Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Do I Address a Change That Was Made to My Animation (by a Fellow Animator) Without Looking Like I Have a Big Ego?

Hmm - that's a tough situation. I wanted to answer this on the blog, because I'm curious if anyone else out there has had something like this happen to them. I've certainly heard of more senior animators changing the animation that someone junior may have done, or a lead or supervisor fixing up a shot late at night at the last minute (although most companies and animators in leadership roles certainly try to avoid this whenever possible, for obvious morale reasons), but if you mean that a fellow animator who isn't "above" you in the company randomly decided to change your animation overnight - well, that's just bizarre and plain old rude!

My advice would be to ask the animator in a very professional and polite way what happened, because most likely there is some misunderstanding going on, and more likely than not, someone probably asked him to make the change. If that isn't the case, though, then I don't think it's egotistical for you to follow up and find out what happened or why it was changed - even though you're doing commercial work, it's still your art someone is monkeying with, and they should have some kind of good reason to be fiddling with your stuff if they aren't supervising you.

This sort of situation is a good example that we can all learn from. If you're working at a company, then you are part of a TEAM, and you need to not only treat each other with professional courtesy and respect, but you need to treat the project and work with a bit of reverence. We're all pouring our hearts and sweat and souls into our shots, and we need to keep that in mind whenever we're giving feedback, constructive criticism, or deciding whether or not to change someone else's work without telling them. (Hint: don't do that unless you want to hurt feelings, anger people, and tank the morale of the whole team!)

Well, hopefully you're just stuck in a misunderstanding, but I think you're well within your rights to at least ask to be told when something in your shot is going to be changed by a peer. If it's someone in a supervisory role, though, then my advice would be to express to them that you wished you had had a chance to make the change yourself, but leave it at that. Sometimes being part of a team means being willing to let someone else finish your shot if it's for the good of the project, and if a supervisor decided he wanted to tweak your shot, he or she probably had a good reason for it that you just might not be aware of.



DL said...

hi there! awesome blog!

i got a question too:

After I finished my Planning/Thumbnails, and go into my animation software, should i block in many rough Poses or better few nearly finished ones?

because i tended to do more rough blocking, until i saw a few jason ryan tutorials, where he spends a lot of time on each single pose in blocking.

About Us said...

Hi shawn,

You said it rightly and raised a very good point,one should have a good reason before working on fellow animators shot,else it's a bit discouraging and may even let down your morale and may be next time you wont be working with that same intensity or interest in that particular project or with that fellow artist or supervisor.


Omar said...

Great post, maybe when i get to the work world i'll come back to this post!

speaking of getting work..

Here's my question, what do feature film studios look for? I mean you must get countless reels, is it usually like "this guys in no question!" or is it usually really tough to decide between a couple reels? if so what makes them stand out?

James said...

Hey shawn

i had a similar situation to your post just recently.

i finished a job a few weeks ago. then the last minute the client made changes. i went back in to work on a shot that needed fix up. but i found out later on that it went through two other animators since i last touched it. i was cool with it because it served to better the project. but as we where trying to solve the technical side of this shot we wasted alot of time trying to sort out the where, when and how to fix this shot.

i guess this was a pipeline thing but in the end we sorted it out after a good chin-wag session of "commuication" and hugs went flying awesome....!

keep up the great post. thanks

James wilson

Unknown said...

hi shawn, i have a question that kept me confused for a very long time as a student. which is a better approach of animation. Is it Streight Ahead or Pose to Pose? Is it True that Streight Ahead animators wont survive too long in the animation industry.
Please sir can you help me out with this, i am a streight ahead animator and now worried about my future.

Unknown said...

Hey, great read. my question has only a little something to do with the piece. My colleagues and I are trying to figure out how to animate a flame and we are only using our hands to draw, our computers to color fill, and toon boom to animate. Are there any pointers you could slide our way? It would help us out BUNCHES. Thanks. I will definately post a link to this blog on my website. www.lonelyshow.com

Animation Mentor Staff said...

