? Do you mean modifying the audio accordingly for each version?

Also, since the animation will be drawn frame-by-frame, will changing the frame rate not make things all the more problematic?

Secondly, aspect ratio.


I've read about HD camera settings online, so I've been going by that. That might be kinda stupid actually. I've not done live-action (yet!) so I can't say. I was assuming that for the DVD letterbox, I would create an anamorphic DVD version specifically for that purpose, which I'm guessing would actually be 1.78:1. I'd like the online version to not have a letterbox.


BTW, is 2048 a bit excessive in terms of dimension?


Regarding the resolution, again, I just thought I'd go by what I've read. I've also read that with animation sometimes even 1280x720 is good enough as the film grain tends to absorb pixel edges. Also, my thinking was that 2048x858 any way has much fewer pixels than 1920x1080, so the amount of memory and processing power required would be similar and I'd get a Cinemascope look in the bargain!

I realize this might appear naive. So I'd love any further insights on this.

Can you sync an image sequence to sound in Quicktime Pro alone


I discovered this when I got frustrated with the endless recycling and compression stages in my past projects. That basically involved ripping the DVD and making an MOV and finally compressing in H.264 in Quicktime Pro.

So to remove all the various stages in between, I figured out that I could just take the final image sequence, open it in Quicktime Pro, Copy-Paste the audio (again opened in a separate Quicktime window) and render out with H.264 at the best settings.

I did this with my last project and got more-or-less what I would call a master. Since my projects have usually been one minute or less, the size is also pretty good.

I would personally render it out to a ProRes of some kind first


I'm not familiar with ProRes, but from what I've read, isn't it an intermediate format? Like I said my definition of a master isn't particularly great, which is why I'm being such a stickler this time.

In fact, I generally backup the PNG sequence and have considered that to be the best quality, basically due to my own ignorance.

It is sad that there doesn't seem to be a hard and fast way to do these things. From design school onwards, I've seemed to be the only one in my class trying to discover all of these things. I guess that's what makes it kinda fun too! :)

It would be nice to stay in touch during our production process.

Best,
Rohit

PS - Are you British (hence, PAL)? I'm an Indian and so we've always been trained to stick to PAL.

PPS - And sorry if I seem to be over-thinking this. I've invested a lot of my time and effort in this particular project and like any child, I'd like the absolute best for it. I guess it's the same for you. :)


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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 4, 2009 at 3:46:04 pm

Heyho.

I have to say, I am not an animator, in fact I can barely draw (my friend is providing character artwork which I will then animate within AE) so I have no knowledge of TV Paint, or a real grasp of the consequences of trying to change a hand-drawn frame rate into others.

Doesn't hand drawn animation do weird things like draw on "2s" or "1s" or something? Again, quite how this affects a framerate change I'm not sure.

My suggestion was indeed to work and output at various lengths, changing audio as required, but this may well cause more problems than solve, so just ignore it.

Yeah, decimal frame rates are weird. But just remember they're only decimal when talking in a "per second" rate. As in, there's not a .976th of a frame if you output an image sequence, then 23 whole frames. It's simply the rate of playback, does that make sense?

For instance, say I shoot a water balloon popping at 500 frames a second. That could be 2 seconds of real-time popping. But say I watch those 1000 frames back at 24 frames per second, it'll be reaaaaaalllllly slow (and cool).

Anyway, the term pulldown simply means getting from ~24 frames a second to ~30 a second. Lets take 4 film frames, we need to make 5 video frames (then repeat the process 6 times to produce one second of each). Pulldown is simply the method for achieving that.

I don't know enough about Nero or Roxio to be well informed, but I do believe every PAL DVD is simply sped up, so I'd imagine that's what those two do too.

Hmmm, anamorphic for the DVD. Dunno, I did a quick test with my 2.35 frame, and in Compressor I can add in a 2.35 letterbox which means it plays back fine on a 16:9 TV. But maybe anamorphic is the more sophisticated way forward. Simply don't know.

Yeah, with aspect ratio, of course if you're creating a 2.39:1 ratio with 2048 width, then that image will be much smaller than a 1920x1080. I dunno, up to you. Personally, I'm using a 1920x817 frame for a 2.35:1 image. But by all means use 2048!

What I mean by a master is a lossless version. H.264, by its very definition, loses colour space and frame detail doesn't it? I thought it used technology similar to MPEG-2. But I'm not sure. Don't quote me!

I'm personally going to create a ProRes4444 if an HDCAM SR is needed, I can do a 4:4:4 tape-out. Or whatever, I'm probably wrong!

I don't think you can ever overthink these things. I've found it helpful to create a flowchart of exactly the steps I'm taking. Just to have it all down in ink, to save my head from thinking about it.

As you say, there are no real rules, so by all means do you what you're happy with.

I am British, and do post updates of your project along the way. I'll probably makes posts like "HELP the 23.976 pulldown conversion has lost gamma interpolated 1.0 value and is ghosting!!1!!" or something.

