Animatic Notes

What's an Animatic for?

The purpose of the animatic is to work out timing, camera & composition issues in 3D before you start spending a lot of time animating. Things that work in your storyboards might not work in 3D, and you may find that different shots needs more or less time than you previously thought. (Usually more.)

So when you're putting together your animatics, think a lot about:

  • Framing & composition - What's the focus of the shot? What's the best type of camera shot to use? Here's a good article on composition that you should check out.
  • Camera movement - Do you really need it... if you do decide to use a moving camera, try to work within the limitations of what you could do with a camera in real life.
  • Timing - this is tough to get right at first. You just have to try to watch everything play out in your head, and think about how much time is needed for each shot. It's really important to consider the film as a whole, and how the pacing of one shot affects the others. If the pacing isn't just right, your short will feel rushed, or will seem to drag. It often helps to show it to someone who hasn't seen it before and see what they think of the pacing.

DON'T think much about:

  • Models/props - Just use stand-in geometry, it only has to look good enough that you can recognize what it's supposed to be.
  • Animation - It doesn't have to look pretty, it only has to communicate where things/characters are at a given time in the shot, and vaguely what they are doing.

Putting together an animatic in Maya

  • If you haven't yet, you really should decide what the aspect ratio of your short will be. This will affect the composition of your shots. You should use either 4:3 or 16:9 (widescreen) unless you have a REALLY good reason to use something different. For 4:3, use 720:480 with square ( 1.0) pixel aspect ratio. For 16:9, use 720:480 with 1.2 pixel aspect ratio. You should set this up for each shot file in Maya in the Render Settings window (Window -> Rendering Editors -> Render Settings).
  • To accurately see the framing of your shots in Maya, you should set up a resolution gate on your camera. (And remember, don't use the persp camera, make a new camera!) Select the camera and in its attributes, under display options, check the "Display Resolution" box. This puts a frame in the viewport. It can be helpful to set overscan higher than 1 ( 1.2 is usually good).
  • Make sure your file's timebase is 30 fps, and playback speed is set to real-time. window -> settings -> preferences -> settings: time: NTSC (30 fps)... and, window -> settings -> preferences -> settings -> timeline: playback speed: real-time (30fps).
  • When you playblast shots: Hide all curves, joints, place3d texture nodes, the grid, and anything else that is showing that shouldn't be! This makes it a LOT easier to critique, and just shows good presentation on your part. Also, if you changed the overscan on your camera, set it back to 1.0 so that the frame isn't visible.
  • Make sure to set up your playblast settings properly. Window -> Playblast (options box): ... Display Size: From Render Settings, Scale: 1.0, and check "save to file". If your playblasts look really bad or artifacted, try changing the compression settings, but you shouldn't need to worry about this by default.
  • Keep your files organized and consistently named. If you have a Maya file for each shot, just name them "shotname0100.mb", "shotname0200.mb", etc. And name the playblasts the same. If you're referencing stuff, keep all your referenced assets in one place and name them appropriately as well.

Shot Compositing

Now, to composite your shots together... you can use either Adobe Premiere, or After Effects for this. In general, Premiere is for cutting shots or sequences together, and AE is for compositing individual shots. However, since your shorts are... short, AE would work fine for putting it all together as well, and is much easier if you're already familiar with it. If you haven't used either program before, Premiere is probably simpler to get into.

When you create your new Premiere file or AE composition, make sure your settings match your respective settings. So: width 720, height 480, pixel aspect ratio 1.0 (or 1.2 for widescreen), frame rate: 30 fps. In Premiere, you'll need to go to New Project -> Custom Settings and change the editing mode to Desktop, first. In AE, just go to Composition -> New Composition. You can leave audio settings as they are by default.


  • In Premiere: File -> Export: select Quicktime for file type. Then go to the video tab and select a compressor (see below).
  • In After Effects: Composition -> Add to Render Queue, Then click on the blue text next to "Output Module" and set Format to Quicktime. Click on "Format Options" to set compression type.

For compression, we'd recommend using Quicktime, and for compression using either Sorenson3 (faster export, larger file) or H.264 (slower export, smaller file).

Also, Windows Media Player is clunky sometimes so you should use Media Player Classic to play media files instead. It's much lighter, and... works better. The other nice thing is that it's a standalone .exe file. You can find it in the main directory of your network space.