Animation filmmaking: A step-by-step guide with Gitanjali Rao
Acclaimed animator Gitanjali Rao is known for her award-winning animated films. Her recent film, TrueLoveStory was selected for the Critics’ Week at the prestigious Cannes festival and this is just one among the many accolades that her films have been bestowed with. The filmmaker takes us through her process of making an animated film and all that goes into it.
The idea, the story comes first. I write down thoughts, details over long periods of my travel, day to day life or some intense emotions when felt. These form a sort of collection of a few lines over years. Then the idea evolves. I construct a story around the idea and let it flow naturally. The key image, the principal thought, the pure emotion of the film then starts forming in my mind.
Then begins the process of realising this image into a film.
The style and look of the film comes at the second stage. It all depends on what and how I would like to express my story. I find this stage most exciting because one has to be open to all kinds of visuals and sounds and music at this stage.
My characters emerge at this stage. I pen down their histories, their character traits and how they would move etc. along with the visuals. The same with backgrounds and spaces, I try and transport myself, in imagination, to the spaces I would like to create to set the mood and feel of the space. I have to see, feel, smell and hear these spaces before they emerge.
My storyboards are very elaborate and detailed with regard to look, feel and mood but need not be followed strictly with regard to camera angles, etc. More like mood boards.
The entire film is then put on a timeline using the storyboard and mood board images. A rough sound track to convey the basic sound scape and the scratch of final music is also laid down. This ‘Animatic’ serves to get an idea of the entire story, sound and edit. It’s ideal to make corrections and changes if any, at this stage.
Then begins the tedious work of animating frame by frame. I use Corel painter since it gives me very real, authentic brushes and also allows me to make frame stacks using which I can continuously refer to the images before and after. Backgrounds are also painted at this time and used while animating.
The final part of the animation involves compositing the background and various characters, objects, elements together. Here I try to enhance the entire shot and maintain the continuity as well as add effects etc. to improve and upgrade the animation.
After the final edit is ready, the work on the sound begins. Unless of course I am using sync sound, in which sound, music or dialogue is recorded at the beginning of animation and followed frame by frame. Background sound and music comes in during the post production.