Animation Articles


I post Articles on LinkedIn often about Animation Production so I have collected them all to post here! Let me know on LinkedIn if you have a certain to pic you'd like me to write about.

They are posted newest at the top!

What is a Timing Lock vs a Picture Lock? - Animation Production!


Whether you are working in 2D or 3D, if you are on a feature or a TV show, there will be a Timing Lock and a Picture Lock! They also come at 2 different parts of your production too and they are SUPER SUPER SUPER IMPORTANT.

Timing Lock = means your Animatic or Delivery Animation is locked to Time. No timing changes can happen.

Picture Lock = means your Animatic or Delivery Animation is locked to Picture. No picture AND timing changes can happen.

Before we get into that: I always call these Locks the “Windmill moment”. In Back to the Future 3, Doc Brown shows the idea of how to get back by the train pushing the Dolorean time machine up to 88mph on a track that doesnt have an end. However, once they pass the Windmill they won’t be able to slow down, it’s a no turning back moment. That is why I use this metaphor all the time (that and I love that movie). I would encourage your time to think of these locks in the seriousness of this way. Once you timing lock, theres no going back. Once you picture lock, there’s no going back.

WHY do we have these locks? Why do we have both?!

Notes are awesome. In the editing bay, at the storyboard artists desk, emails from wherever, there will be notes upon notes upon notes. At a certain point we have to say NO to more notes. There’s a schedule to keep! This is literally what these locks are. After a timing lock, no timing things can change. We can do Picture changes (color swaps, rough boards to clean boards, non timing retakes in Post). Once the Picture Lock happens, nothing else can change.

In Pre-Production:

The 2 Locks come during Animatics. At a certain point in the schedule (decided by your Line Producer) the episode will timing lock. This is why we prioritize notes as well. We usually ALWAYS want to Timing fixes first. What does this signal to start and why do we do this one first? It allows the Track Reading, Animation Timer, etc to start. So we overlap peoples time. While those positions start we can still do picture fixes. Maximizing time.

Then we will have a Picture Lock, no more new boards can go in. Now that those people above I mentioned are wrapping up stuff, other parts of production kick off for Animation or Animation shipping. Animation Checker can check boards, final review of a Lead Sheet, Storyboard Director Notes, lots of stuff.

This is the final locked ANIMATIC for the movie act, show, etc.

In Post-Production:
Same rules apply for Timing Lock. We prioritize Timing Retakes FIRST. What does a Timing Lock kick off? This time in Post it kicks off Music, Sound, Translation, Dubbing, and more all while Picture stuff can keep going.

If you don’t do a proper timing lock, you have to make sure ALL changes are given to all these departments, the frame counts slip, ITS A MESS. It’s also important to send out Retakes (if you are using another Studio) and track timing ones because we need them BACK for the lock.

Same rules for the Picture Lock. While all those other people are working, we can knock out the rest of the Picture retakes. At the end of this, the movie act, TV, anything should be DONE. The only thing left would be QC related problems or un-broadcastable retakes (usually caught and done in an Online Edit).




I’ll be going back to talking about Production positions later this end of the month. But I thought a fun topic to bring up would be PROPS!

PROPS! We all have an idea of what a prop is! Also in animation, we probably are a bit cheeky and can tell what is a prop in a scene before it’s touched cause the line art calls it out. 

But essentially and super super simply a prop is anything the character is touching, or I would like to say ANYTHING that is MOVING or animated outside the background and character.

Sometimes it gets a bit whacky though! So I wanna talk about what's character and what's prop! And what's background and what's prop!


Sometimes a part of a characters design is CHARACTER but if they take it off, interact with it, etc it is ALSO a prop (you’d need the perspectives of it from all sides and more). An example of this would be SpongeBob’s Krusty Krab hat. 

If SpongeBob is in his uniform he is probably (I’m not on that show) asset wise Spongebob_KrustyKrab_v1 or something; thats the character design. It’s a different design than his normal outfit. He has a name tag and the hat. But if SpongeBob takes it off and puts it down. Or it gets run over by a car/boat. It gets caught on the grill fire. It will be a prop and we will need all angles of it.

