What is an Animatic?

Maybe you've heard the term "animatic" before, or maybe you're hearing it for the very first time right now. Either way, what the heck is an animatic?

An animatic is a preproduction tool used in both film and animation, although it is more commonly referred to as an animatic in the animation setting. We previously talked about what a storyboard is, and one step beyond that brings us to what an animatic is.

So a storyboard is a series of images laid out to show the direction as well as a visual representation of the visuals of each scene. An animatic is taking those individual images and putting them into a movie file and adding audio.

The example I gave in my storyboard article of The Lion King comparison between the storyboard and the final animation is also an example of an animatic. They've taken the still storyboard images and timed them out and turned them into a movie, making it into an animatic.

Here's another example of an animatic that are some excerpts from different episodes of Adventure Time. In this example you can see that they add the audio for all the dialogue for the scenes that they're turning into animatics. often they won't do sound effects or music but in studios will include that if it's really important pieces of sound, like the whistling at around 5 minutes in that Adventure Time animatic clip.

You'll also notice they're not lip syncing at all in the animatic. Remember an animatic is a rough piece of preproduction, so people often try not to spend too long making them.

So what's the benefit of taking a storyboard and turning it into an animatic? Well taking turning it into an animatic removes a lot of the explaining that has to be done beneath the storyboard or by someone presenting them.

An animatic speaks much more for itself because it moves and has dialogue.

It also is a much clearer representation of what the finished product will look like. As you work in animation you'll often find yourself showing works in progress to people who are unfamiliar with the arts so they may have a hard time imagining a completed project from rough work. An animatic is a lot closer to the finished product so it's easier for people to imagine how it's going to pan out. When you're watching the Adventure Time animatic you can imagine what you know the characters to look like in the scenes where they're drawing in as sketches, it's a shorter leap for the imagination.

The biggest advantage to an animatic though is it helps define the timing. As a viewer of a storyboard you can determine how long each scene is by how long you look at a single picture. If I stare at the first picture for a half hour for some weird reason that means that first shot is a half hour long in my interpretation of the storyboard.

An animatic allows you to communicate super precisely how long each shot holds for and the timing of the entire piece. You really get across the timing of when an action happens vs when a camera move may happen or when a piece of dialogue happens in relation to the action.

So when it gets handed off to an animator they know exactly what to draw and how to draw it from the storyboard, but also exactly how long it should last thanks to the animatic.

Like storyboards, they're very useful when you're working in a group rather than just by yourself. When I'm working alone I won't make an animatic for something because I have it all in my head already, but I know people who do because they like it and it helps them guide their work flow. You just have to try both ways and see which one gels better with you!

So in summary an animatic is a storyboard turned into a movie, with key pieces of sound effects, music, or dialogue added in to it. The animatic gives an exact representation of how long each shot and action will last by timing out the storyboard to be representational of the final piece of animation.