When designing a character for any particular animated medium (2D or 3D), the designer must consider what their design will look like from all angles and from all points of view. Although traditionally drawn animation essentially views everything with a two-dimensional view, one look at the very best of 2D character animation reveals that it is necessary to understand the character from numerous viewpoints, even for something as simple as an animated take or head turn. To ensure that the designer, the director, and the team of animators understand the full structure and nature of a particular character from all possible angles and perspectives, a character model sheet is created.
A model sheet is the blueprint of a character, defining its size, construction, and pro-portions. The model sheet traditionally must show the character from the three fundamental viewpoints—front, profile, and rear view—with sometimes a front three-quarter and a rear three-quarter view thrown in for good measure. A good model sheet will also define the head-height formula for that character and may even include close-up details of the character’s features, such as hands, mouth, and feet. There can often be more than one model sheet per character, depending on the amount of construction de-tail required by the production team. Additional model sheets might also show specific attitude poses of the character, its relative size to other featured characters, and even mouth positions for vowels and consonants if lip-sync dialogue is anticipated. With Hollywood-level movie productions, if might also be advisable to create 3D clay models of the main characters, so animators can pick them up and view their shape and form from every conceivable angle. Anything that familiarizes the animator with the character is valuable when designing an animation character.
The basic model sheet shows a character from all sides. This gives the animator a clear idea of the character’s form and any details of costume. These designs give a clear indication of the overall structure and proportions of an animated character seen in 360 degrees. They are designed specifically for use by animators in order for them to gain a clear understanding of the individual character’s ‘three-dimensional’ form.
When considering the structure and the anatomy of the animated character, simplification is the order of the day. It is necessary to break down a design into a form where it becomes possible to handle the character efficiently as animation. That’s where model sheets come in. Generally, the use of model sheets for animators is restricted to 2D classical animation, as they create every frame of the animation from scratch each time. While the need for model sheets in 3D stop-frame animation or computer animation may not be seen as such a great issue for the animators, as they are working with prefabricated models, they will certainly benefit from those model sheets and action sheets that illustrate the range and type of actions that a character is capable of. This can only enhance the performance that an animator gives.
Model sheets should contain all the relevant visual information the animators need. There should be no ambiguity at all within the drawing or the poses. Model sheets should illustrate the character in a simple pose giving, within separate drawings, details of front, rear and side views. This is just as important and useful as showing the character in a series of dynamic poses. The model sheet should enable the animator to gain a good understanding of what the character looks like through 360 degrees. Model sheets should always be clear, with any additional information added as notation.They should also provide all the detailing of costume and in some circumstances it may be necessary to create more than one such model sheet for a character if, for instance, the character changes costume within the film.