Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Separates the Good Animator from the Bad Animator?

There are a lot of things that separate a good animator and a bad animator. I will skip the obvious things like talent, speed, good mechanics, fundamentals, etc. There are a lot of animators out there that have all of those qualities. I know for me, two things that inspire me are an animator's attention to detail and creativity. Of course, all shots have to tell the story, sell the emotion, have good body mechanics, timing, weight, etc. What is unfortunate is that a lot of times a shot will have all of those elements, and then the animator will consider it done. I've been guilty of it myself.

A good animator will work his shots until they are good enough to be in the film. A great animator will take it that extra 5 percent past what is required and make it amazing. Feet don't land square to the floor most of the time, and fingers don't grab an object and then stop moving. Eye lids are constantly reacting to what is happening in the eyes, and the face has so many ticks and tiny oddities that it is overwhelming. The animators that blow me away always seem to take the time to add the small imperfections that make a shot feel real. Sometimes there are small details that you feel more than you see. However, if they weren't there it wouldn't feel nearly as sweet.

The other thing that really gets me pumped about a shot is an acting choice that I would never have thought of. Some animators are able to come up with ways of expressing an emotion or an idea that are wildly original but seem to not be out of place for the character. It is very obvious in those moments that the animator put in the effort to avoid the cliches and brainstormed until they had something special.

So, I guess I could sum up my view of a good animator as someone who has all of the skills but also takes real pride in their work. They aren't just trying to get their shots approved by the director, and they aren't running with the first idea that will work. They are not just trying to get four seconds of footage into the film. They are trying to create four seconds of inspired animation that will help elevate the film. I've seen animators that have been in the industry for many, many years and still labor over their shots that way. I am hoping that I can end up being one of them even after I've been doing this for a few decades.

Guest Blogger Travis Tohill


Andy Holden said...

very inspiring post, thanks!

Unknown said...

Yep, not to mention that time and study and dedication(beyond all the skills) are precious to change a common shot in a brighter piece of animation...

Ryan Hayford said...

Great post Travis! Good to see you on here, the ironman Q&A was awesome!

Unknown said...

Travis, excellent post. I think you really nailed what separates the good from the bad. This is the type of writing that is right up there with The Illusion of Life and other books, as that is what the experienced say after a lifelong career as animators. This is what I want too, and am doing it as we speak. Milking everything I can out of my shots (all 2d right now). I want that something special, like Glenn Miller, looking for that certain BIG BAND sound.

Thanks for sharing.....

Joe Young

Travis Tohill said...

No problem. Glad you liked it!

@Going Bananas:
So true. I always find the shots that I study and labor over during the planning phase always come out much stronger. A lot of it is about the time and effort you put into it.

@Ryan Hayford:
Thanks Ryan! Jess and I had a blast at the Q&A! It's good to hear it was alright on your end as well ;)

@Joe Young:
Thanks Joe. I definitely think my writing and animation knowledge would have to grow leaps and bounds to be close to The Illusion of Life. Frank and Ollie are absolute legends, so I don't feel too bad saying that I would pale in comparison. However, I appreciate the flattering comment :)

It's great to hear that you are striving for 2d awesomeness. Keep up that passion for animating!!

Travis Tohill said...

@Herman G:
I'm not sure what the wow is about. So, I'll just agree with you. Wow

Also, if you guys have any questions feel free to ask. I'll be checking in.

Thanks for Reading!

Anirudh Bhalotia said...

Great post Travis!

Unfortunately I see this happening quiet a lot when people see animation as just another 9-5 job which is more mechanical and less about try doing it with a passion and deep love for this beautiful craft!

All they care about is their deadlines and stuff and churning out something which even they wont like to see it once its done!

Its time to give animation what it truly deserves!

Rock on Travis!

Nathan Ingram said...

Thanks for the inspiration Travis. I actually had a chance to talk to you for a minute during the Iron Man 2 QnA. You don't know how much I appreciate all the helpful advice you've given me. Animation Mentor has given me the opportunity to interact with other people who are completely in love with this art form, and I'm so fortunate to be a part of this school. I'm so glad I have had the chance to interact with professionals in the field, such as yourself :) Thanks for everything man, stay awesome.

marie said...

Aww, this is so inspiring! Most often than not, I'm guilty of not being able to push myself and add
those extra special stuff when animating. I could blame the (project)schedule since it's usually tight (in my case, commercials) but I guess, it's really about proper planning and, of course, passion.

Thanks for sharing, Travis!

Jameson said...

You left out one thing - a good animator looks fantastic in lycra! Great photo of you going mocap-crazy in the latest Cinefex. Thanks for another inspiring tips & tricks post; lots of great aspects to focus on and think about.

Travis Tohill said...

Thanks for writing!

It's true that in animation, just like every other field, there will be some people that just view it as a way to pay the bills. In my experience that isn't usually the case. You will definitely find different levels of effort, but nearly all animators want any work with their name on it to be good. Animation is just way to challenging to do if you don't love it.

One of the more common scenarios is working on a production that doesn't have the time or the budget for animators to really polish their work to the level they would like. If a job requires you to produce 20 seconds of animation per week, there just isn't enough time to make it spectacular.

Many animators will have to face the situation of hitting deadlines at the cost of quality, which can be painful as an artist. The jobs that really allow the time to do high quality work are a definite luxury. Those of us (myself included) that are fortunate enough to be in such a position should definitely be grateful.

Keep setting those keys and keep that passion alive!!

Thanks so much Nathan! I definitely remember you from the Q&A and it is really great to hear that I might have been able to help a bit. I had the same experience when I was in school, and was so impressed with how many professionals were willing to give advice or help me along the way.

It's so awesome to be able to do the same now. Just make sure that when you are out and working that you pass on the good will to up and coming animators :)

Glad to hear from you again!

Hey Marie! I guess being in commercials you know all about what I was saying to Anirudh above. I guess in those cases you just have to do what you can in the time given to you. You're totally right about planning your shots. Even though it feels like it takes longer on the front end, your shots will actually get done faster and way better. When you only have time to animate one idea it's always helpful to make sure that it is a good one and that you have it very clearly laid out in your head.

You may not get to put as much polish as you like on your shots, but I bet you'll learn how to block in a shot quickly. When you do work on a project with looser deadlines in the future that will be a huge asset to you. Just try not to use your blinding speed to make the other animators feel bad :)

Thanks for checking out the blog!

Shhhhh.... there's no need to bring up the spandex ;)

EoghanC said...

Good piece - but I would go as far as saying the same analogy applies to any profession. Its the people that put in that small bit extra, the bit that is usually unseen that make it to the top, whether they are a 3D animator or a brain surgeon!


Virgil said...

the good animator is a good man. the bad animator is a bad, very bad man. :P (sorry, I couldn't resist, hahahaha)

Winston Chee said...

Can I ask?

How does one plan for a short film?

How long do you need to create a short film?


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