Animation Terms – Common Studio Term
Animation Terms – Common Studio Terms
This is the first in a five part series of animation terms that are important to know.
In this list of terms I include the most common animation terms that you are likely to hear and use in an animation studio. Many of these terms are also standard film terms as well.
Action as Dialogue – When a character does something, instead of replying to a question, statement or action of another character; it serves as the equivalent to an actual response.
ADR – Additional Dialogue Recording; lines of dialogue that are revised and re-recorded during Post-production.
Alpha Channel – The part of a digital image that is transparent.
Animation – Frame by frame film making.
Animating on 1’s/2’s/3’s etc. – How long each drawing (or frame) is held during playback. Most commonly, animation is played back on 2’s for a smooth look.
Appeal – The overall quality or charm of any animation.
Aspect Ratio – The ratio of height to width of the frame expressed as a ratio (eg. 4:3, or 16:9) For a standard (square) TV picture – for every 4 units wide the picture is 3 units high. And for a newer HD TV (rectangle) picture – for every 16 units wide the picture is 9 units high.
Background – Usually referred to as a “BG”. The static elements in a scene that appear to lie at the most distant plane. The BG is generally rendered on a single level as a painting.
Balance – The design aesthetic that is considered when visual elements are added , deleted, positioned and scaled in the various stages of the animation process.
Birds Eye View – An extremely high camera position and down shot.
Blocking – Rough animation without any refining. An attempt to show rough timing and posing.
Breakdown Pose – There are Key Poses and Inbetweens, but a breakdown pose is like a special key pose that helps to define a certain motion between pose A and pose B. Usually to help define an arcing motion.
Camera Angle – The height and angle in which the camera is pointing. In an animation studio we use different terms to describe commonly used camera angles such as Upshot, Down shot, Birds eye view, Worms Eye View, Medium Shot, Head Shot, Wide Shot, Establishing Shot, Two shot, Close up, Extreme Close Up.
Camera Move – Any change in the fielding of a scene, or any time the camera actually moves (as opposed to panning a background). A camera move can be a Zoom, Truck In, Truck Out, Rotation, Tilt, etc.
Camera View – The artwork that appears within the cameras field of view; That which will be rendered.
Cheat – Repositioning of elements in a scene in order to enhance the visual impact or appeal of its composition. Anytime something isn’t working in a scene and we have to break the rules or do something unconventional we usually call it a “cheat” – “let’s cheat this” or “lets do a cheat”.
Close-Up – A shot in which the camera is framing the object of interest only, generally the head and shoulders on the case of a character.
Color Model – The first digitized drawing of a character to be painted. It serves as a prototype for all of the subsequent drawings of the same character. Often the BG is referred to in order to pick colors that will have appeal in the final composited version.
Compositing – Done in software. The combining of two or more separate elements into one. For example – compositing the character, background, and foreground elements together. Alpha channels and layers are used.
Composition – Balancing the positive and negative spaces in a scene, as well as the angles and shapes of elements to direct the viewers eye to the focal point of the action. Also, to create a pleasing or appealing arrangement of the elements in a scene.
Compression – Method of reducing the file size of a digital image. Software will calculate those areas where the RGB values of the image are similar (eg. large areas of flat color in the BG such as a sky) that can be grouped together rather than rendered as separate pixels.
Continuity – In character animation, refers to matching a character pose between cuts (from one shot to the next). For example, if a character throws his arms up at the end of shot 32 and we cut to shot 33 – the characters arms should still be up at the start of shot 33. So we’re keeping a close eye on continuity between shots.
Constant – Part of any movement where an objects speed is constant from frame to frame.
Cross Cutting – The process of inter-cutting shots from separate, parallel action sequences in a story.
Cross-Dissolve – Sometimes, referred to as a Dissolve or X-Dissolve. A transitional device in which an outgoing scene fades out while the next scene fades up over the same number of frames.
Cut – A change of scenes without any kind of transition. e.g. “cut to the next scene”.
Cutoff – Usually referring to TV Cutoff. The area of the recorded image which is guaranteed to be within the viewing area of a standard video monitor.
Cycle – A series of drawings or key poses that are designed to hook-up and be repeated as many times as required.
Dailies – Sometimes known as Rushes. The screening of all takes and footage produced the previous day. Usually for reviewing by a Lead Animator, Animation Supervisor or Director.
Dialogue – The voice recording written and created in advance of the characters Lip-sync being animated.
Dubbing – The transferring of a video-image, sound or both, from one format to another, usually to make copies from a “Dubbing Master” videotape.
Editing – The arrangement of scenes into a final episode or film production complete with all sound elements, transitions, effects, and titles.
Effects – Also known as EFX, FX, or Special Effects. Any animation which is not a character or prop such as smoke, fire, water, explosions, light fx etc.
Establishing Shot – A wide shot to establish the location of where the action is about to take place.
Exaggeration – Overdoing or pushing the characters actions to exploit it’s comedic appeal.
Extreme Close-up – Very tight camera framing in which only part of an object or character is in view.
