Monday, May 2, 2011

Questions and Hopefully Answers - Forks and Roadblocks

The question that recently came up was, "Have you ever come to a point in your animation progression where you are completely stumped?". My answer, "EVERY time I animate.". When I started really thinking about the question I realized there are two categories of stumped: Forks and Roadblocks.

A Fork is a point in animating when you're suddenly inspired to "try something". Then you look at what you've "tried" and can't tell which path is better. Do you go forward on the new path or go back to where you were going originally. This can be something as simple as a different timing on that pesky foot plant to a different acting choice. Either way you're stumped.

A Roadblock is a point where you can't move forward. It can be caused by procrastination. It can be caused by a lack of knowledge or technology issues. It can be anything that stops you from continuing along your path to final animation. You're stumped

So what do you do? How do you pick a Fork? How do you break through that Roadblock? The short answer is that I have no idea! Ha! The longer answer is here is what I try to do:

With a Fork I'm stuck trying to make a decision on two or more paths. Sometimes this decision can be based on many factors. The first factor usually is quality. You're stuck between two choices that you equally love and cannot decide which one is going to be more awesome! Or sometimes your stuck between which choice is less worse. Yikes. The second factor is time. You're trying to make a quality animation in the time you've been given, but time is ticking away with ever second you can't make up your mind. In either situation I like to ask myself a series of questions. The answers will most likely give me a direction that I, and as importantly my supervisor, am happy with:
1. Which one is clearer? Clarity should always be the deciding factor in your animation decisions. Because if you have to explain it it isn't working.
2. Which one helps sell the shot? Does one path tell the audience what you're trying to get across better than the other option?
3. Does it even matter? Show your choices to a coworker or friend and see what they say. If they say, "What's the difference?", then it doesn't really matter. You shouldn't be wasting your time.
4. How much time do you have? If your deadline is coming up fast, that fun little foot kick that will take you two days to animate probably isn't worth it. Especially if your answer from "Does it matter?", is no.
5. What's your gut saying? Lastly learn to trust your gut. Run a movie of your options side by side. Look at one. Look at the other. Make the call and don't look back.
Usually after I've answered these questions I'm off and running. Overall don't let this Fork become a Roadblock.

A Roadblock can be much more difficult to overcome. A Roadblock can come in many shapes and forms, but all have the same result of time lost. The first thing I do is ask myself a question (you'll notice I ask myself a lot of questions), "Why am I not moving?". It is important to answer honestly. The answer usually fits into a category such as: technical issues, waiting on notes, don't know where to go, task is too big, laziness, etc... At that point I will take the answer and start breaking it down in manageable steps that I CAN attack. The trick to getting past that damn Roadblock is to remove all reasons NOT to do something so you HAVE to do something. For example, if you're working in Maya and your rig loads inside out, but you don't know what to do. Break it down in to manageable steps: e-mail whomever you received the rig from, go back to your thumbnails and rework them while you wait for a fix, if you built the rig then go over the rigging steps again, put the shot on hold and start another shot even if it's just planning. Or another example, let's say you're feeling lazy. You just don't feel like hammering on your shot. Break it down: Take a break, Walk around the building, sketch, grab a drink, but make sure to give yourself a time line. Tell yourself that in 15 minutes I am going to do a specific shot related task such as clean up the curves on the torso of my character. Just make sure you have a task when you get back or else you will sit there and find something else not to do. Bottom line is you can always do something, even if it's taking a step back, to help you go forward. Momentum is key to breaking down that Roadblock. Do something.

Both Forks and Roadblocks will happen through out your career. It's the people who learn to solve them quickly that are successful. Hopefully this helps if and when you become stumped. Especially if you're reading this to procrastinate from what you really need to be doing!

Hope to work with you soon.


Louieville said...

how 'bout in three weeks ;D

it's great to hear someone break down these kinds of issues. just another point on the list of things that people tend to feel alone with, but that EVERYONE is going through. thanks jim!

Jared said...

nice tips, good thorough break down of a problem! Ive often thought of making a animation check list and putting it by my desk and going through it frequently as i work. but what to put on such a list? now i have a better idea :) think its time i make that list!

thanks for the shweet post dude!

G1toons said...

man great topic, and great solutions and tips, very well explained

Fes said...

Brilliant topic. Started a podcast not too long ago and this is kind of what will be covered in the next one.

jbr0wn6 said...

Thanks everyone. I hope it helps. I know it helps me.