Cel-ular Anatomy 101


There are many animation terms we use on this site.  While most hardcore collectors know what these terms mean, there are a lot of folks out there who may not.  This page is for those of you who may like cels, but may not know what they are all about.

On this page we will look at a multi-cel setup, from the initial pencil rough, to the finished cel.  We'll try to explain what each step is and how animated shows are put together.


The Drawings

Before we look at the cels, we must first look at what happens before they can be created.  Animation starts out as pencil drawings on paper.  Paper is cheaper than cels and pencil can be erased.  Pencil drawings are what the animators actually draw, not the cels!  This is where the magic of animation starts! (The images used here are from an episode of the show Burn Up.)

rough1.jpg (62814 bytes)

This is an early pencil rough.  Here, the director has roughly laid out how the action will look.  The look is crude, but it sets the scene quite effectively.  Things like light sources and other aspects of the shot's look are roughly worked out.  These are generally not included with cels when you find them.


rough2.jpg (47360 bytes)

This is another early pencil rough.  The arms belong to Koji and Lilica.  The horizontal arrow on the left side (there is also one on the right, but it didn't fit into the scan) shows how Koji's arm will enter the shot.  The one on the right (not visible) shows how Lilica's arm will also enter the shot.


storyboard.jpg (71823 bytes)

From the early rough, a storyboard sketch is created.   All of the storyboard sketches from a particlar production (TV/OAV episode or movie) are posted onto a wall in the studio.  This wall of sketches is called a storyboard.   (A storyboard resembles a comic book and you can pretty much follow the show's action when you look at one.)  The storyboard is created so the animators know what they should be doing, and that everyone involved in the production is on the same page. Each storyboard sketch will list details like the episode number (#13 here), shot number (C-203), and it may contain instructions as to how the action should look.   In this shot, the action will probably start as a close up (inside the red rectangle) and then pull back to reveal the girls.  The horizontal arrow coming in from the right also reveals some of the other action that will occur (Lilica's arm entering the shot).  Storyboard sketches are occasionally found with cels, although finding photocopies of them is more likely.

In this storyboard sketch, Rio's hair hasn't been finalized (see later sketches) and the shadowing on her rear is still in its early stages.


rough3.jpg (67859 bytes)

In this pencil rough, shadowing is worked out, as is Rio's general look (hair, arm position, chest size, etc.).


roughfaces.jpg (47183 bytes)

In this pencil rough, Maya's face and the old dude's face are finalized.   Rio's head is also completed.


finishedrough.jpg (75745 bytes)

This is the completed rough.  This rough is what the finished pencil sketches will be drawn from.  Shadowing is complete, as are the facial expressions.  This is how the shot will look when photographed.  These sketches are occasionally found with cels, but not always.


finishedpencil.jpg (69950 bytes)

This is the finished pencil sketch.  This is the sketch that will be used to create the cel.  The finished pencil will only have the image that is actually on the cel.  Since Maya's mouth and the old dude's mouth are on different cel layers (hence the name multi-cel setup), they are not on this sketch.  This is the sketch that the "A" layer cel will be created from. (In a single-cel setup, the "A" layer is the only layer.  In a multi-cel setup, the "A" cel is the bottom-most layer.  The other layers (B, C, etc.) will be placed on top of the "A" layer when the cels are photographed.)    Finished pencil sketches are usually (almost always) the sketches that are included with the cels.

If you look at the top of the sketch, you will see an "A1end".   This means that this is the first cel in the shot.  The end means it is also the last cel in the shot....  (An "A1end" means you've got the only cel like it used in the shot!)  The circle around the number means that this particular sketch was approved by the main animator.  (The corresponding cel may also have its number circled, but not always.)


Go to Cel-ular Anatomy 101 - Page 2  (The Cels)


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Do you want to know more about animation terminology?  Take our new Cel-ular Anatomy 101 course!  Tuition is free!   All you have to do is to click here!  (Homework is optional!)

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us at: vigotonefan at hotmail dot com (no spaces and substitute the at & dot with the proper symbols).