Extreme Keys – Also referred to as “Extremes”. Those key-frames that are considered vital in order to express the action, usually when a change of direction occurs.
Fade In/Fade Out – An adjustment in exposure over a series of frames in order to brighten the image from black (fade in) or darken the image (fade out).
Field – In animation, it’s the area within the view of the camera.
Field Guide – Frame lines indicating the desired framing of a scene. It’s basically a box that you keep your animation inside of. These days you usually have a field guide that indicates a 4:3 aspect ratio for older TV displays and a 16:9 ratio for wider HD displays.
Flash Back/Flash Forward – A deliberate jump in the time period of a film designed to give the audience additional information about what occurred at that point in time.
Flash-cut – Sometimes called a Flutter-cut. A series of quick cuts, usually between two different scenes that create a feeling of frenzy and tension.
Flow Chart – Also known as a Production Chart. A graphic representation of the critical timeline necessary to meet a production deadline.
Footage – Final complete animation that can be delivered to the next production stage.
Foreground – The elements in the frame which appear closest to camera.
Frame – A single rendered or recorded image.
Frames Per Second – Referred to as F.P.S. – The rate at which images must be displayed in order to achieve real time playback. (usually 24 FPS for film and 30 FPS for video).
Frame, Framing – Composition of a scene may take the form of Tight Framing or Loose Framing.
Gag – A humorous action. A gag is like a visual joke – there is a set-up and a pay-off.
Gesture – A characters pose or a subtle motion that invokes a narrative or a gets across an idea. For example, a character with her hands on her hips uses her head to gesture toward the door.
Gesture Drawing – Life drawing designed to effectively capture a models action with a minimum amount of line work, detail and rendering.
Head – The beginning of a film, sequence or scene.
High Angle Shot – Also known as a Down Shot. Achieved by placing the camera high above the elements of a scene, looking down on the action.
Hold – A number of frames where the action is static and a character remains in the same position (also see Moving Hold).
Illusory Time – Also known as Conditional Time. A depiction of events that is subjective and designed to convey a characters perception of the passage of time (eg. Dream Sequence). It does not adhere to real Present Time Continuity.
Inbetween – Those poses that occur between the the main Animation Key Poses. In classical animation, these are the animated drawings created by an Inbetweener. This position hardly exists in production any more as most animation software will assist animators in this task.
Jump Cut – A jump in the spacial and temporal continuity of a scene;usually a mistake, the result of a lack of “coverage” or not enough background space. It can be used deliberately for its jarring effect. (eg. Jean-Luc Godards’ Breathless).
Key Poses – The strong poses of a character that expresses the broad action of a scene. Used for character acting.
Layout – The stage in production between Design and Animation. The Layout Artist creates a Field Guide, Levels for all scene elements, brings in the Props, FX, and BG as well as the start poses for the characters in the scene. The purpose of this stage is to set up the scene for animation.
Limited Animation – Pose-To-Pose animation with the least amount of inbetweens used. Actions are usually quick and hold for longer periods of time during dialogue.
Locked Off Shot – Sometimes referred to as a Static Shot. A shot in which the camera does not move.
Lieca Reel – Sometimes referred to as an Animatic. Basically a moving storyboard with sound. The Lieca is part of pre-production – Storyboard panels are scanned and cut together to length and with dialogue. This is done in an editing suite by an editor and accompanied by the director. This process is meant to lock down the pacing of the show or animation piece. A movie file is created and distributed to the production teams to watch, get a feel for the what the director is looking for and use as reference.
Lip Sync – The animation of a characters mouth to match the recorded dialogue provided. Some productions have a lip sync artist who specializes in this. In other productions the animator is responsible for the lip sync.
Low Angle Shot – A camera angle in which its placement is lower to the ground than normal eye level.
Match Dissolve – A Cross Dissolve in which the composition and subject matter match visually.
Match Cut – A cut in which the composition and subject matter match visually.
Medium Shot – Camera framing in which characters are framed approximately from the waist up.
Mix – Also known as Sound Mix. The session in which all of the sound tracks are adjusted and then combined in order to blend with the visuals.
Model Sheets – A design package in which a characters construction is shown, rotations are drawn, sample poses are indicated and mouth charts are provided for the Layout Artists and Animators.
Motion Capture – Sometimes referred to as Mocap. The digital recording of spatial and kinetic information by means of sensors worn by an actor or athlete who performs an action to be represented in 3D Animation. Used almost exclusively in gaming. There is another more advanced method called performance capture which also records facial movements used for film and video. It was first developed and used for the film The Polar Express starring Tom Hanks.
Mouth Chart – Drawn Model Sheets indicating mouth positions used for a characters speech. Part of a characters Design Package for use in Lip-sync Animation.
Moving Hold – A series of frames where a character is relatively motionless. Usually there is a very subtle movement to keep the character “alive”, including blinks and changes in eye direction.
Outtakes – Footage not used in the final assembly of a sequence.
Over-Shoulder-Shot – A two shot in which the back of one of the characters heads occupies the foreground.
