Every animation production, whether it’s a TV series or feature operates in a hierarchy – a command structure developed over 70 years ago during the golden age of the animation industry, around the time when theatrical shorts gave way to TV animation.
It’s evolved a lot since then. Today’s animation productions are totally stream lined in the way that they are created. The people who work in today’s productions are there to make sure the project goes smoothly and is delivered on time and at the highest quality possible.
Not including pre-production or post production (scripts, storyboards, editing, etc…), here’s a common list of positions found within the animation department and their most basic functions:
Lipsync artists are responsible for animating speech. They animate the characters mouths to match up with the recorded dialogue. A team of lipsync artists will normally have a lead lipsync animator to go to with any issues.
Working in teams, Animators are responsible for character performance – animating all body movements and facial animation (except for the speech when a lipsync team is employed). Also, animating or adjusting camera moves and ensuring proper framing and composition. Animators usually turn to a Lead Animator with any issues that may arise in production.
A Lead Animator is a team leader. There is usually one Lead Animator for each team. They usually have the same responsibilities as an Animator with the additional task of assisting the Animators with any issues, questions or concerns. Sometimes Lead Animators are given the responsibility of reviewing shots/scenes for quality and calling for revisions (animation fixes/changes). Some studios will put the Lead in charge of assigning shots.
The Animation Supervisor also reviews shots/scenes for quality and calls for any needed revisions. Assigns the shots to the animation teams, and addresses any issues that the Lead Animator or Animators may have during production. Will do a bit of co-ordinating between departments if the animation team is in need of anything from another department (for example – a change to a rig or design).
Assistant Animation Director
The Assistant Director does what the title refers to – helps out the Animation Director to review shots/scenes and filter through retake notes from the Series Director so that they are easier for the animators to address.
A big part of the AD’s job is making sure that the Series Director and Creator’s vision is being met. Reviews all shots/scenes and calls animation retakes. Filters through the Series Directors retake notes to clarify and simplify them (if needed).
The Series Director is charged with many tasks. Here’s a list of things that a Series Director is usually responsible for.
- Reviewing storyboards and calling for changes – gives final approval.
- Sitting in on the creation and conforming of the lieca (or animatic), this sets the pacing of the show.
- May direct or give input on voice recordings (dialogue).
- Reviews all main and episodic designs(characters, props, backgrounds/environments)
- Reviews layout and animation – gives revisions and approvals.
- Sits in and makes decisions on sound mix and music, finalizing the edit.
Lucrative studios will sometimes employ all of the positions seen above, but average to smaller animation studios will sometimes combine the tasks of two, or even three positions and load them on to one person. (often due to a budget restrictions).
For example, a studio might put more responsibility on the Lead animators, giving the Leads some supervisory tasks, allowing the studio to avoid hiring Animation Supervisors for the project. This wouldn’t be all bad for the Lead Animators as they gain experience that will help them later in their career.
Another important thing to note. What a Lead, Supervisor or Animation Director is responsible for at one studio might be a little different at another studio. It’s up to the studio owners, or a production manager to determine who is responsible for what tasks.
As you can see, animation departments operate in a hierarchy and are fairly streamlined. But no matter how planned and organized the animation department is, it’s the attitudes and talents of the people in that hierarchy that make a project run smoothly, get delivered on time and at a high level of quality.