How To Handle Animation Retakes In A Cartoon TV Show

In a Cartoon TV show, it’s usual to have the animation work done outside of the studio. It can happen in the same country or overseas. For…

5 years ago   •   5 min read

By Gwénaëlle Dupré

In a Cartoon TV show, it’s usual to have the animation work done outside of the studio. It can happen in the same country or overseas. For both, the process is the same. They will send you their delivery shot by shot. Then, the Director and the Animation Supervisor will check the work done and will eventually send retake notes.

You shouldn’t be surprised to have a lot of retakes in the first episodes. It’s natural. Everybody learns how to work with each other. After the first episodes, if you still have a lot of back and forth, you can consider it as a sign for a bigger issue.

In that case, you need first to identify clearly what kind of retakes you face the most. It will help you to tackle the problem properly. Understanding the symptoms is the first step to find a cure!

Identify the type of retake

Some retakes are the result of a deeper problem. Here are some examples of retakes. For each of them, we will tell you how to react to them.

Careless mistake

It’s a sign that the animation team doesn’t have the time to check their work before shipment. The number of retakes, when there are not enough animators, can overwhelm them. Your schedule is certainly too tight for them. You can either stretch your schedule or handle this kind of retakes yourself.

References or artistic recommendation not followed

It can be due to a change of teams just before the production starts, or after the first episodes. It can also be the sign of turn over on your contractor side. In that case, you have to brief them again and give them time to adapt to the specific style of the TV show.

Artistic retakes

It happens when the client or the director have changed their mind, they want an animation style that was not initially briefed. It could be due to the fact the client/director may have changed during the production.

In that, case you have two options:

  • The Client or the Director adapts/changes his brief.
  • You manage to have extra money to adapt the production schedule.

Retake was not performed

Most of the time it’s because the retake itself can’t be understood. You need to phone your contractor immediately to know what’s wrong and how you can help them… During the writing of the retakes, explain clearly the intents. Draw a lot, and if you can, give an animated example.

The most important advice I can give you is to send an animation supervisor to your contractor. I know it’s a lot of money and your budget surely don’t allow it. But, if in the middle of your production you are months behind your schedule, then you will have spent more money than the cost of sending an animation supervisor. So cut somewhere else, find the money.

The animation supervisor will save your day. He will ensure the quality constancy during all the episodes. He will drastically reduce the number of technical retakes. The contractor team needs to see him, to feel his leadership right in the room. More than that, only him will be able to tell you what kind of delay you can expect, and what you can do about it.

One last thing to know: if you are behind schedule, only quality can save your production from the wrath of your client.

Count the number of artistic retakes

Artistic or creative retake is a demand that wasn’t expected by the animation studio. It’s a direction change from the Director or from the Client.

Per the contract, a small number is allowed, but if you exceed this number, then the production will have to pay for them. It’s mandatory because this kind of retake is time-consuming for everybody.

So be careful, ask your team to highlight them. It will ease your tracking. This information is important if the production goes wrong.

Track your percentage of shots in validation or retake state

Keep an eye on your validation/retake percentage (aka number of back and forth). You have to keep in mind that it’s the same team that ships an episode and its retakes.

If you didn’t have plan time for the retakes on your schedule, it means the animators will have to do the next episodes and the retakes of the first one during the same period of time.

Then during the third episode, they will have to split their time between T1 (first retake) of ep03, T2 of ep02 and T3 of ep01, and so on. Now, let’s say you have 400 shots per episode and that at the first retake, you have 60% of shots concerned and that at the second retake, you still have 40% of shots concerned. It means the animators have to do during the same period:

400 x (animations for ep003) + 240 x (retakes for ep002) + 96 x (retakes for ep001) = 736 shots

It means that they have almost only half of the time initially planned to do the new episode. If you have 3 to 5% of retakes on a third retake, consider it as done. Your episode is good enough, making it perfect will consume everybody’s energy to get these retakes done.

Sometimes it’s quicker to do the retakes by yourself than trying to explain the situation to everybody. Nevertheless, send the retake note and your correction to your contractor. They need to know what’s going on. Better, they will learn from this.

Finally, as we mentioned in a previous article, Remember too that retakes have a hidden cost.

Accept you will have retakes at the animation stage

Until the unexpected appears, you can prepare yourself to ease things when it’s time to check the delivery. The storyboards need to be crystal clear, be sure there is no room for interpretation. Send references as much as possible. Redact a “do and don’t” and share it with everybody (in-house and to your contractor).

Give the checking process for late retakes (3rd and 4th) to the assistants. They have the capabilities to tell if a retake is done or not, and it will give more time to your director and animation supervisor to focus on the first retakes. Don’t hesitate to do some retakes in-house if it’s easier and faster for everybody. Keep in mind that only quality saves the day.

To Sum up

Retakes are an inevitable part of a production. The more prepared you’ll be, the fewer retakes you can expect. The animation step is also very demanding for the production team.

To make things as smooth as possible, you need to have an overview of the production, keep track of the percentage and the general progress of the episodes and the whole show. You need also to take care of details; they are the indicator of the health of your contractor.

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