animation production manchester

Animation Production Manchester

Our Manchester animation production studio is my favourite place to visit if I’m in need of a ‘shot in the arm’ of all things creative. Our animation production team never ceases to amaze me in their darkened Manchester post-production suite. It’s all well and good having highly talented creatives, producers and directors who can conceptualise incredible animation and visual effects. However, it’s a totally different thing realising these often far-fetched and visually breath-taking animation concepts. I’m rarely surprised when I walk into our animation production studio in Manchester. But I’m always blown away with how they take an idea previously discussed in an idea-shaping session and bring it to life. Not only delivering, creating and setting free the idea, but giving it wings to transcend what was previously envisaged and taking it to the next level.

The Magic of Our Animation Production Team in Manchester

In work, as in life, it’s always a great thing when you can trust someone. Even better when you can trust a group of people. This can be trust in a friend, a partner, or a colleague. It doesn’t matter which, but trust is a magical thing. It brings happiness and peace of mind. Trust removes worry and anxiety. It’s one less thing to stress about. Trustworthy animators take care of themselves. You trust them and their actions. This trust is something I have in all of the team at Groundbreak in our Manchester HQ and London offices. It extends to the many freelancers we collaborate with. Trust is exactly what I have in our animation production team in Manchester. They have all earned my trust over the years by excelling in what they do. I know our animation producers and directors can sit down with the animation production team, give them a storyboard and they will execute it perfectly. It’s a great feeling.

Trustworthy Animation

It is actually a difficult thing to trust people with something you love so much. Either on an animation, visual effects or video production, Groundbreak means the world to me. It has been a hard slog at times but incredibly rewarding most of the time. For myself to let others create our animation productions, in Manchester or further afield, it’s hard for me to let go and to trust others with the reputation of Groundbreak. This is because it takes a long time to build a strong reputation and I care deeply about all of our animations, VFX and video productions. What makes this especially difficult when it comes to animation is that it’s not as simple as a retake in live-action video production. Once you are deep into an animation or VFX gig it’s not as straight forward as stopping and starting again. They’re often very time consuming, so they need to be executed properly the first time. So, to let our animators free on big animation projects takes a lot of trust. Luckily for me my trust in our animation production team has paid off with some outstanding video animations.

Reputable Animation Production

At Groundbreak we have an incredible love for what we do. We care that our clients get exactly what they want each and every time. This is a core part of our thinking. We care as much about the animation or VFX gig as our clients do. Our clients can trust us to execute their briefs and collaborate with us, because time and time again we deliver exactly what they need and are looking for. Trust goes both ways, of course. And it is earned. It is a satisfying and rewarding feeling when you know your clients trust your judgement and expertise. It’s very fulfilling. We’ve worked hard over the years to get to this stage and it’s definitely worth it.

Do You Need An Animation For Your Business?

If you are looking for an animation production team of original thinkers who always aim to push the creative boundaries then please get in touch with us to collaborate on your next animation or VFX project. We love what we do and you can trust us to perfectly execute your video.

 

 

 

 

video animation

Video Animation Manchester

Our video animation team in Manchester is normally busy creating every type of animation you could imagine. However, with the world currently flipped upside down we thought we’d take the time to discuss the different types of animation and how they could be beneficial for your business once everything goes back to relative normality. After all, video animation be it in Manchester, London, New York or anywhere in the world isn’t affected by the strictest of lockdowns because it can be done remotely. The concept for an animated promo video can be part of a video-conference brainstorm session. A script can be written remotely anywhere in the world. The storyboard and assets can be illustrated and created in the far corners of the globe, and the actual video animation can be created in our Manchester studio or frankly anywhere with a highly powerful computer and a talented animator.

Video Animation in Manchester

We create our video animations in Manchester because that is where our Groundbreak HQ is located. However, we often bring specialists into our Manchester studio for certain aspects of a video animation or visual effects project. An animation or VFX gig can be highly complex and time consuming, so bringing the best people together to collaborate always results in the best possible video animation. Whether this means bringing people together via video conferencing or in person the end result is always one of excellence.

