Animation - Event or Process

I want to put down in writing something that I think about often as a teacher. Its this idea of animation being a single event, something that happens in a moment and is finished. Its funny how many people assume that's how it works at first, whats not so funny is when people just don't get it when they are told otherwise, or even worse they get it but think that for some reason it doesn't apply to them.

I guess that a lot of art is more like an event, if you get most of a paining done then decide you want the characters changed then you might as well start again. The same thing go's for a piece of pottery, if you decide you want the pot bigger or smaller then you will probably have to do it over. Its even more so with performing arts, its not like you can stop half way through a play and say, "Oh I'm sorry, I meant to stand like this when I said my line. Can we do it over?" You just have to do it better the next time you do it. In short most of the art we see, and have done before we started animating was the result of a single attempt, then it was revealed for all to see upon completion. Taa Daaaa!

The great unveiling myth
Creative Commons Image by Duncan Harris

The Animation Process is so different, a piece of animation is basically never finished, you could continue to rework and improve it forever. The only thing that stops you is that every piece of animation inevitably has a deadline. To reach the highest levels of the biz you must set the highest possible standards for yourself, test your work over and over, scower it for possible improvements, if you can't see any then ask someone else for their opinion.

This is why I prefer to liken animation to a craft rather than an art form. Craftsmanship implies a honed skill practiced and refined over time. It is something that can be learned rather than a gift endowed upon someone. That sounds a lot more like the animation I know, and the frame of mind that great animators I have known are in.

Work away at your scene like a a craftsman, refine, refine, refine.
Creative Commons Image By AJ Fischler

Currently I have students in my first year Tafe class working on a piece of animation where a character moves to music. If you take into account our Motion Principles and Character Animation classes then it is probably about the 7th piece of animation they have done for me. It leaves me stunned to think that there are still students among them/you who think they/you can just plug away at a piece of animation for weeks on end without showing anyone (or even testing it to look at themselves) and come up with something anywhere near as good as those who show their work to me or co students and get feedback while the work is in progress.

Demand criticism from others
Creative Commons Image from sergis blog

Be hungry for feedback, test your work under the assumption that your going to find things that need to be done over, or re-worked rather than hoping it looks good enough to get away with. Challenge yourself to get in one more change, fix up, or tweak before the deadline. Find someone else to ask for a fresh perspective, in one of my previous jobs I used to ask the cleaning lady to get a different point of view. This should be standard policy, the way you think about your work every day.

Maybe getting feedback or communicating with others is something you find intimidating. Well then the bad news is that you will probably have to find a way if you want to be successful, the good news is that communicating is a skill that you can learn, practice and improve over time. Why not start today?

1 comment:

Frank said...

The 11-second-club is a good forum to learn the craft of "getting feedback" as an online resource.

I think it's hard trying to break the habit of showing something that is "unfinished". That's the hump that I find hard to hurdle.

It's from drawing pictures as a kid.