Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.

Professional animation houses use powerful server racks with multiple processors and RAM rather than disk storage. The rendering of a complex animation could take 24 to 48 hr with these facilities. For example, the 3deeit studio uses eight servers in a rack with eight processor cores/server.

Clearly, it is good to have an idea of the animation length and complexity before beginning a project like this. Sometimes it also helps to do some physical prototypes to make sure both the end user and the animator are on the same page.

Often, one of the first steps is to storyboard the animation, graphically organizing it in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence that helps visualize the animation. (Animations that are strictly technical may not require a storyboard, however.) A basic script is critical to nail down what is actually being animated. The objects that aren't moving obviously need less time and attention.

The next step is data collection, starting with the CAD files, usually in a STEP format. These are large datasets, and animators strive to ensure the information isn’t too detailed (eliminating such information as screws or screw threads, sensors, and so forth) for the final animation. All 3D models must be imported into the animation software and prepped (adding textures, materials, decals, and so forth). This process gets to be time-consuming when there could be several thousand parts in a large assembly line.

Other reference materials such as product specification sheets, pictures, sketches, video, print ads, and brochures help animators create an accurate final representation of the component or machine. Their first product is a basic colorized animation created to make sure the motion is correct, accurate, and to the end user’s liking. This step is necessary because the computational time necessary for final renderings is lengthy.

The final rendering begins once this first draft is approved. Then, computers create the photorealism, frame by frame. The final step is postproduction, where animators add titles, customer logos, and branding, and edit the rendered pieces into a final video file.

Movements and ancillary animation make the project more complicated. For instance, adding fluid animation into a hydraulic system adds complexity. The number of moving parts/linkages also boosts complexity because of the motion involved. Animations that must exhibit full photorealism also take a lot of rendering time and power, even for draft renderings.

One of the challenges in creating animations is to balance the level of photorealism with the project timeframe/budget. It's easy to go overboard and create a nice-looking still image. But we’ve seen end users who’ve gone into shock when they realize that rendering a whole animation this way will occupy a bank of servers for a week.

Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.