Well, it's all coming gradually together. I've slogged through the arduous labour of scripwriting, trudged through the septic waters of storyboarding, lapped up the murky mildew of layouts and background design, scratched at the itchy scabbiness of the colouring process and after all those questionable metaphors I'm now able to comp it all together! Well, not all, but a fair old chunk at least.
This process takes all the required elements and layers them, using the same principles of traditional cel animation. To prepare a sequence, first of all the layers need to be prepared in Photoshop. This way I can establish which elements of the eventual animated image will remain inanimate, and give each animation layer a name and number for ease of reference. This makes it that much easier to simply bring in the layer you want for the frame you're working on when it comes to the actual animation process. Said process takes place using After Effects, which is also an Adobe application and is consequently hugely compatible with Photoshop. Once the .psd file is imported into the new comp, most scenes are made up of the following:
Background - this obviously just sits in the...background...looking pretty and such.
Background animation - occasionally elements of the background move, such as flapping curtains, rainfall, moving clouds etc. Usually this animation will be comped together with the still background image before any character animation begins to avoid clutter, with the exception of certain shots; for example, if someone is standing in the rain then the rainfall layer needs to appear in front of the character, and so it remains separate.
Character(s) - for a large number of shots I'm using limited animation, in the style of those mass-produced Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as The Flinstones or Yogi Bear. In these shots there will inevitably be elements of the character that stay as one still image, ordinarily the torso.
Character animation - these are, as you can probably guess, the other elements of the character that actually move, such as lip-sync, facial expressions/head movement, arm/leg movement, walk-cycles blah blah blah.
Lighting/colour correction - this will usually be an effects layer that, when appropriate, strengthens or mutes the overall colour scheme so that the characters stand out sufficiently from the backgrounds. Lighting effects (for the sake of atmosphere) can also be added in Photoshop and then reimported into After Effects.
So with the process cackhandedly explained, I can show you the fruits of my toil! The animation itself is going to be constantly tweaked (for the better, one hopes) until the film is done and so I've decided to instead show off some stills of the comp results, comparing them to the storyboard visuals. Indulge that voyeur in you and have a cheeky peek:
Why, simply delectable, I'm sure you'll agree. Maybe sometime soon I'll be able to show some of the little buggers in motion.