What Video Animation Works For You?

If you can’t shoot a video production at the moment (and might not be able to for a while) maybe video animation is something you should consider. It’s important to continue marketing your business or product and video animations can certainly help with that. In fact, one of the huge advantages with video animations is that literally anything can be created. There are no limits. Well, apart from budget. And this is something our video animation producers in Manchester can help you with. We’re well versed in getting the absolute maximum from any budget. There are always many ways to achieve the same animation. It is all about what is right for you as a business. To ensure you get the most out of the project.

Different Animation Styles

Things to consider: What type of animation is most likely going to engage with your target audience? Maybe the charm of a 2d hand-drawn traditional type of animation will interest your customers? This type of animation is best suited for a gentle flow and story arc with an emotive subliminal message. Maybe an all action 3D CGI animation will do the job. Literally grabbing the viewer and refusing to let them look away. Or maybe a beautifully crafted stop-motion animation will garner the best results with its incredible production values? Even the simplest of motion graphics in an explainer video is sometimes the best way to display your company information.

We’re Here to Help

Whichever route you prefer for your animated corporate video, the options are endless. There’s a myriad of styles and options, all with the potential to powerfully promote your business and put you on the map. Showcasing your product and its many uses and benefits is often easiest and most effective with video advertising. With so many options available in the world of video animations, this can seem daunting. Don’t worry though because the team at Groundbreak will happily advise and help guide you through the process. Our team of producers, animators and directors have been creating absorbing and engaging video animations in Manchester for many years and we absolutely love what we do.

If you’d simply like a bit of advice about your next (or first) video animation then please don’t pop into our Manchester studio because it will unfortunately be empty. Drop us a line instead and we’ll be happy to help.

 

 

 

 

animation

Animation

Why do we find animation so memorable? Animation is a video art form that captivates us from our earliest memories. It caters to an innate appetite for visually pleasing stories within us all. A modern revision of ancient tableau; illustrations sketch out the bones of a tale and our imagination fleshes out the rest.  Animation is also perhaps more aptly compared to the antiquarian art form of puppetry, moving models given voice to tell their tale. I recognise the wonder on my daughter’s face as she stands watching a blockbuster Hollywood animation. It’s one that I correlate within my adult life with my own expression on first seeing Vietnamese water puppetry. Accompanied by a visible and magnificent orchestra the puppets played out scene after scene of melodrama and farcical comedy that, while surreal, was lent an impressive pathos and drama by the indelible presence of incredible human skill beyond the stage curtain. And that for me is what maintains the sense of wonder of animation in adulthood. More than the unnaturally vivid palette, the rich music, the anticipation of the unexpected, the truly original story telling for me is the appreciation of the skilled craftspeople executing an awe-inspiring craft.

Animation – Technical and Artistic

An animation whether a feature film, commercial or a promotional video sees a great deal of technical skill meet artistic skill to create a piece of work that could not exist without both. This can be a great source of wonder, particularly with a VFX sequence, as we watch and consider “how did they do that?” With live-action film we can more easily reckon how moments are achieved. How did that car flip over? Presumably they flipped the car over. How did that kung-fu fighter jump on to that tree? Wirework. How did she time that wry smile so perfectly? She’s a skilled actress who embodied a character within a moment and let her subsequent impulses deliver a performance. Or more likely someone shouted a cue for her to do that smile, then repeatedly told her “bigger” or “smaller” or “split the difference” until one looked ok and they cut it in later. Either way it’s easily reasoned if you set your mind to it and this reasoning can allow for some loss of the magic of film. With animation there are so many forms and techniques that create films, in their entirety, from nothing that the magic of the execution remains strong for those of the audience who are not animators.

Unlimited Capabilities

There is also a purity to animation. The limitless capabilities for an animation company to tell a story means that the imagined and the realised can very easily be in harmony in a way that the limitations of live-action filming can sometimes stifle or at least compromise. The character you write does not need to be played by an actor who looks quite a lot like what you imagined. It is the very character that you imagined, right down to the tiniest detail. The shot that you envisioned reaches the screen, changed only by your whims and decisions, not by how well your location scout or DoP or colourist executed it. Animation is a medium in which control is concentrated.

