Thursday, March 24, 2011

Week 12 Animation - Bar Fly

Let's just say after this week I need a drink.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Questions and Hopefully Answers

Recently I was asked the question, "What makes a good animator?". That is a tough question, but it really got me thinking.

Before I answer the question let me start by stating that I am in no way an expert on what it takes to "make it" in the world of animation. There are a number of different paths and talent levels that will work and be successful in the medium of animation. My experience is in the world of Visual Effects animation.

The obvious answer to, "What makes a good animator?", is, "A good animator knows how to animate." HA. That's not going to cut it for my answer tonight. I am assuming a good animator is someone who not only knows the basics, but someone who knows the details of animating a character as well. What I want to discuss is who makes it as a A-Team player, a solid professional animator.

Here is what I see as the main quality that makes a good professional animator: A problem solver. In the world of visual effects the client can change their mind with the change of the wind. It happens so much so that we at Tippett tried to convince Animation Mentor to create a class where a student works on a shot for four weeks then the mentor completely changes the idea of the shot and the student then has to finish the shot in one week! Ha. A good animator has to be able to handle that kind of madness and still create a quality product. But how? They learn to solve problems. Not only does a good animator learn to solve problems, they learn to set themselves up to solve problems before they even happen. Kind of like a good fighter can see a punch before it's thrown. Now what does that mean? How do you learn to do that?

I'm not saying you need to be a smart person, because I'm definitely not. But what I am saying is you need to be able to put your ego aside, not focus on what you've already created and solve for the current problem at hand. It's not easy. Trust me. There have been plenty of "cooling off" walks around the building to get my head back on straight. There has even been a broken keyboard (a story for another time). The main goal is to please the client and still get at least a sliver of our own creativity in there. If you can take notes from a client, supervisor, or lead that may even seem crazy and make them work, you will be rewarded. Especially if you do it with a cool head and in a timely fashion.

But how do you plan for that? How do you see that chess move three steps ahead? Here are some things that I do:

1st, take a LOT of notes. Even listen to the notes other animators have been given. It will save you time later. Study the vocabulary of whom ever is giving you notes. They may like to say "more Mickey Mouse", but mean "Get his ears up". Then you can solve for that note that much quicker and preemptively add "more Mickey Mouse" to your next shot.

2nd, come to the table with some of your own ideas. Be ready to not use them, but make sure you're not sitting there saying, "I don't know. What do you think he should do?"

3rd, keep your blocking simple, but make sure it reads. I can't seem to remember who said this, but "If you have to explain it, it isn't working". If you need to get that hand gesture in there to get your idea across then do it, just don't over work that fancy overlap.

4th, be ready to Hack and Slash. Grab the problem area and tear it out if need be. Don't get married to an idea. (Tom Gibbons will disagree with my Hack and Slash technique. But what does he know? He's only been animating for 30 years or so. HA. Love you Gibby)

5th, it's all in the details. Be the Wolf, from "Pulp Fiction" with the details. Make sure your suprevisor/lead doesn't have to remind you to animate your toes and tails. Make sure you have the latest rig if need be. Publish your shots the proper way. Don't make your leads double check your work. As Phil Tippett likes to say, "Make a coffee list." It's a list of all the things you need to do before final on every shot. Tape that list to your monitor and double check it before you call it final. Because the worst thing isn't that you forgot to do something and you've slowed the production. No. The worst thing is you forgot to do something and it's in the movie FOREVER!!

And the last thing I want to mention is for some of the students out there working at your first job or even if you're a veteran changing companies, problem solving also involves having the guts to get out of your seat and ask for help. Go talk to your fellow employees. Don't wait for the lead or supervisor to come around and ask if everything is okay before mentioning the rig is inside out.

Overall, a good problem solving animator is self motivated to get it done and make it look good no matter what it takes. The greatest thing for a supervisor to hear from an animator is, "I already took care of that."

Hope to work with you soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 11 Animation - Lil' Pirates: Part 2

Here is the final product of "Lil' Pirates".

Another "Thank YOU!" goes out to Randy Link for supplying the characters. Here is the model sheet he gave me for inspiration. As you can see there are a few differences. The hat became more square, for instance. He also lost his belt after about the first drawing! HA.

And here are my thumbnails. I originally had the bit end with them in the original position and burping up shark bones, but it felt like I was trying to fit in too many gags: He hits lil' squab in the water for sinking the boat, he's scared lil' squab is eaten, he thinks HE's going to be eaten, he's confused by the giant dead shark, he's happy to see lil's squab. It just felt like it didn't need the burping gag. Besides, gas gags are easy. Don't get me wrong I love a good gas gag. "Dumb and Dumber"!! One of the best toilet scenes ever! But this time it felt like a burp gag for the sake of a burp gag. It didn't have a purpose. In "Dumb and Dumber" it served the story.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Week 10 Animation - Lil' Pirates: Part 1

This week I have to thank Randy Link for letting me use his characters. The Lil' Pirates are his characters that he created for his own comic of the same name. They are silly and fun and Randy was cool enough to let me run with these guys.

The piece is not finished, there is still a part two and I want to do some clean up to part one. However hopefully you get a flavor of these two characters and you'll come back next week for more Lil' Pirates fun.

Also, Randy does other things than draw silly fun pirates. You should check out his zombie short film "Salty Dogs".

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week 9 Animation - Bruce Forgot His Car Key

This week I purchased an iPad! Yes, I know the iPad 2 came out. And Yes, it was announced practically the DAY after I bought mine. But I don't care and here's why: I flew to Boston for work for a few days and I was able to animate on the plane!! How awesome is that? So this piece was done on my iPad, on a plane, on a long trip home. Fantastic right? The app I used was "Animation HD". It is not as robust as some animation programs on home computers, but I did this on a plane! It's a little piece about emotion. Did I mention that I did this on a plane?