Soon after you know what it is that needs to be made you have to answer the question of how it is going to be made. Producers and accountants may drive this part of the process but as director of the project you no doubt will be involved in the next steps of the process: budgets, schedules and hiring the creative team. This is where the creative and the business come together. If done properly (and with your help) the project will successfully find life outside your head.
Determining the budget can be a very difficult part of the process. It is dependent on as many known elements as it is unknown elements. One rule of thumb is that the budget will change as fast as a car depreciates when you drive it off the lot, but it is necessary to be in the ball park and be as prepared as possible for the surprises that arise in the process. Since time is money, the schedule is one of the first things to help determine the budget. How long do you have to create your project? If not dependent on a release date or client expectation then how long should it take to produce? Determining your schedule will also help in answering the next question of how many artists, technicians, and production people will I need? “Head count” as it’s called is based on your schedule and funds. If your project has a tight schedule then you will most likely need a higher budget to afford more artists and tighter overlap in your departments. A longer schedule should mean fewer personnel and therefore, more consistency in the animation. A longer schedule on an animated project is usually always preferred for a higher quality of work but rarely seems to happen in Hollywood. The famous visual effects director John Dykstra sums it up nicely when he said, “There are three ways to do any shot. There’s fast, there’s good and there’s cheap. But you can only work in combinations of two. You can have it cheap and you can have it fast, but can’t have it good; you can have it fast and you can have it good, but you can’t have it cheap; you can have it good and you can have it cheap, but you can’t have it fast.”
Here is an example of an average animated (CG) feature production schedule broken down by departments:
The overlap of the departments is important to have a proper flow from one department to the next. You never want a department to be waiting for work to come to their desk.
Excerpt from Directing for Animation by Tony Bancroft © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.