Outsourcing Animation: What Do They Need To Know?

I made a forum post this week on what information I provide to the studios I outsource my animation work to, and I thought I’d repost it here.

The speccing process for animation work needs to be detailed and thorough, as does as the reference. However, most of this work only needs doing once, and the rest is easily templatable. If you have a basic list of animations per character or creature type to start with, outsourcing animation can be a surprisingly simple process once the rest of the groundwork is laid.

This is everything I provide my animators:

  • All the source MAX files for other creatures of that class and race for comparison.
  • A specific document for each individual creature I’m having animated. It contains the following:
    1. A two-paragraph description of the character’s backstory, attitude and movement style, referenced against his racial traits.
    2. A description of his preferred idle state, walk and run movement, and attack style.
    3. A detailed list of every animation, description of which hands and feet do what, what default position it needs to revert to, the exact number of frames required per sequence, a copy-pasteable copy of the animation scripting needed in MAX, naming convention guidelines, and all other technical specifications and style descriptions.
    4. Specific instructions (where applicable) of what needs to happen on specific frames to match ingame timing.
    5. An explicitly detailed list of technical constraints and guidelines.
    6. Any immediate references I can make (“similar to X creature’s attack or movements”)

On all my feedback to them, I provide extremely specific information on which limb or bone I want to do what, on which frame, for how many frames, and the style in which it should move. For extra information, I offer screengrabs of what’s wrong (if anything), and offer AVI or MAX file source art reference when available. I generally have 1 to 2 iteration passes per individual animation, which is pretty badass. πŸ™‚

One of the real value-adds I’ve found in assembling all this information is that most of it can be classified easily and packaged into a generic “Monster Animation Kit” or “Player Character Animation Kit” complete with references, tech specs, etc. The only specific information that needs to be transmitted with each asset is the backstory and movement style. In other words… I really only gather *all* that information once. It’s far less daunting than it sounds. πŸ˜‰

To the managers and artists out there — is there any other relevant information you can think of that would be useful to provide in this packet?

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