W:)


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Rohit IyerRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 5, 2009 at 11:54:42 am

Hey,

Doesn't hand drawn animation do weird things like draw on "2s" or "1s" or something? Again, quite how this affects a framerate change I'm not sure.

I think it's similar to what you mention later, here:

But just remember they're only decimal when talking in a "per second" rate. As in, there's not a .976th of a frame

I think the same applies when I'm using TV Paint - it distributes frames so that the average is 23.976 per second, as you mentioned.

Of course, since I'm drawing frame-by-frame or every other frame (2's), this can get a bit confusing where a round number like 24/25 makes it easier to wrap one's head around. Plus 24 is the classic number that animators always use.

all original 24fps film when scanned in is slowed down to 23.976, then the pulldown is applied

Does this mean that in the film-out the film is sped back up to true 24 frames/sec? Doesn't this imply that a 24 fps source can always be changed to 23.976 or 25 fps or 29.97 fps afterward with audio adjustments?

I mean if everything is interchangeable in the end, does it really make a difference?

I think this is what is bugging me most. All around the internet people are using 24p and 23.976 fps interchangeably, so it's hard to know which one is being referred to.

Also I read about 24p and DVDs on Wikipedia:

24p on DVD
DVDs, however, are capable of storing the native 24p frames. Every Hollywood movie is laid to disc as a 24p (actually 23.976p – see below) stream. With a progressive-scan DVD player and a progressive display, such as an HDTV, only the progressive frames are displayed and there is no conversion to an interlaced format – eliminating the appearance of any interlace or de-interlacing artifacts. When displayed on a standard NTSC TV (which only display 60i) the DVD player will add 3:2 pulldown to the signal.


This does imply that 23.976 is the most future-proof. Also do you think this means that for PAL DVDs, the player would adjust the frame-rate, etc. on its own? I think I need to do more research on how DVDs work as well. Perhaps there might not be a need to conform to 25fps manually just to make a PAL DVD?

I hope I'm not boring you with these observations. I'm just really enjoying this thread!

-Rohit


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Rohit IyerRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 5, 2009 at 12:04:42 pm

Another thought occurred to me:

Most of the discussions online have to do with interpolated After Effects animation or mixing frame rates from different sources.

If I'm just working with a single hand-drawn, frame-by-frame source and using After Effects only for color and stuff, and I maintain a consistent frame rate... technically, I should be able to use any frame rate, right as long as I can convert to other formats later?

Just a thought. Sorry if I'm stating the obvious.

-Rohit


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Will SnowRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 5, 2009 at 3:52:00 pm

Does this mean that in the film-out the film is sped back up to true 24 frames/sec?

Crikey, you've got me thinking now. Don't quote me, but I think there are two scanning stages: stage one, where the negative of all the rushes (or maybe just the selected takes) are scanned at 2k. These will then be the digital master image sequences. I believe these will be have a framerate of 24fps.

Then, once the final cut has been done, and all digital effects composited in, and the DI grade has been completed, it is then outputted as a master digital image sequence (in .dpx format) which is then printed out to film (at 24fps).

Then for the DVD etc, that master image sequence is probably 'slowed down' to a 23.976 rate for pulldown, and sped up for 25fps.

But I am by no means certain. Of course, for a film that is actually cut from the negative itself, like they used to do, the final master would have to be scanned in for pulldown etc etc.

I think...


Everything is interchangeable I guess, but it's about the ease and cost of the changes. 23.976 is the easiest for change, 25fps the least so (it seems).

Generally, whenever anyone mentions 24p (especially in the digital domain) they are either knowingly or unknowingly referring to or meaning 23.976.

I assumed the studio feature I worked on was 24p, until I was told it's 23.976.

I would be very careful about DVDs being able to play progressively. That bit from Wiki only mentions HDTVs and probably is on about rather high spec players. I think it's always best to think of a low tech end user that has a bog standard player with a bog standard tv, and just wants a bog standard DVD that will work on it.

But I don't know enough about DVDs to be able to be sure.

If I'm just working with a single hand-drawn, frame-by-frame source and using After Effects only for color and stuff, and I maintain a consistent frame rate... technically, I should be able to use any frame rate, right as long as I can convert to other formats later?


I think that TV Paint program is the place where you set you're framerate. I dunno, I'm getting a bit confused with all this myself now. Instead of adding to the confusion, I'll just keep quiet.

23.976 seems like the safest bet. That's the main thing.

W:)


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Rohit IyerRe: Help required for animation workflow
by on Dec 6, 2009 at 7:07:30 am

Hey Will,

Good points. And also, I hope I haven't added to your confusion!

I guess the only way to learn is to move forward with something and (hopefully not) make mistakes.

Cheers and all the best for your project!

-Rohit Iyer
rohit.iyer@gmail.com


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