+Plus with something so heavily used, once its designed as a prop sheet it becomes apart of the library to be used again

And the opposite can happen. Something can start as a prop & then become apart of the char. design.


In backgrounds we usually see a lot of intractable objects! That’s the fun of detailed backgrounds. But unless they are moving/animated they don’t need to be Prop designed. They stay apart of the background. Sometimes backgrounds have layers in them and those can be animated but that background is being animated not a specific prop. 

When we have a prop that is going to be animated in the shot and it’s in the background, it needs to be a prop. Peter Griffin going to pick up the coffee mug thats been on the table cause he’s about to throw it will be given a PROPER (hah) prop design sheet. Most often it stays a prop and isn’t in the background.

But if it’s something we normally have in the background forever (for shots, for episodes, for seasons) but now it’s going to be touched we’d have that background not have it and have it be a prop instead.

Whose doing these Prop Design sheets? The Prop Designer of course! They are make "character" sheets for props: have multiple angles, colors for time of day, all that jazz!

Who tracks these assets? The Design Coordinator & Color Coordinator, there isn’t a Prop coordinator.

I want to shout out one of my favorite TikTok account Scott Reeder He isn’t animation but a live action Prop Master and has the coolest behind the scenes of props they use in Live Action movies, tv, etc. Obviously a different look at props but fascinating and super fun. I always learn something new watching his stuff.

As well! If a prop transforms or changes! Like food being eaten, something being damaged over the shot, something being cleaned, etc. The prop will have all those "stages" designed out as well. A full bowl of Ramen, what the noodles look like outside the bowl being slurped, bowl being eaten, bowl empty. Whatever we see, the animator needs to know what it looks like.



Do you know how many Production people are on a show? Have you ever looked thru the credits?

The most interesting thing is it changes from department to department, studio to studio, project to project, and depends a lot on Budget.

I think it’s interesting to talk about because sometimes people don’t know what Production people are up to in those titles. And the Titles are really important to us, not just for the resume but its how we know what level and what people are doing. We don’t have portfolios :) 

The usual rundown of positions (not including doubles of these are):

Line Producer 

Associate Producer 

Production Manager

Production Supervisor

Production Coordinator 

Design Coordinator 

Color Coordinator 

Design Production Assistant

Color Production Assistant 

Storyboard Coordinator 

Storyboard Production Assistant 

Production Assistant 

Audio Cooridnator

Music Coordinator

Script Coordinator

Post Production Supervisor

Post Production Coordinator

Post Production Assistant

And more!

*This is off an American model, where we SHIP our animation so that’s why there are no Animation coordinators listed.

What I mean by doubles is you might have 3 production coordinators, 1 per storyboard team maybe. You might have multiple PAs, etc. If you do 3D and 2D sometimes you might have a 3D coordinator and then 2D design coordinators.

As you can see not only are their Production coordinators there are sometimes people in each department, Design, Audio, Script, Post, Storyboard etc. The benefit of this is that you can focus on all the details, deadlines and people in those departments and truly give the support. There are sooooo many things going on for 1 person, imagine having to coordinate and assistant multiple! Being in one department is helpful in making a great show.

One of the downsides though is if you only work in one department you don’t get to see the full pipeline and sometimes you get cornered in Pre vs Post or just in that department. So when looking for other work its hard to go to Post if you are Storyboard Coordinator, you have to look for another Storyboard coordinator role.

However, with time and budget sometimes crews just can’t have the whole ladder. And that’s okay. When it isn't become okay is when somebody is doing TOO MUCH. Same thing we’d say about an artist or editor or any worker, if somebody is wearing too many hats thats not okay.
I’ve been on crews that are lacking KEY people and it’s not fun. But I’ve also been on teams that haven’t had the whole ladder and we have been fine and worked beautiful.

All these people though from Line Producer to Assistant are “Below the Line” which means they are hired onto the project. They are making billions from the show, they are there to use their skills to make artists life easier and focused. They are a huge aspect to the team and deserve the same respect, pay, and kindness as all the people making these amazing stories.

Would you like to know more about Production positions?