Character Development and Pre-Visualization – Pro
Course Breakdown

In this course, you will focus on the most critical aspects of setting up your short film for success – including character design and short film layout. You’ll also animate character tests to showcase your understanding of the key personalities and motivations of your animated characters.

Curriculum Summary

Week 01Walk through a short film

Every great film starts with an idea. You’ll learn to pitch your story with your classmates and begin your journey on how to create a film. You’ll also hear from ILM animator Charles Alleneck as he gives you an in-depth look at the process for making his short film “Onion John.” This week you also meet your production team – the classmates you’ll be working with throughout the term on creating an awesome short film.

Week 02Character Design for Character Animators

Character Design is essential to bring out great acting performances when you produce your film. That quirky mouth, the little cow-flip of the hair truly defines unique characteristics and personality to core character motivations that can be further defined through animation. This week you’ll also begin meeting with your classmates to collaborate on developing the best story pitch for your group’s short film.

Week 03Storyboarding

Now this is where the fun begins! Join Dean DeBlois, director of How to Train Your Dragon, as he presents you with his insights on developing the beats of your story and help you think about how your short film is going to look. Rough out and previs dynamic camera layout in 2D storyboards and envision how the film will convey the core story points of your film. Let your imagination run wild as you see the story come to life!

Week 04Layout

A film is not only about the animation, cool effects, and sets. Learn the importance of camera layout from Pixar’s Ewan Johnson: layout is critical to the film as you learn how you can use close-up, medium, and wide establishing shots to entertain and interest your audience. You’ll continue to work with your classmates to develop the look and feel of your short film through the development of an animatic, and you’ll leverage your new knowledge of camera work into advancing the narrative of your short film.

Week 05Cinematography Basics

Continue to further define the composition and layout of your film. Observe and learn how great films use specific camera lenses, composition techniques, camera angles to make the audience emotionally invest, engage and understand your film.

Week 06Applied Cinematography

Now it is your turn. There are many ways to begin and Senior Layout Artist Nick Walker shares workflow tips on how to approach and tackle your film core cinematography concepts learned from previous weeks. You’ll apply your learning directly to the development of your team’s short film this week – taking key composition and cinematography techniques and adding them to your short film animatic.

Week 07Previsualization for CG Filmmaking

CG Films are expensive to create without proper planning. Previs is fast and simple way to “see” the movie in 3D by using basic camera layout, positioning of character and the use of camera lenses before “committing” to the actual production of the film. This is where you can truly see your film start to come to life in the 3D space and apply different camera techniques from previous weeks.

Week 08Tips from the pros: From Previs to Final Layout

CG film creation follows a production pipeline, so other departments can start building the characters, set dressing and props to make your film’s world come alive. Use our patent-pending AMP workflow to bring the traditional production pipeline to your home. Its the only online production studio right at your fingertips! This week you’ll learn best practices from top feature film studios on how best to manage your shots within a production pipeline, including some tips on what not to do.

Week 09Entertainment deep-dive

Entertainment is the key to great animation. It could possibly be the single most important concept we will discuss, since without entertainment, the audience will get nothing out of what they see. Pixar’s Doug Sweetland teaches you how to improve your animation to keep the audience entertained, engaged and wanting more.

Week 10The CG Production Pipeline

This week you will get the rare opportunity to get an inside look at the professional CG pipeline and learn how animation fits into the filmmaking process at DreamWorks Animation. Rex Grignon, Head of Character Animation on Madagascar and Madagascar 2, and Sue Erokan, Production Supervisor for Character Animation, show you how a professional animator gets a shot from layout all the way through to completion using actual footage from a feature film. Then, you and your classmates will get to work with this pipeline technique with our patent-pending AMP tool, the only online production pipeline available to students today.

Week 11A day in the life of an ILM animator

Possibly one of the most exciting lectures you’ll see this term! This week you get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work at a top studio like Industrial Light & Magic. Shawn Kelly, Animation Mentor cofounder and Lead Animator at ILM, walks you through an actual production shot from launch to final. He also invites artists from other departments to give an overview of the ILM feature production pipeline.

Week 12Review & Recap

Whew! You made it. You are well on your way to make your short film as you review the essential planning and preparation of how to start a short film. Now on to the next production class!

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