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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Original Ideas

One more week to go and I'm sure you guys are all tired of my same old rants. But look, I'm not the only one ranting about the same thing. :)

The Spline Doctors site got an update (content and look) and the latest post is a demo reel guideline. Once you read it you can tell that Dr. Gordon is a bit frustrated. One might argue that the name calling is a bit out of place (although the commenter actually liked the harshness), but I agree about the content, as you've heard me saying the same thing many times. Here's what I mean:

4) Same old, Same old - If I see another canned physical test I might go crazy. We see alot of the same thing over and over. Whether its an animation mentor character jumping on some poles, or the same ringling assignement where you have to model yourself and animate a piece of dialogue…. It all starts to blend in. I want to see original ideas. Stories, interesting acting. Remember, its always about the ideas and acting abilites. Polish can be taught. Focus more on coming up with original acting and good ideas. The problem with many animation schools these days is that they seem to be copying each other. We see many different reels that contain similar models. If possible, create your own character designs.

Seeing the same walk, the same jump or in general, the same type of animation test becomes boring. Do it a different way. Show the potential employer that you have good ideas. If you are using a pre-built rig then try to change it so it has a different character to it. After a while, when you see so many reels, you see the same stuff and it gets really boring to watch. When you see a fresh idea or character, it is refreshing. I think that someone out there needs to build a rig that is almost like a universal character that can be manipulated. This way you can create any character type and come up with any scenario. I will try to put together some links of successful reels.

Basically, don't make any mistakes. HAHAHAHA! (that one was for my Fall '07 class)

No, seriously. He's right. It doesn't have to be the best looking character in history, but don't stick with a grey Norman (or blue Generi), add props and a set. Even a simple set will expand the story of your shot, beyond the pure exercise. I'm not constantly asking why your character is doing what he/she/it is going because I like to torture you, it's because I want you to think about the bigger picture and the motivations of your character, so that you can elevate your clip beyond a pure assignment into an original and creative piece of animation.

Back in the day people got hired based on their bouncing balls. Well, the game has changed, the expectations are higher. If you're not willing to go the extra mile, you will have a hard time. And face it, if you want to work for a company, you need to figure out what they want and then give them what they want. If you want to do whatever you feel is right, then do your own short. If you're lucky, people will like it, maybe people at companies and that will result in getting hired. But you're only limiting the chances of finding a job. Use all the time you can get to work on single clips (or a little sequence), which fit the style and taste of the company you want to work for. The company is your client and you need to please the client. Once you're hired you can go off and do your own thing, no problem.

Show me an interesting character, not the same damn thing I’ve seen over and over. Be original with your characters, ideas, acting… everything.

If you have a hard time sympathizing with that, then I suggest you spend a Saturday or Sunday (full day) going through ALL the reels you can find online. Watch as much as you can for a whole day and you will realize what he's talking about. It's also good reference in terms of what not to do. You will quickly realize which audio clips, acting choices, set pieces, etc. are overused. So don't replicate any of it, figure out something new.

The suggestion that someone out there should build a universal rig which can be molded into any character is a good idea (Norman is a good example), but a bit out of touch in terms of the time and effort it takes to do so. Dr. Gordon is aware of it ("Sure, it would be great to be able to design your own character, but I understand, as much as anyone that it isn't easy and animators want to focus on performance."), but I wonder if reviewers at other companies are as well. I have my doubts that they REALLY understand it unless they are job hunting, animating and rigging while trying to pay off their student loan in today's environment.

How about the companies use their resources and build a universal rig for the animation community? Bluesky has a proprietary rig they hand to job applicants as a testing tool. I'd like to see other companies do the same and more. How about once you submit your reel and it's promising, the company provides links to a library of their own rigs? You wouldn't be allowed to share them publicly, maybe only the company will end up seeing the clips, but at least they get to see what they want (rig wise).

One day maybe.

- pic source


Joey Kim said...

Thank you for re-reminding us how it is important to be original!
I'll keep that in mind!

jeff said...

great link, JD-

the lack of a good rig universal rig really bugs me. People do interesting things with Norman, but he's prone to gimble lock and I've seen just as many students struggle as do good work.

I've actually roped a modeller and a rigger into building a male and female character once everyone's crunch ends...all i need is character designs if you know of anyone.

What I find surprising is that schools don't pool their resources...have the concept artists, modellers, and riggers all team up to build a library of characters for the school..

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Yeah, you'd think that we all the students around you could form the buiding of a super rig into a class.
What I noticed ever since being a student is the unwillingness of sharing (there are a few who do, don't get me wrong).

Sorry, I don't know any character designers, but I'd recommend the


blog. The owner should have contacts. Or check out all the blogs through Jon Nevarez' blog (which takes time, I know), there are some great artists who might want to do some work?

shiva said...

it doesn't take more than a day to modify norman if you know how to do it.

your animation buffet blog has a good tutorial on modifying norman. just using the stretch controls on arms and legs, scaling the spine, scaling the jaw, and changing the nose makes a lot of difference.

and for props, there are good sites like www.archibase.net and www.turbosquid.com

archibase.net has tons of great props and set pieces. most of them also have textures.

Erik said...

I agree with "Back in the day people got hired based on their bouncing balls. Well, the game has changed, the expectations are higher."

it really does, I think its time to learn the basic modification for animator......thanks you and nair have great tutorial about it, it really helps.

I'm wondering that is polish important? the tricky part is, yes, I agree with "polish can be tought", but you may not get the chance to be tought becaouse lack of polish skills. how do you think this part?

jeff said...

the reason i'm chiming in is because in reviewing reels, i'll often see a really well crafted character with mediocre animation on it. I completely agree about reels being pieces of entertainment, but for animation, which requires a really high level of polish, I'd argue that the modelling and props are secondary to the performance.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Shiva: thanks for the link to archibase.net, great resource!

Erik/Jeff: adding a simple set and props to your shot shows me that you are thinking beyond the exercise, but also that you have fun with it. I totally agree that animation comes first, but putting together a few cubes will take a few minutes. To me that's still better than an empty room. How many times do you see an empty room in a feature movie? I think that by adding a set and props it forces you to think more about composition, interaction with the set/props, which will in turn spark new and hopefully original ideas, etc. But again, don't spend 10 hours on a set and 3 hours on the animation, that would be ridiculous.

About the polish. To me polish is very important and something you should know early on. Yes, original ideas are the backbone, but if your animation is bad, it will still lessen the chance of convincing the reel reviewer of hiring you.
Sure, polish can be taught, but only at places where time is less of an issue, where frequent internships are available and where you can take animation classes while working on a project. This sort of environment is rare. It's more likely that once you're hired you have to contribute feature quality work from the get go. If your polish is not advanced enough, the people in charge might think "We don't have time to train that guy, we need to finish this project." and someone else with a stronger reel will get hired.

I'm not reviewing reels, so those are just my 2 cents based on what I've seen, heard and imagine (business wise).