Animation Teams

One animator, or animation team, can be artistically and technically responsible for every movement of every character. Every object and every camera move in the entire animation is by design. Not just how and when they move but what they are and what they look like to begin with. Not only is that wry smile perfectly timed but the whole character was entirely created by the same person/people who timed that smile. They also timed the pulling away of the train that she was smiling out of. And designed the train itself. They designed and gave motion to every other person on that train and the trees passing by through the far window. Guess who designed the camera move that frames a man who looks back at her pleadingly as the train pulls away? They created him and his pleading look as well.

Animation Agency Vs Live Action

In live-action this scene would be the work of actors, production designers, wardrobe supervisors, makeup artists, directors, assistant directors, DoPs, camera assistants, lighting technicians and countless other people. All of these creative and technical roles can be concentrated to a small team or one individual and their animation technique. Naturally this brings a wealth of creative and technical control that ensures a definitive and recognisable style throughout the film. In my mind this must be part of the enduring allure of animation. Animations are necessarily more likely to be an entirely stylised work of art with a signature look and feel than live-action pieces are. Art cannot be wrong, it either resonates with an audience or it does not. Arguably, the more concentrated and focused the execution of the art is, the more it will resonate when it does find its audience. That resonance between artist and audience is where magic lives.

There are many forms of animation, and each has different principles, skills and techniques that are applied to create truly magical video. Each technique is an art form of its own with innumerable styles and applications in the world of marketing and commercials.

Traditional Hand – Drawn Animation (2D Cel)

There is a certain charm to traditional hand drawn 2d animation. The static backgrounds, the stuttering movement and the looping of talking mouths are features that drag me back to childhood and transfix me to this day. While it may seem a laborious process to hand-draw and colour each frame, that process obviously has fewer restrictions as to what one can create. You don’t need a team of people pulling together the necessary elements and technical specifications to capture your story. You just need a pencil. This is the true charm of 2d hand-drawn animation, it is absolutely an skill that lends itself to the auteur.

Pure Form Animation

Traditional 2D hand-drawn animation is a video production method that allows the creator to produce a film exactly how it is in their head. Without ever having to source, collate or shoot any of the actual component parts. It is a very pure form of film with no creative compromise whatsoever. As long as the hand can draw what the mind can see.

The animator will have likely been working from a storyboard with a Director. But the animator physically produces each frame by hand. There is a raw directness to that process that is very captivating. There is a sense of craftsmanship that is present in all types of animation, but it feels artisan or even folksy in hand-drawn animation. It feels like the mother language of the medium of animation. The form from which all others are derived.

Animating Each Frame By Hand

In 2D hand-drawn animation the animator draws each frame by hand. This is not quite as labour-intensive as it may seem. Each drawing is held for 2 frames. This already halves the workload in comparison to what one would imagine it to be. Another early advancement that saved aching hands across the globe was drawing animations using cels. Cels are the name of clear acetate sheets the initial hand-drawn animations are transferred to before being coloured. Another use for cels is creating physical drawn layers that can be stacked to create the composite image of the animation. This is a huge time saver. You can draw a cel background of a shot and as long as the shot is static that background never has to be re-drawn for each new frame. You could draw a cel of an outer space background. That cel can be the bottom most layer of each new frame composition until the camera angle or scene changes. All you’d have to re-draw is anything that is moving in the scene.

Production Values

If you have two astronauts holding their position in mid-air while one talks to the other. All you would have to re-draw for each new frame is the moving mouth of the talker. Obviously moving facial expressions, a shooting star, gesticulations would lift the production value of the animation. But this demonstrates how layering 2D cels works to more efficiently create animations. As anyone who has taken English exams can tell you, anything that minimises hand cramp is a very welcome technological advancement.

3D Animation (CGI computer animation)

The animation form that we are all most accustomed to in contemporary cinema comes from a technological advancement that made animation not only more efficient but much more powerful in terms of what can be created. With 3D CGI animation an animator can create a digital model of a character or object and use this to create scenes digitally, rather than draw every frame.

