I think this might be a good moment for me to depart the role of animator, and talk a little bit about how a shot comes to life at a small studio, such as Arconyx. When I plan a shot with a client, it goes through many different iterations before the final concept is decided upon. Normally, it is up to the client to provide the ‘creative’ – this is a document, or presentation, or even animatic that has a little (document) or a lot (animatic) of description of the shots we are to create. What happens next is the creative is translated into a plan for what has to be done technically and artistically to achieve the shot. I will decide which artists have the experience and skills to create the shot in question. On the animation side, and especially dealing with creatures, the decision is more heavily weighted towards experience; I’d say 60-40 as a guess. What this should reinforce for all animators reading this is that doing little tests is the most valuable use of your time. In fact, if you are an animator and as of the moment you are reading this you’ve never animated a quadruped, then drop what you are doing and go animate a dog walk cycle. Now! I’ll wait.
Ok welcome back. The point here is I know that when I am planning on the animation phase of a shot, I need to rely on the animator to create the performance that is going to be approved in the shortest time possible. If an animator has to learn a technique, style, or entirely new body mechanics on the job, I can’t be certain that I will be able to budget a project in a way that will not bankrupt the company. In addition to that, the animator’s individual plan for the shot sometimes may come into question, a plan such as the one that was asked about here. For instance, if the client has chronically rejected ideas that are not supported by boards or thumbnails, I will want an animator that is comfortable with (read: uses all the time on their own) a workflow that includes a detailed thumbnailing phase. More often however, I’ll need to recoup for lost time in development of a shot, and will need an animator that can block like lightning. Frequent restarts on a shot can’t hold up the studio from performing, so I may need someone who can give very quick and decent looking blocking for a few ideas. I need not plan too far after animation; lighting, rendering, and compositing is the same for most shots for the kinds of work that my company deals with. And most decisions, such as fur or muscle dynamics, are made and tested long before any real production shots are ready to go through the last stages of the pipeline.
This may not be what was meant by “How do you plan a shot?” However, I thought that many animators would like to know what they can do to make the best choices when their supervisor is doing the major planning.
Guest Blogger Kenny Roy