For example, I see students most of the time do the absolute highest frame count allowed for a particular assignment. Let’s say the frame count suggested is 150-300. Guess what? You’ll learn TEN TIMES as much if you do two 150 frame shots than a single 300 frame shot. Yep. Betcha didn’t think so. Why is this? Because whenever you start a new shot, you are resetting the part of your brain that organizes, retrieves and implements your workflow. You are starting fresh, but your brain has to reenact all the steps to take based on your experience. Putting yourself in as many new situations is the most sure-fire way to put the most demand on your workflow. If it’s not working, it will break. If it breaks, you will have to fix it. And if you’ve fixed a part of your workflow, you are exponentially better for it.
Another example: When it comes time to animate a dialogue shot, most new animators try to choose a piece of dialogue that is rife with emotion and subtlety. This is commendable, but what invariably happens is that student falls into the trap of putting the character in a chair, behind a table or desk, or in some other low-energy situation. This is a huge mistake. It takes much more time to animate a character on his feet, I know, so shorten the clip to make it doable in the time you have. But stand them up, and animate the full body performance of that dialogue. Why? Dialogue is not just a pantomime shot with added lip sync. It’s so much more. A person’s idiosyncrasies come out to such a great extent when they are balancing control of their gestures, and forming complete sentences at the same time. If you do not practice animating the subtle ways a character moves their body to reinforce, combat, play off of, or betray their words, you are only getting half the practice. What I see frequently is a 500 frame dialogue shot with a person speaking a mile a minute in a diner booth. What I should see is five 100 frame dialogue shots of different characters, head to toe, performing with their whole person. Work smarter, not harder.
One last example: When it comes time to create a short film, reach out to friends and colleagues who can help you with the effort. Modeling, rigging, texturing, lighting, rendering, compositing, and many more processes go into the best short films ever created. There is no need for your film to be a single stock character performing against a white wall, but the planning stage of a compelling story is no time to also be learning about the paramaterization of NURBS curves. Accept all the help you can, and seek out the talented artists who can help you create your vision.
Guest Blogger Kenny Roy