An Animated Character

A 3D character is modelled to create a digital sculpture of the character or object. This can then be animated to create any motion without having to create the character or object again. After modelling, the animator will rig the character. This is creating a digital rig of points in its design that dictate what can be moved on the character and how it will move in relation to the other points of the rig. It is essentially a skeleton and the points are the joints.

Keyframes

The animator will pose the character to create a frame within the sequence. The animator can then use keyframes to move the character further along in the pose or movement and the animation software can digitally create the motion between the two points. Imagine placing a car on a road. Then move ahead in the sequence and place the car where you’d like it to be at that point, the software can digitally create the movement of the car between the two points and you have an animation of a car moving along the street, from A to B.

Different Type of Craft

This may sound like creating a 3D animation is all too easy. Particularly in comparison to hand-drawn 2D animation, but it is no lesser of a craft, just different. Consider the car that we’ve just animated to move along the street. In the example I’ve described only the image of the car has moved, wholesale, along the road. However, in reality we need a lot more to happen. To begin with the obvious, we need its wheels to spin.

So, the wheels need a rig of their own so they can be moved independently. The animator now needs to set a starting point for the wheels at the same starting point as the car. They also need to design the spinning motion of the wheels and set an end point for the motion, the same as the end point of the car. That all seems relatively straightforward (I know it doesn’t) but the computer-generated motion will only create one fluid motion between the start point and the end point. Cars don’t work like that.

Frame by Frame

Your car moves off with a little jerking motion. Depending on how kind you are to your clutch, and it gathers pace. It then decelerates smoothly to a halt. So, the animator then needs to manipulate the computer-generated motion at each frame. Aiming to create a realistic trajectory of motion rather than a smooth and constant pace. As this is already becoming a lot more complex than one might have imagined we should now consider that there may be a character driving the car, tapping their hands on the steering wheel, a traffic light goes from green to red via amber before the car stops, a bird flies by, the trees in the background shiver in the breeze and all of this might be happening as the camera passes from the side of the car and rotates around the back of it. It takes a skilled animation agency to create such a complex scene.

Drawn From Scratch

In a 2-D hand-drawn animation every composition is drawn anew. The animator can see where the bird was in the previous image and decide where to move it along to within the next image. In 3D CGI the animation is happening within the world of the animation. There is no blank page once the layers of the scene are created. Rather than drawing the next image the animator is designing characters, objects and their motion then fine tuning until the motion between frames is just right. I’m sure there are just as many achy hands as before, if not more.

3D Animation Models

Another additional consideration in 3D animation is that once the 3D models are created and placed in a scene the entire 3D model remains within that scene. Even when we can only see a portion of it.

If our car is driving down the road in a profile view, we can only see the side of it. But the whole model is present. The animator must be aware of the entire model even when it is not in view. This also means that with the camera rotation I described earlier the animator would design the motion of the objects and then subsequently create the motion of the “camera” to rotate around the models which will have been present all along without being seen.

This is a direct contrast to 2D animation where the animator would have to move each object along its projected route of motion a little each frame but also draw from an incrementally new angle of perspective to create the rotation.

Animated Elements in Live Action Footage and Digital 2D

3D CGI animation can also be used to insert 3D animated elements or characters into live action footage. The lines are further blurred as digital animation can be used to create 2D animations. With similar modelling and rigging techniques to create motion as 3D CGI. Most adult cartoon comedies are digital 2D animation. The technique used to create 2D digital animation allows for the creation of computer-generated motion in the same way as the 3D CGI animation described above and also allows for hand drawn elements to be incorporated also. In the simplest terms the key difference between 2D animation and 3D is the exact difference that you would most readily expect. 3D animation purveys an image that appears to have 3 dimensions, height, width and depth whereas 2D animation has 2 dimensions, height and width.

 Motion Graphics, Animated Logos, Typography

You will see animation a lot more than you think. It is used in most forms of video production. Almost every commercial, corporate, promo video you watch will have some animation. Most films will begin with a series of animations. You might not even notice that you’re watching animation but many of the same animation principles I’ve mentioned above are being put to use in some form or another in almost everything you watch – in the form of Motion Graphics.

