First things first, understand the collective ability of the team. Once you know this, you guy’s can then go about planning a style, for example if the three of you are pretty good at drawing, yet only you can model in 3D then you could go for a style which has 2D characters rendered in 3D environments. But the style will tie into everything else, so just evaluate the skills you have at hand for the moment.
You’ve pretty much got it for the work flow, although you’ll need to break them down further and allocate certain tasks to people, also you’ll need the Audio, and video editing, since compositing doesn’t produce the final result. I’d actually suggest getting a copy of Linux Mint, it’ll have 90%+ of the tools you need for the whole process, including the video, and audio editing software.
For inspiration don’t just look at other animated films, and not just high-end animated films either, look at anything and everything that inspires you, look at movies which you feel are very well executed, summarize the characters story arch’s in as few words as possible, by doing this you’ll understand what makes a story, and if it’s good, what makes an interesting story. If you have the spare change I’d recommend a book about story writing Ideas for the Animated Short.
I’m currently reading through the book and it’s a treasure trove of information, with some interesting thoughts from some of the guy’s at studios like Blur. Remember the story is the most important part of any animation, as I mentioned above you may find that you guy’s need to find a simple style in order to make the film achievable, having a great story will cover up for any issues in the animation etcetera, but having a bad story will drag down any short, regardless of quality.
Basically what I would do first, and you can do this from day one really, is to develop a story, not a full blown story, but an idea that will form the solid foundations for a story, this could be something as simple as a word, like ‘love’, or it could be a situation that a person is in and the emotions that they are dealing with. Tell each member of the team to think of words, or emotions, or situations that they’ve been in that they feel very strongly for, get together and start discussing ideas, taking down notes and just in general talk about each other’s lives and the things that inspire them, I know it may be a little hard to get a deep conversation flowing, but it’ll lead to a lot of good ideas for a short film.
Stage 001 - Story development
- Initial idea
- character backgrounds & development
Stage 002- Pre-vis. & concepting
- Character concepts
- Enviroment & scene concepts
- 2D or 3D pre-viz. (Usefull for figuring out camera angles, scene set-ups etcetera)
Stage 003a- Modeling
- Character models (Main)
- Character models (Secondary, if needed, i.e. for extras in scenes)
- Prop libraries (Usefull for quickly buidling scenes)
Stage 003b- Materials & texturing
- UV unwrapping & texturing
- Material set-up (Including procedural materials)
Stage 004- Rigging
- Main character rigging (It’s usually best to develop one character rig and use it for all of the characters, so try and make it flexible)
- Any misc. rigs, for props etcetera
Stage 005- Scene set-up & and placements
- Scene set-ups (This is where the prop libraries come in, you simply model the basic enviroment and bring in props to populate it, for example a bench, some trees and a lamp post for a shot of a park)
Stage 006- Place holder animation
- You can either go straight to final animation, or animate the characters (simple movements) in the final scenes and use to further refine story/ scenes
Stage 007- Final animation
- Simple, do the final run through for the scenes (Can take a long time!!)
Stage 008- Lighting
- Character lighting (make use of light linking and grouping)
- Environment lighting
- effects & prop lighting (if needed)
Stage 009- Rendering
- Render layer set up (Very important)
- Final rendering (Maybe ask the school if you can use a few machines as a small render farm?)
- Always render out as a sequence of high qaulity images, preferably 16-bit+ images, such as EXR
Stage 010- Compositing
- This is where you make use of the render layers you set up previously
- composite the scenes, by this I mean use the nodes, or whatever app you are using, to put in the FX, motion blur, depth of field, colour correction, compsite various render layers etcetera.
Stage 011- Audio
- Use a rough cut of the composited shots start building up sound layers
- Dialogue (if needed)
- Folio (Ambient nouse, wind, rain etcetera)
- You should visit freeSound.org and build a library of sounds, you can also do this yourself as it’s a fairly simple process
Stage 012- Final editing
- Bring in your shots and arrange them, bring in final audio, or audio elements and start to construct the film, this is the place where it all comes together, so spend some time on it
- give it a final colour correction, add some credits, polish the sound, and I think, if I haven’t forgotten anything major, you should have an animated short film