Pacing – The rhythm of a sequence, scene or entire film. The speed a which actions occur.
Pan – A camera move in which the camera moves along its horizontal axis; pans to the right or left.
Pantomime – A dramatic entertainment, originating in Roman mime, in which performers express meaning through gestures sometimes accompanied by music. It’s important for character animators to have a good understanding of pantomime to successfully convey a characters actions to an audience when there is no dialogue.
Pass – A run-through of an entire sequence or section of animation while attention is given to one specific detail of the animation. (e.g. doing a pass for facial animation, or a pass for secondary animation).
Persistence of Vision – The property in human vision that allows us to perceive rapidly displayed sequential images as smooth motion, the threshold of which occurs at about 18 FPS.(frames per second).
Point of View – Also referred to as P.O.V. – A camera angle that approximates what one of the character in a scene would be seeing.
Pose-To-Pose-Animation – The method of animating in which extreme poses of the character are created in the desired order, then the inbetweens are done to create smooth motion. May also refer to Limited Animation in which few inbetweens are employed. (also see Straight Ahead Animation).
Post Production – Refers to everything following the animation stage including Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Effects, and Titles.
Post-Sync – Dialogue that is added to a scene after it has been animated.
Production Management System – Every production studio has one of these. A web based system orÂ software that helps track the progress of a studios productions. Shows the progress of any given scene, stats for the percentage completed in each stage of production, and other tracking information so that it can be measured against the predetermined schedule. Everyone in the studio uses the PMS to know the progress of all aspects of the production and to help stay on track with deadlines.
Read – To appear clearly, as in characters action “reads” well.
Reaction Shot – A shot of a character reacting to something on or off screen. It can be a reaction to spoken dialogue or anything really. A reaction shot usually cuts in closer to the character in a close or camera angle.
Retake – A scene that has been checked by a Lead Animator, Animation Supervisor or Director and is sent back to the animator for fixes or changes.
Character Rotation – Model Sheets, part of a Characters Design Package indicating Front, Side, Back, 3/4, and 3/4 back views. (and sometimes 3/8 views as well).
Rotoscope – The tracing of film from live action footage, sometimes the whole of the live action image and sometimes only points to match registration in the animation.
Rough-cut – A first edit, the assembly of footage that serves as a first attempt to finalize shot selection and trims of scenes.
Scenario – The first draft of a story outlining the plot, usually in one page.
Scene – A section of animation from one cut to the next cut (known in live action as a shot).
Sequence – A series of Scenes, usually occurring at one time and location dealing with the development of a single, main plot point.
Split Screen – Multiple images that appear on screen at the same time.
Staging – The positioning of all elements in a scene so the action will be clearly represented. Usually done by Layout but also paid attention to and often refined by Animators.
Stock Shots/Stock Footage – Parts of an animation that can be re-used as many times as needed. Often used in Series Animation when the same action occurs in every episode, at a specific part in the story.
Storyboard – A series of hand drawn panels that convey the composition, camera angle, and poses of the characters in all the sequences or scenes of an animated production. Animators use it as sort of a blueprint to plan the characters timing and posing in their scenes.
Straight Ahead Animation – The Animation method employed when the priority is the way in which something animates rather than hitting specific key positions (or dialogue accents), used often in fx such as smoke and water splashes.
Strobing – A visually distracting “chattering” effect that occurs when large, highly contrasting images move quickly through frame.
Sync – Short for Synchronization, meaning that it is running in unison with or at the same speed. This is vital for sound elements that have to run at the same speed when the film is projected in order to be synced up to the visuals.
Stop Motion Animation – Frame by frame film making using small scale practical sets, props and real lighting.
Tail – The end of a scene, sequence or film.
Take – Footage that is generated for any scene. Any attempt to create final elements for a scene.
Taper – Also known as Taper or Ease. To slow or ease out of a motion.\
Technical Director – Usually referred to as a TD. In a production studio the TD usually troubleshoots hardware and software issues that may arise.
Thumbnails – Small drawings or rendered images used to express an idea for planning.
Tilt Shot – Also known as Dutch Tilt. A shot in which the camera has been rotated along the Z axis. (tilted)
Time Code – The numeric display that corresponds to the running time in video, usually two digits each for the hour/minute/second/frame. (eg. 00:22:02:29)
Tracking Shot – A shot where the camera moves, similar to a Dolly Shot but where a constant distance from the subject is maintained, following the action.
Truck-in/Truck-out – Also referred to as Push-in/Push-out. An adjustment in the cameras framing that allows the view to tighten up or widen.
Twinning – A mistake sometimes made by Animators where the actions, body language and motions of a character are perfectly symmetrical.
Two Shot – A shot in which two characters appear together.
Voice Over – Narration track that the audience hears but is not heard by the characters in the scene.
Wipe – A transitional devise where an incoming scene replaces an outgoing scene over a series of frames, rather than a sudden cut or a dissolve.
Zip Pan – Also known as a Swish Pan. A fast pan in which the visuals are deliberately blurred for effect.