Moving Logos

Using the principles of designing elements – shapes or words and their movement, short animated sequences make up the moving logos that you see on screen as well as any moving text that you see.

Motion Graphics at its core is the art of animating images, shapes and text to create video. As well as creating animated logos or typography to lay over other video forms. Motion Graphics is often used to create videos wholesale. A lot of explainer videos or presentation videos are entirely motion graphics. It is a simple and clear form of animation that allows information to be visually represented in interesting, abstract and engaging ways.

 Stop Motion Animation

Perhaps the most complete combination of all of the above forms of animation and the skills and techniques applied for each, is contemporary stop-motion animation. There are many forms of stop-motion animation, but the principles are largely the same. Frames are created in live action model form and captured in camera. The frames are then played back in sequence to create video.

Characters

Stop motion characters are literally and physically modelled in the same way that 3D CGI animations are, only in reality. The characters and objects are built around a skeletal structure to allow them to be moved and positioned for each frame. In much the same way rigging is digitally constructed in 3D CGI animation but once again it is a real and physical build that is placed on a real and physical set rather than digital.

The models are moved physically by hand for each frame which gives the hands-on artisan feel of the 2D hand drawn animation. Every element of the scene that is in motion must be physically moved for each frame. In the same way using cel animation with acetate layers works in 2D. However, in this instance these changes are made within the physical 3D world of the animation rather than with a blank frame each time like in 3D CGI animation.

Anything is Possible

The key difference between stop-motion animation and other forms is the reason why it is most like creating a live-action video production. The elements of the production must be physically acquired and created. Teams of producers, designers, modellers, riggers and many other crew members of wildly varying titular skills work together to design, construct and gather all of the elements of each shot and put it in front of a camera. Just like anything is possible that can be drawn with 2D animation and anything is possible that can be digitally designed in CGI animation, with stop-motion anything is possible that can be physically created, rigged and put in front of a camera.

When you combine the illustration and hands-on craftsmanship of 2D animation to create puppets and rigs, use the digital speed and computer processing power of 3D animation in post-production and the physical, in camera, live action of stop-motion then there truly is absolutely no limit to what can be created.

Having drawn back the curtain a little to allow us to have a more advantageous starting point when considering “how did they do that?” the next time you see an incredible piece of animation I feel that no magic will have been lost whatsoever. Understanding the craft of animation a little more should only stir further awe not dampen it. Gaining an understanding of the craft of animation is akin to taking a look inside a mechanical watch. A thing of simplicity with a base function that we understand so deeply as to take it for granted becomes complex and mesmerising when its workings are revealed. Truer still would be to say that animated film is an intoxicatingly impressive craft that becomes more impressive still when we see the intricate workings and loving labour that produces it.

See examples of our animated videos here

 

animated car

Animation Manchester

Our Manchester based animation studio is a fusion of endless creative opportunities and concepts. It’s the epicentre of our imagination. The fulcrum of our creative gusto. The magical space where the room lights are always dim, and the gaze of our post-peeps (a post-peep is a post-production person) are eternally transfixed to the viewing monitors that have enticed them into a world of originality and inspiration. Animation and Manchester are made for each other. Animation doesn’t care about the weather, if it did it probably wouldn’t like Manchester. 

Working Environment

The atmosphere of an animation studio is of paramount importance. Whether it’s a sole animator or a team of animation wizards. The mood and tone must be right. There must be a positive and efficient vibe, but a creative edge in the atmosphere is needed. An uplifting mood cloaked with a veil of serious serenity. A bit like on a video production set. Mind fulfilling and thought-provoking animations can be created anywhere in the world. Often with weather cloaking blackout blinds in dark rooms (like most post in video production). This ensures not one pixel is missed by the animator as they view their creation coming to life. Being shrouded in darkness helps with perfect screen viewing of your latest animation and also highlights that it’s irrelevant what the weather in Manchester is doing outside. Everything outside the animation suite stops. The world is on pause. 