Hi Daniel,
You want the blocking to read well enough for your supervisor to understand your acting choices for the shot. At the same time you don’t want to spend too much time “polishing” your blocking as it may change once your supervisor gives you notes on your shot. Therefore you need to find the right workflow for you which conveys your acting intentions without spending too much time on non-essential items. Everyone’s workflow will be different so there is no “right” answer to this, it may take years to find a workflow which works best for you and even that workflow may change over time as you improve. When blocking you need to ask yourself “Does this pose clearly convey the action and emotion of the frame?” and “Does this pose clearly convey the range motion from the previous pose?” If the answer to the former question is “no,” you need to add more to the pose. If the answer to the latter is “no” you will likely need to add another pose in between the two poses so the motion reads. You do not need to focus on the fine details of a pose to answer “yes” to the first question. A pose can read without requiring you to focus on individual finger/eyebrow/lip/etc controls. For example if you are animating a character throwing a punch you may block the starting pose with the hand ready to punch, the anticipation pose, the hand path pose, and the punch contact pose. If you only block the starting and contact poses, your supervisor won’t know how your character anticipates the punch, and the path pose tells what type of punch it is (roundhouse? jab?) as multiple punches can end with the same contact pose. You will want to block the punching hand with the correct shape in each pose, but you shouldn’t spend much time on the fingers of the non-moving hand as they do not affect the pose. As for the face, you don’t need to focus on each individual eyebrow and lip control to show anger, a general eyebrow lowering and slight lip sneer should be enough (and even that may not be needed). You can polish the other controls once your supervisor has approved the shot!

Good luck -
AM Staff

Animation Mentor Staff said...

Hi Omar!
Every reel should have the basics: strong understanding of body mechanics, good timing and anticipation/overlap/followthrough/etc. You can have the best acting idea in the world, but if your character doesn’t move realistically (or realistic for a cartoon world) or have the extra anticipation, overlap and followthrough to keep the character alive, then you really don’t have a chance of being hired. Next, studios want to see strong acting with new ideas that do not rely on clichés. After watching “countless reels” you tend to see the same actions and poses over and over. But when a reel has a shot that takes a generic idea seen countless times and does it in a new way, that is the way to get studios’ attention. Try putting the character in an unexpected situation/location that fits the dialogue. Does the character need to stand and say the line? Why not have them sitting at a table, lying on a couch, or even leaning against a wall? Just make sure the situation/action accents the acting choices and doesn't detract from them. And avoid the acting “cheats” whenever possible, such as “torso-only” medium shots. You may be able to animate a face beautifully, but if you never show the feet, how do studios know you can animate body mechanics below the hips? Also, don’t overcomplicate scenes. Many times, the best way to do a scene is to go as simple as possible. Sometimes the cliché acting choice is to overact with many gestures and fast movements when really you only need to tell the story with the eyes and little to no body movements. Also, if you are applying for an animation job you do not need to have non-animation elements such as lighting, scene modeling, etc in the shot. Studios are looking at your animation and lighting and non-essential models can easily distract the viewer from your animation. Basically, have a reel that shows you understand the basics, shows you “think outside the box” (yes, it is a cliché phrase describing the avoidance of clichés) with your acting choices, and shows you understand the level of the skills needed for the position (ie: don’t include too many shots, especially if the last few are lacking. It’s about quality, not quantity).

Happy Animating and good luck!
AM Staff

Animation Mentor Staff said...

Hi Nishant -
While it is true less animators use Straight Ahead in 3D animation it is not wrong to do so. The biggest problem with Straight Ahead animation is that it's time consuming at the beginning and harder to change acting choices until after the animator has spent a lot of time polishing frame by frame. And in 3D animation it takes more time to create a “polished” pose per frame than it does in 2D. Therefore, your supervisor needs to know your acting choices before you spend too much time polishing them on the computer, so as long as you can convey your ideas to your supervisor and get them approved, Straight Ahead animation can work. This may mean blocking your main actions Pose to Pose but then once they are approved working Straight Ahead in between the key poses. The animated final product will look the same regardless of using Straight Ahead or Pose to Pose, but supervisors like Straight Ahead because they can stop and change an animation before the animator gets to the time consuming polishing stage. If you choose to work Straight Ahead you are essentially jumping into the polishing stage, but as long as you are experienced, have extensively planned out your acting, and have a very strong understanding of timing and mechanics, it can be quicker and more effective than Pose to Pose. The Straight Ahead workflow is not the workflow to use if you like to test new ideas and change acting choices in the middle of a shot.

Have fun!
AM Staff

Animation Mentor Staff said...

Hi lonely -
First, do a very quick test of your entire pipeline. The last thing you want is to spend all your time at the beginning step (drawing) of the pipeline only to have discover an error in your later steps that prevent you from completing the animation (or are too time consuming). Create a few frames and run them through the entire pipeline to ensure it works and catch any time consuming bugs that might appear. Also, draw your character larger than it will appear on screen, especially if you are drawing straight into the computer with a Wacom tablet or mouse. Most drawing programs are very sensitive and it is hard to get a solid flowing line when drawing at the correct size. But if you draw it larger and then shrink it to the correct size all the little imperfections in the lines are lost and they flow well. Finally make sure you look at a lot of reference of flames and possibly animated flame reference as well, there are many styles you can go with a flame (from realistic to a cartooney character) so make sure you know which one you want to do before you begin!

AM Staff

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