backstage design and www by pened
why backstage? Not every one is oriented in 3D animation terminolgy. I would like to describe here at least basic terms of preparation and realization of 3D character animation. I guess it is beneficial  even for customer to know background of making. He can get general idea about my workflow and can understand particular terms in calculation. And he can better imagine amount of work which is behind a final animation.
Design Ideally customer has design of character at the start. If not, it is necessary to propound at least basic requierement for character. Sexuality, age, mood, final impression of character - footstones for next job.
Clear drawing - simplification To make model is necessary to change design into the single drawing - outline. During this process was started to get statement of the character into the hand, what is more important for latest realisation. Generaly is good to get familiarized with that character as soon as possible because of later animation when we should to think as that character.
Making of 3D model - body On the basis of drawing the model is made. ?(The model is made on the basis of drawing.)? It is started with body without head. Although the body is stylized, it should folow some anatomics rules It is necessary to keep on the model good topology to precede relevant complication during animation or during texturing it means UV maps making.  
Making of 3D model - head and emotional blendshapes It is the most challenging part of modeling. The head establishes what empathy or antipathy we will get to that character. From final stage of the head are made blendshapes. They are stage of face during various emtionals and they are something like stock or mixer connected with basic head, where is possible to combine these stages in various ways and animate them.
UV maps and texturing When the model is finished, it is necessary to make UV maps. 3D model is unwrapped into the 2D shape in the special editor where every point from 3D space has unique position in the square determinated by axes U-V. A generated mesh is than aligned to the regular shape by various repetitive steps. This mesh is exported to common paint editor like Photoshop where a needed texture is drawn by pen sensitive tablet. Finally, the texture is imported back to the 3D scene where it is assigned as a material to our model.  
Scene creation The scene is made in the same way as the character. It means at first 3D models are created for which UV maps and textures are made and applied to. Next step is preparation of lights and cameras. Based on the scene, available time or budget it is necessary to decide whether to use lights in classical way and use Maya software render or to use Global Illumination, resp. Final Gather and use Mental ray for rendering. It is decision between time and quality.
Making of skeleton - riging Besides the model we need a functional skeleton system to control our character. The various orientation systems are assigned to bones. It is necessary to look about correct alignment of local axes. Negligence in this phase could make thing more difficult later on.
Making of controller for skeleton control As soon as skeleton is finished it is necessary to prepare controllers which are simple graphic objects to which functions for driving character‘s “muscles” are assigned. For example, controller for bending fingers, wrist rotation or shoulder motion are placed on the wrist. With that controller you can manipulate with the whole arm. General rule is to not touch the bones and use remote control only.
Conection of body with skeleton - binding We have prepared body (model) and skeleton with controllers and now we need to bind them together and weight the bones. If not done properly, for example, moving an elbow can cause also deformation of other parts of the body or bending a limb could cause a nip in the place of the joint.
Checking of bone´s influence  - weight maps Every bone influnces its surrounding. Basic range of influence is setup before binding. It is neccessary to adjust the influence after binding is applied. Usage of pen sensitive tablet is recommended for this task. Color map shows the influnce of particular bone in given area and we can ensure by painting that bone doesn‘t deform other parts of the body in various position. The body is set to extreme positions during a control to eliminate casual mistakes.
Bingo - it can walks :-) Previous activities are challenging for patience. We are awarded by a model which we can learn to walk, it is able to make knee- band, turn over, blink, work with fingers. Just as a puppet.
Animation We have the functional puppet, the scene, the script - in ideal case storyboard or animatic. Based on that the final spot will be cretaed. Every change of given object in time is recorded by key frames. Relation between the frames is shown by curves in the graphic editor. The curve in every key frame determines a behaviour of given object in given time - speed of change, continuity of action, easy in, easy out. It is called timing.
Postproduction It is not necessary not even suitable to do whole work in 3D. It isn’t just because of indolence but to be able to make eventual changes. That‘s why rendering is made in layers or we can create masks to isolate a given object in composition software in order to make a color correction without necessity to do a new render. We will appreciate it in case of complicated projects or under time pressure. The following stages of postproduction are editing, linkage to a sound and creation of final format according to customer needs.
Simulation, dynamic The specific chapter in animation is creation of special effects. We want granules to fall from hand and to collide with the body, caddy and floor. To animate them it would take too long. Faster way it is to make a system where objects know about themselves and they are able to crash and bounce each other. When the final simulation meets our expectation, the simulation is “baked” – it is converted frame by frame into the animation. After that step the dynamic isn’t editable but all operations are faster.
Simulation, dynamic, particle system In case of  simulation of liquid or natural effects like rain it is necessary to use more powerfull tool - particle systems. It is closed world where thousands of particles with predefined relations are genenerated in time and these particles are influenced by other relations like gravity, turbulence, external force or they can affect each other. The final appearance of the particles can be liquid, steam, smoke, dust, pyroeffect, sand etc. These effects are very computation extensive but it is impossible to substitute them other way.
Rendering All what we made exists just as a scene in our file on hard drive. By rendering process we will transform data from computer memory to data usable for post production or for creating a final video. Rendering is necessary but time very consuming process. Based on scene complexity it can take hours, days or even weeks. During this time computer is utilized at 100 % and cannot be used for other work (maybe except e-mails).
Control previewes, hardware rendering A communication with customer is another important part of the process. This is only way to prevent misunderstanding and later re-work. The fastest way to show animation is hardware render which is calculated directly from active view of scene without accent on quality of materials, textures, shadows etc. This calculation takes just few minutes or seconds. By choosing an appropriate format we can send this preview immediately by skype or upload through wetransfer or send via email (shown example in wmv format is just 4,3 MB in HD resolution and calculation took 30 sec).  Click to the window - activ preview. Click to the window - activ preview