The Final Sequence

Imagine this. A dark room captivated by an unbridled energy. Gently lit by a rich and colourful vivid set of monitors. One screen is lighting a producers face as she gazes on in absorbed glee. Her face tells a story. A story of near completion. A story that has been all consuming for the last six months as she’s battled with ideas, creatives and budget. She’s witnessing the final sequence coming to life and can’t hide her emotion.

The Animator

The other identical monitors rays of light accentuate the dust particles dancing in the dark and vignette the face of an accomplished animator. Comfortable in his own skin. Comfortable in his own skill. He’s well accustomed to working in the dark and lighting up colleagues faces with awe. He’s been here before. Been through the tricky post-production patches. Always reminding himself and his team of animators that each hurdle is there for a reason and in turn lifting the production values to the next stratosphere. Each challenge, storyboard and script change will be overcome and managed. He can sense the relief and delight by his colleague’s aura. His now content work mate.

Love Child

Sat there in the dimly lit room both animator and producer alike know a spellbinding animation will be broadcast to the world very soon. The world will never know the late nights though. The system crashes. Workflow meltdowns. The blood sweat and tears that went into it. But they will. They know only too well. They know they created this stunning collaboration of engaging animation in this dark room in Manchester. 

They’ll be onto the next animation or video production gig soon, but for now they’ll enjoy this moment and they’ll enjoy it even more when they show it to the world. On this day they’re a happy and content triumvirate. Producer, animator and animation. Three have briefly become one. They’ll be glad to move onto the next all-consuming gig. This has been intense. The best animations often are. They will miss it though. It’s become a part of them. Like two roommates raising a child. They love it but are happy to let it free once it can take care of itself. They could never keep it from the world. It was created solely for mass consumption. It’ll shine bright and touch many people. It’ll be remembered. They’ll remember it most.

Collaboration

When collaborating on an animation as a producer, director or both you often spend a lot of time alone with the lead animator. When I say a lot of time, I mean you practically live together for a few weeks or even months. To the point that you should probably declare your new living arrangement with the local council as it will undoubtably affect your council tax obligations. This isn’t unusual in video production and even more common in post-production. There are a few reasons why you spend so much time together. 

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Firstly, and most importantly like anything that is aiming for excellence and to be the best it can be, collaboration is key. Two skilled operators are always going to create something that little bit more special than with one talented individual. The cliché that two heads are better than one is absolutely true in this instance. You might have all the ideas and technical skills to implement an idea and create an animation. However, because you are so absorbed in the project you might miss a few subtleties. 

Animation – In the Detail

These tiny details could be the difference between a very good animation and an absolute masterpiece. Maybe it is the way in which one of your 3D characters moves in a certain sequence. Or the way in which a sound design tweak emboldens a few seconds of a 2D animation that makes the end user feel a certain way. Maybe it’s a simple suggestion that instigates a slight change in thought process which in turn improves the overall flow of the animation. It could be many things, but a collaboration is definitely better than an individual effort. After all, the aim is always to create the best animation possible. You want your client to be blown away. Team efforts always help you achieve this.

Different Types of Animation

There are many different types of animation and VFX all created and used for different purposes. There is traditional animation which is 2D animation that was often hand drawn. The other type of 2D animation is vector-based animation which is using digital assets. Next there is 3D animation which is CGI animation. Then there is my personal favourite, stop motion (Claymation, cut-outs), think Wallace and Gromit and the like. Finally motion graphics are also part of the world of animation which involves animating typography.

The one thing all of these types of animation have in common is that they can literally be whatever you want them to be. The sky’s the limit. It is always possible to create something original when it comes to animation. This is often more difficult in other forms of video production as there are less possibilities. With animation every creation can be unique. The imagination of the creators and the budget are the only limits. If an idea can be conceptualised and developed into a tangible storyboard, then the only thing that could possibly get in the way at this point is the financial resources available to produce the animation. For a more detailed explanation of the different types of animation check out the animation section of this blog.

If you’re considering an animation, visual effects or any type of video production and looking for a passionate bunch of creatives who love bringing ideas to life then please get in touch.