Animatics in Film. Definition, Examples and When to use Them.


Definition: An animatic is a previsualization (previs) tool used in the animation and film industries to create a rough version of a scene or animation. It consists of a series of still images, such as storyboards, edited together and displayed sequentially, accompanied by dialogue, sound effects, and music to understand better the scene or animation’s timing, pacing, and overall flow.

Animatics are used in various media and entertainment industries, ranging from the best animation studios worldwide to smaller-scale TV productions, video games, and commercials.

This article explains animatics in detail, along with animatic examples.

The Purpose of Using Animatics

Storyboard illustrative example

Animatics are used to experiment with different storytelling techniques and visual styles before full production begins.

Animatics allow directors, animators, and other stakeholders to make decisions about narrative and aesthetic elements without the expense of producing full animation or shooting live-action footage.

They are critical in the planning phase, helping to identify potential problems and refine creative ideas.

Animatic Examples from Animated Movies

In animation, an animatic might include basic motions and timing, and it can be quite rough, with simple drawings and minimal detail.

Here are three examples:

Ratatouille (2007) – Remy in the Kitchen Animatic Example

This animatic is from Pixar’s Ratatouille. It shows the sequence where Remy (Patton Oswald) first works his magic in Chef Gusteau’s Kitchen and the first meeting with the kitchen boy Linguini (Lou Romano) that sets things in motion.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) – Animatic and Pencil test

This animatic example stems from the Avatar: The Last Airbender finale (Nickelodeon) and shows the first part of the fight sequence between Aang and the Phoenix King Ozai.

Compare this to the pencil test of the same sequence:

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) – Storyboard and Early Animation tests

This animatics from Into the Spider-Verse, was made by Alberto Mielgo, who directed the previs animation tests on the movie. It shows early storyboard and animatic examples – many of these made it into the final movie.

Klaus (2019) – Storyboard and Animatics

This video shows the original storyboards and animatics by Taha Neyestani and Lorenzo Fresta for Klaus. Also, director Sergio Pablos and the team share insights into the unique 2D animation style that gives the illusion of being three-dimensional. It’s a good example of how animatics are used to develop a particular style.

Examples of Animatics from live-action feature films

In live-action film production, an animatic might use still photos or video clips to simulate camera movement or actor placement.

Here are three examples of animatics from live-action movies:

Iron Man 3 (2013)

This animatic example shows the work of Federico D’Alessandro, who worked on IRON MAN 3 as the Lead Storyboard Artist and Animatics Supervisor.

Here, you can see how close animatics sometimes can be to the final result.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This video showcases side-by-side comparisons of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s original animatic sequences alongside the finished movie.

If you’re also a big fan of Wes Anderson, see my curated list of Anderson’s best films.

Star Wars: Ep. 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999)

For Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, co-editor and sound designer Ben Burtt combined various sources, including computer-generated animatics and a Sebulba hand puppet, to create the thrilling pod race sequence.

The Differences between Storyboard, Animatic, Pencil Test, and Animation

Production companies use several previs tools in the toolbox to test things out. Several of these are often used in conjunction before settling on the final animation:

  • Storyboard: a sequence of drawings representing the shots planned for a film or animation.
  • Animatic: a preliminary movie version produced by shooting successive storyboard sections and adding a soundtrack.
  • Pencil test/animation: a preliminary version of a final animated scene, hand-drawn with pencils to test the sequence of movements before creating the final, fully-rendered animation.
  • Animation: the final product, where drawings or models are manipulated to appear as moving images.

The table below compares the four previs tools of the filmmaking process from previs to final product, when they’re used, who creates each stage, and more:

AspectStoryboardAnimaticPencil TestAnimation
DefinitionA storyboard is a sequence of drawings, typically with some directions and dialogue, representing the shots planned for a movie or television production.An animatic is a previsualization of a movie or TV show assembled from storyboard images with sound effects, dialogue, and music.A pencil test is an early version of the final animation created by shooting a sequence of pencil drawings to evaluate the motion and timing of characters.Animation is the designing, drawing, making layouts, and preparing of photographic sequences, which are integrated into multimedia and gaming products.
PurposeTo visually communicate the sequence of events, camera angles, and timing for a film production without detailing motion.To create a more accurate timing and feel of the final product by adding motion and sound to storyboards.To assess and refine animation sequences and character movements before finalizing the animation with detailed graphics and colors.To bring characters and stories to life through motion and sound in a fully polished form.
UsageUsed in the early planning stages of a project to lay out the visual storyline.Used after storyboarding and before the final animation to refine the pacing, transitions, and dialogue.Used after the storyboard and before or during the animatic stage to test the fluidity and feasibility of the animation sequences.The final stage of production, where the project is fully animated and ready for viewing.
ToolsPencils, pens, markers, and digital drawing tools.Storyboarding software with basic animation functions, sound editing tools.Pencils and paper for traditional animation or digital drawing tablets for digital animation.Advanced animation software, rigs, models, and rendering tools.
Detail LevelLow: basic visual representation.Medium: includes motion and basic sound.Low to Medium: focuses on motion; lacks final visual details like color and texture.High: detailed visuals, motion, and sound.
Who Makes ItStoryboard artists.Animators and sound editors.Animators in the initial stages of the animation process.Professional animators, sound designers, and possibly a larger production team.
CostRelatively low.Medium, depending on the complexity.Lower than final animation, but can vary based on the detail and number of revisions.High, due to the extensive work and detail involved.

Other Industries Using Animatics

As hinted, animatics are used in the pre-production phase of many media industry pipelines extending beyond animated movies.

In television, particularly for commercials, creators use animatics to pitch ideas or test ad effectiveness before full production. This approach saves time and resources by gathering feedback on the concept’s appeal to the intended audience.

Video game developers utilize animatics in the storyboarding phase to develop narrative elements, cutscenes, or gameplay mechanics. This technique aids in visualizing the game’s flow and player interaction with the environment or storyline.

In web design and user experience (UX) design, animatics act as a tool to prototype or demonstrate website or application functionality. This focuses on transitions, animations, and the overall flow from a user’s viewpoint.


Animatics are a pivotal bridge between initial concept and final scene in animated movies, live-action film, video games, TV shows, and commercials.

Creating a visual storyboard that showcases scene transitions, timing, and the overall flow of the narrative allows for refinements and adjustments before committing to the labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive process of full animation.


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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