Making a 3D animated short film can be really challenging, especially if you’re starting from scratch. You’ll need a bunch of software, and a group of artists to bring your idea to life, which can be quite expensive and time-consuming.
How to make a 3D animated short film?
In this post, we’re gonna break down the process of making a 3D animated short film. You’ll realize at the end of the article that you’re able to make your own, even if you’re on a low or no budget! Let’s get right to it!
Stages of making 3D movies
Film making, whether it’s short or long; is divided into 03 stages. Preproduction, production, and post-production. We’ll illustrate each one using an example from the rich list of Blender movies. It’s called Sprite Fright and you can find all the details on Blender Studio.
In the preproduction stage, all you need is a pen and paper. It’s all about making your story. So What is your story going to be like?
See? If you have all the necessary tools and a group of artists, and you don’t have a story, then what will you tell the viewers?
a) The Story/script
Take all the time you need in this stage. You want your story to reach your audience, live in it, and feel it. Who are your characters? develop the relationship between them in your story. Write down each movement, action, expression, and dialogue. Think of that visually! When you write down an action, imagine how it will appear on the screen.
Try to narrow it and don’t go with unnecessary details. Highlight the main events with a few developments.
b) The Main Character
Introduce your main character and what it looks like. This is usually done by a concept artist with the guidance of the storyteller, to identify the physical appearance which will be later used as a reference to help build the environment and props around.
In this vital part, you can previsualize how your short film will be. This shows you the main camera angles and positions. You will be able to control its length. Draw and gather all the main events that happened in the script and get rid of the unnecessary parts.
Turn your storyboard into an animatic using an editing program like After effects for 239$ a year, or Blender for free. This will enable you to see what should be changed in the story before moving forward with production.
Once you got all the material ready, it’s time to give it three dimensions.
This part will be handled by 3D modeling artists. Once they receive 2D artwork. They use it as a reference to develop characters and build props and environments. Some of the modeling software that can be used in this stage are Zbrush, Blender, Maya, 3ds max, Cinema 4D, and Modo. If you want something similar and free: Blender is your best buddy!
Try to be close as much as possible to the reference given by the concept artist while relying on the story to get more inspiration. It’s important to stay on the same visuals. 3D texturing can easily affect your style. This stage includes UV unwrapping, texturing, painting, and shading. Best 3D texturing software out there are Mari, Substance 3D painter, substance 3D designer, Quixel Suite, and Photoshop (with prices from 200$-500$ up). On the other hand, Unreal Engine+Megascans, Blender+ Gimp are free to use.
At this stage, rigging artists are responsible for building interconnected joints or bones to their characters and making that skeleton controllable for animators. This is not a unique feature only for human or animal characters; buildings, props, and any other object that moves can be rigged. This task includes generally Building joints for the skeleton, skinning, and creating a set of controls. The best software for rigging is Maya which is a paid program. As an alternative free solution: Blender!
Animators should have models and characters ready and clean for the layout and animation to facilitate the process for them. They work to bring life to the story in a 3D environment using techniques like keyframing or motion capture depending on the concept. It’s the fun part but it’s a bit difficult. Here FX artists will collaborate with animators to make visual effects for the scene (fire, smoke, explosions …etc). Best software for animation and fx are: Maya, Houdini as paid programs, and Blender as a free one.
e) Lighting and Rendering
This part can be technical and artistic at the same time. Here you set your film mode according to the concept and the story mood. Find the right light balance that matches your scene and fits artistically your camera angels and movements. You will need a strong PC to render thousands of frames with ease or you can do that on online rendering farms.
a) Video Editing and Color-Correction
You feel like the film goes longer than it should? A longer scene maybe? compared to the next one? Do your cuts and play with transitions in a way you feel that this is the story you wrote in the beginning. Make your shots look similar using color correction. Adobe premiere pro is very handy for video editing and color correction (with 200$ a year. )
However, a free good alternative is the DaVinci resolve
b) Sound Design and Effects
Record your best vocal performances and add music with sound effects to your film so that it shows emotions and communication with audience. “Audition” is good for sound design recording and mixing music. On the other hand “Audacity” is a free program.
That was a quick breakdown on how to make your own 3D animated short from scratch whether on a low or a high budget. Hope that was useful for you.