Directing TV Animation Part 1

The job of directing an animated TV show varies with each production. There’s no single way to approach it and how much power a director has will vary enormously. What I want to talk about in these articles are some of issues that directors have to deal with.

First, let’s talk about live action direction for TV. The director’s job is to communicate to the actors how something should be played. The director deals with how a scene is staged for the camera and where the camera is located for each shot, all the time keeping pacing in mind.

In animation, the job is very different. Depending on the production, there may be a recording director who’s responsible for recording voice tracks for all episodes. There may be a storyboard supervisor, who’s responsible for directing the boards for all episodes. There may also be a timing supervisor who oversees the sheet timing for the show. Depending on the budget, the production may have a layout supervisor to oversee layouts. In other cases, layouts are done overseas.

The director may participate in all these aspects, providing notes or approvals, but won’t be doing the work himself or herself. The animation will be sent someplace (probably in Asia) to be done and then the director will call retakes for scenes that have mistakes or need to be revised. The director will probably never meet the animators and depending on the production, may never meet the voice talent either.

In live action TV, the director has his or her hands on everything and is communicating directly with the people doing the work. In TV animation, the director is often separated from the people doing the work by levels of bureaucracy or by thousands of miles.