22 October, 2008



The Layout Artist


The Layout Artist sets the
stage for the animation. They render pencil background layouts for each
production scene, referring to the story sketch and research materials gathered
on the relevant geography or time period. Although the rendered layouts never
appear in the final production, they are the catalyst for both the positioning
and perspective of the animation, and the design of the final painted


Layout is the art of background
design for animation. These designs are executed in graphite pencil on punched
animation paper of various sizes, depending on the requirements of the scene.
Part of the Layout Artist’s responsibilities, besides drawing, is to determine
how to construct the scene technically for the camera in order to capture the
intentions of the story sketch. At the “bluebook” meeting held at the initiation
of every sequence of the film, each scene is analyzed in the company of the
Director, Scene Planner, Special Effects Supervisor, and Layout representatives,
to establish a game plan including how Layout should set the scene up.


The layout drawing provides a
stage in which the animators will animate their characters and effects, as well
as a blueprint or under drawing, to be rendered in color by the Background
Painters. Thus, Layout is the fork in the road which feeds two branches of the
animation production process. The following illustrates this chain.


Layout Process Chart:



Layout Elements:


The Layout Artist often layers
a scene with several levels of artwork which will move separately, or through
which characters move. The following planning diagram is attached to layouts to
indicate these various levels, layout and animation, the order in which they
will work, and the registration pegs that will hold them (top or bottom).




The Layout department is
responsible for preparing these levels:


Background (Bg):      
This is the bottom-most element of the scene, to be painted on board, on top
of which all the plastic cell levels are placed (plastic cells have been
superceded these days by scanning the artwork into a computer, eliminating
restrictions on the number of levels that can be laid across the background -
cells would create a bluish tint with more than 5 levels. Also, this allows all
background elements to be painted on boards and transparent areas are matted out


Underlay:        This is
a cell level depicting a prop or piece of background – separated for the sake of
separate movement or background correction – that works above the background,
but under animation levels.


A cell level portraying a prop or background element that works above one
level of animation, but below another.


Overlay: Cell level
portraying a prop or background element that works over all animation in the


Model for Effects:    
When part of the background setting needs to be animating, Layout draws a
reference drawing for the special effects animators to help them match the style
and design of the background.


Multi plane Levels:  
The multi plane camera set-up involves three planes of animation artwork at
different vertical positions beneath the camera. The purpose of multiplane is to
create a dimensional life-like effect, and requires special planning by layout.


Plane 1: This is the
plane on which the artwork is placed in normal scenes. For multiplane scenes,
this functions as the bottom-most plane, on which the background and furthest
elements will lie. The maximum paper size useable for plane 1 is 16-field (16.5″
x 13.5″).


Plane 2: This is the
center plane in a multiplane set-up. The maximum paper size (camera view) usable
for layouts intended for plane 2 is 12-field (12.5″ x 10.5″)


Plane 3: The uppermost
(closest to the camera) plane also uses 12-field sized paper, although the
camera will only see an 8-field section in the center of that paper (meaning 8″
x 5.76″).


The sizes listed above are for
a 16-field production using a rostrum camera. The advent of computers in
animation allows us to use several different sized layouts, some much larger
than actual camera size – which in our recent past has been 25-field- these can
then be scaled down to fit the scene. It has become complex, but the ratios
generally remain consistent with those listed above. Though a little dated, this
provides a solid basis of multiplane concepts.


Layout Considerations:


In staging the scene, there are
several considerations the artist must explore.



Staging: How can the
background best support the animation and direct the viewer’s attention to the
important action of a scene?


Perspective:   How can
we best give the illusion that the characters are in a three-dimensional
environment rather than a flat drawing?


Setting: How can we
create a living world for the characters, and what props and elements would best
fit that world? (For example: The architecture and props of An American Tail had
to reflect 19th century New York.) Research is often necessary to create
accurate settings.


Mood: How can the layout
best enhance the dramatic intent of a scene? (Comical, sad, scary…)


Technical: How must the
scene is designed to achieve the desired effect within the limitations of the
animation camera


Layout Requirements:


A Layout Artist requires a
working knowledge of perspective, design, and the workings of the animation
camera. Also, they need to understand the jobs of the character animation,
effect animation, inking and background painting. They must also have the
ability to draw a wide variety of subject matter in many different styles. The
new trainee will be shown the gamut of the animation process and the animation
camera. This training program will be accompanied by numerous discussions and
demonstrations, was well as considerable on-the-job training.

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