I personally believe that the more styles of animation you can do the better. If nothing else, it helps with job security. I deliberately request my shows to alternate between character animation and visual effects animation so my mind will stay challenged and sharp. But this isn’t something you are expected to do here. We have lots of animators that prefer one style to another and they become very proficient because they are specialists in that style.
In terms of adjusting between the styles, it can take a shot or two to get back into the rhythm. This is because I use two very different workflows. As I mentioned earlier, for visual effects I tend to work straight ahead with spline curves. For character animation, I work pose to pose with stepped curves. The reason I prefer straight ahead for visual effects is so I can constantly assess my work with respect to how realistic it’s looking. If Spider-Man is swinging in a bank, it’s easier for me to see if his mass and velocity are correct by having him in motion. Character animation tends to have more stylized timing, so I can focus on the poses for longer.
In terms of being pigeonholed, yes it can happen. If you are really good at executing a certain type of shot, it’s very possible the animation director will lean on you in the future to produce something similar. With tight production schedules, you have to use all of your resources to their fullest potential. The same thing applies to a style of animation. If the animation director knows the schedule will be tough, then sometimes the prospect of taking someone with less experience can seem daunting.
Historically, I’ve found that it’s a little harder for a visual effects artist to break into character animation then the other way around. I understand why people prefer to hire animators that excel in the style of the show, but I don’t agree with broadly dismissing a group of talented artists because they are missing something on their reel. Bottom line for me, a good animator is a good animator. If they take direction well, work hard and are enjoyable to work with, then any lack of experience will melt away with the help of strong lead or director. I can turn a very realistic Spider-Man shot into a cartoony version just by shifting my curves around. All you need are some quicker transitions and longer moving holds. The good news is that if the artist is motivated at a studio like Sony, they can absolutely break through that.
Guest Blogger Chris Williams