3D Animation Pipeline (Making an Animated Movie)

In this part of our Making an Animated Movie series I’m going to go over the 3D animation pipeline I follow when working on my films.

Having a simple and unified structure is extremely important when working of such a huge project, since you have to deal with so many parts and make sure they work together in harmony. If one part breaks, it quickly creates a domino effect that can complicate things very easily.

Again, as I often say, this is the pipeline I use, and it is based on my own experience. It is not a bible to be followed blindly, if you feel some parts are not relevant for you or that you have a better way of doing something, please work accordingly. Take only what you need from this.

I will also include a free demo folder that you can download and use for you project, or just check it out for future reference.

Watch this video and keep reading.

This is a screenshot of my demo folder structure (available to download at the bottom of the article).

Animation Pipeline Demo Folder

A breakdown of my pipeline

Your ROOT folder

This is the main folder in which you include all of your folders. In this folder you should have the following 4 folders:

  • Storyboard

Contains your storyboard drawings.

  • Research

Contains your concept art, character designs, reference photos etc.

  • Edit

Contains your edit file. This is the file you continue to update with updated shots. I call it an animatic at first, then a previz and then an edit.

(a sound folder should be here as well, containing (a) SFX (b) dialogue (c) Music)

  • Maya (or any 3D software)

This is the folder that you set as your project folder (in Maya: file -> set project). It should contain the following folders:

  • Models
  • Rigs
  • Textures
  • Shots
    The shots folder contain two folders: (a) animation – where you save all your animated shots, (b) lighting – where you reference your animated shots and add lighting.


If you want to learn more about character animation in Maya, check out our Maya Animation Course.