All good things must end, and animation productions aren’t different: in the final post-production phase, the original concept finally comes to life! But post-production isn’t to be taken lightly, as it plays a crucial role in shaping the final look and feel of your animated project.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at post-production: what it means, why it’s important to get it right, the process, and the challenges to account for. Let’s dive in!
Post-production is the phase covering everything related to image and sound editing, as well as delivery.
Post-production comes after the pre-production phase where animation assets are created and the production phase where the individual shots of each episode get worked on. Check out our article on the stages of animation production for a detailed breakdown.
Why It’s Important
Post-production takes a good animation and makes it great:
- Refining the animation - During post-production, the team can add final touches to their work, including sound design, editing, and color grading, to create a polished and professional-looking final product.
- Correcting errors - It’s also an opportunity to identify and fix any errors or inconsistencies that may have been missed during the production stage. Retakes aren’t uncommon at this point.
- Enhancing the viewer experience - Post-production enhances the overall viewer experience with sound. This makes the visual elements more engaging because hearing is the strongest sense after sight when it comes to video formats.
The Post-Production Process In 6 Steps
Post-production comes right after compositing, where animators combine their assets into an almost-final sequence of images. It can be broken down into 6 parts: first edit, animation retakes, final edit, sound design, mixing, and master output.
First edit & color grading
After compositing, editors review all the scenes and select the best takes to include in the final cut. They must decide the timing of all shots―including their order and duration―to create a cohesive and engaging story. This is where the editor's creativity and storytelling abilities come into play.
Once the first edit is complete, the editor moves on to color grading―adjusting the colors and contrast of each shot to create a consistent and aesthetically pleasing look throughout the entire animation. This step can greatly affect the mood and atmosphere of the final product.
During the first edit, the director and animators review the animation footage and identify any errors or issues that need to be corrected. These issues could include incorrect timing, out-of-sync movements, or incorrect camera angles, among others.
If corrections are required, another round of retakes takes place with new versions of the shots. The animators must make the necessary adjustments to the animation and resubmit the shots for approval. This process can be time-consuming, but it's important to ensure that the animation is of the highest quality.
In parallel to editing, the dialogues recorded by voice actors, music, and sound effects are added to the production.
The sound designer works closely with the director and editor to understand the intended mood and atmosphere of each scene. They then select and create sound effects and music that enhance the visuals and convey the desired emotions. This could include creating custom sound effects, using library sounds, or recording Foley, which are sounds made to match on-screen actions.
Mixing is where sound effects, music, and voices are blended and balanced to create a cohesive and harmonious result. It involves adjusting the levels of each element to ensure that they complement each other and can be heard clearly.
After the sound effects and music have been added, the sound designer will adjust the levels to ensure that they don't overpower the dialogue and that the overall sound mix is well-balanced. This process may involve adding EQ, compression, and other effects to enhance the sound quality and create a polished final product.
Once the mixing is complete, the final audio mix is exported and delivered with the final animation. The quality of the sound mix can greatly affect the overall impact and effectiveness of the animation, so it's essential to have a skilled and experienced sound designer to achieve the desired results.
After all the retakes have been completed and approved, the editor integrates the latest versions of the shots from the animation and compositing departments to create the final image sequences of the episode. They may also adjust the color grading and audio levels one last time to ensure the product looks and sounds as intended.
The "master" output file is an uncompressed version of the episode. It’s sent to broadcasters for testing, ensuring that it meets the country's guidelines for quality and technical specifications. If all is well, the animation is ready to be released.
During final rendering, the animation studio exports the final product in the desired format and resolution. This is followed by a thorough quality control review to meet standards for aspect ratio, frame rate, resolution, etc.
The completed animation is delivered to the client or distribution platform, ready for release to the audience. This may involve creating different versions for different platforms, such as TV or online streaming.
Challenges Of Post-Production
With deadlines looming, animators must work efficiently and make quick decisions to ensure that the project is completed on time. The technical complexity of the software and techniques involved can be daunting, and animators need to have a high level of skill to achieve the desired results.
Maintaining consistent quality is also essential, with numerous elements to consider from sound to color and visual effects. This requires careful attention to detail and can be a difficult task for even the most seasoned animators.
In general, post-production requires excellent communication and numerous tools to help animation teams succeed. One such tool is Kitsu, our very own production tracker that makes it easy to work with pipeline assets in a collaborative way.
By understanding the basics of post-production, and using the right tools and techniques, you can create animations that are polished, professional, and visually stunning. Whether you are working on a small personal project or a large-scale commercial production, post-production is an essential step that can make all the difference in the final result.
That being said, don’t leave everything to post-production! Fix problems early as they arise, whether it’s during pre-production or production.
If you're interested in learning more about post-production and other aspects of animation, we invite you to join our Discord community! It’s a great place to connect with other animators, share your work, and get feedback from experts in the field. We look forward to seeing you there!