So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

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So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op wo nov 28, 2007 4:59 pm

Ik ben aan't proberen toestemming te krijgen van Ken Davis om zijn mening over het leven in de animatiewereld hier te mogen plaatsen.

In tussentijd vragen jullie je natuurlijk af, "wie is ken davis?"
Wel diene mens heeft gewerkt aan volgende series:
Ren & Stimpy
Batman the animated series

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op do dec 06, 2007 8:52 pm

ik heb de toestemming gekregen Smile

Hier is den eerste al

What to expect? can expect to work harder and longer hours than in most other jobs.
You can expect NO job security, instead your skills and developed talent will become your job security. You can expect to travel to work in another city at some point.
You can expect competition from other people, both before and after you get a job.
Do not expect to make a lot of money, but you should be able to support yourself once work is steady.
Expect work to be seasonal, in the respect that projects ( games and shows) have starting and stopping times and there's not always another project following it up.
Expect to work for people that, at some point, will not know what they are doing--most do, but there's a few out there that do not.
Expect to really bust your ass in getting the best training you can, it developing your ARTISTIC skills as well as computer skills. Expect that mediocre skills will land you mediocre to no jobs--accomplished skills will give you better options. Do not shirk at talent.
Expect to get stiffed on pay at some point in your career--it might not happened for a long time, it might only happen once, but its VERY likely to happen.
Expect fear, frustration, sweat, accomplishment, elation, joy, devastation etc.--the gamut of human emotions.
Expect to love the job and hate the job at the same time.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op do dec 06, 2007 8:53 pm

I am an animator--have done that. I'm a cartoonist, storyboard artist, comicbook artist, illustrator, designer, caricaturist.........done a LOT of jobs.
My experience is in the 2D arena, and I have contributed to 3D projects.
I also have taught, until recently, this stuff to adult students.

Making a ton of money in any of these fields is mythical, but possible IF you go about doing the right things. There's a lot of what Oprah Winfrey talks about regarding luck here: the meeting of preparation with opportunity.

MOST people make subsistence wages.....that is averaging around $30K-$40K a year. Some will report more, few a bit less. Some with jobs holding more responsibility can take home up to and over $100k a year--but that's not going to happen overnight.
Bear in mind that ONLY the TOP 10% are making the huge money--$250K or more--and those folks are very talented to boot.
The mega-stars in this biz sacrifice a lot to get where they are, and its a unique sacrifice for everyone that attempts that stature. If you want to hit that kind of goal--that stratus--then you'll find out what that is on your own.

As for being nervous.........nervousness only comes from inadequacy.
The industry doesn't have a lot of room for the inadequate--but schools seem to gloss over this point.
I'm not going to mince words with anyone here--YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD. Standing out, in some respect, is a asset.
There's a enormous number of people in the industry that are niche talents--they are good at one or two things.
That limits their options.
The resources and reference material at hand should preclude niche talents because the wealth of material is SO rich today.
When I started in the industry ( 20 years ago) we had maybe 1-5% of the resources there are now--and yet a self-taught guy like myself (and others) could do it.

If you are nervous, then its a sign to bust your ass so you can rely on your skills. Snip out the bullshit in your head and focus on what the industry demands of you--if that's your goal. The thinking that an image is "good enough" to you might not be the paradigm you want to aim for. The idea is not to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your classmates, but with INDUSTRY work--with your instructors ( if they are any good).
The idea is to bring something better or different with you--not just rehash the same old tired shit everyone has seen before.
I've seen enough ogres, race-cars, mecha, elf princesses and anime crap to choke whole herds of horses--and I stopped paying attention to a lot of it years ago. The ones that took a different spin on that stuff, that showed me something with some artistic maturity , or AT LEAST SOME THOUGHT BEHIND IT, caught my eye. Those folks usually caught the industry's eye as well.

This means more work for you though:
This might mean one more hour (or hours) spent on a image, or a piece of animation, or working on some software.
It means sticking your nose in different magazines than your classmates might be reading, in looking at a movie a bit differently than others around you.
It might mean seeking out key people with answers to your questions, rather than just accepting what a book tells you.
It means not just asking global questions ( like "how do I draw?") but doing the scutwork so all you need to ask is the very specific questions that solve your immediate dilemma ( like:"what direction should hatching lay on a figure to convey a graduated shadow? How do you get those feathered hatching lines on a drawing?" etc.)
It means perserverance and dedication.

Get back to the basics--master them undeniably. Do not BS yourself. If you think something might be an asset, if your gut tells you that you might need painting , drawing, sculpting, writing etc, then take them. Fear of failing those tasks is what keeps people from tackling them, and that is usually what sinks their prospects in the industry.
Do not expect quick results in shorts amount of time-DO expect to spend years honing your abilities. Start NOW.

Oh, yea, you'll get the odd person that will declare that so-and so doesn't draw but they are in the wary of that. The tools maybe different, but ARTISTIC SKILLS are the cachet on this biz--do not shirk either.
Short-cuts are rare--rapid rises equally so--expect a LONG time in the trenches slogging and sweating out shitty jobs and "meaningless" work.
That's the same in any business.

I'm also going to say this: not everyone is cut out for this. In EVERY class I have taught for the past 10 years the average has been that 10% of each graduating class have a future in the biz. That's 1 in 10. Thems is realistic numbers because I have seen those numbers make it.
Want to know the number one reason why people do not make it in the biz?
At some point they see just how mich stuff they don't know versus how much they need to know and they GIVE UP. Giving up GUARANTEES you will never make it--the rest have it at 50/50.

But once you make it--if you REALLY bust your ass.....its a good career to have. You'll do things that people will be in awe of, and that's because they will not understand WHAT you do. At higher levels on the job, you'll be paid as much for your intuition as for your skills and there's a pronounced satisfaction/validation that comes from being rewarded that way.
Some folks can claim some fame or notoriety, though most toil in obscurity, but the creations we work on are anything but obscure.

Not a lot of us working in the biz will say this, but its pretty plain that what we do makes a big difference in people's lives.

There's yer carrot AND yer stick in one post.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op ma mei 12, 2008 10:28 pm

ne comment van Ken Davis op iemand die 2 wandelcycluskes lieten zien (ik vond ze maar magerkes Razz)

Maar soit, zijne comment gaat over wa studio's zoeken en hoe ge aangenomen wordt enzo, dus lijkt me wel interessant my experience when the "industry standard" is talked about, its mostly in reference to draughtsmanship ability.
Animation per se, that is the mechanical movement of a drawn object, is usually pretty straightforward in most situations--its just timing and position issues. What makes those things stand out to an employer's eyes is how well the image is drawn, or how well its looks.

That is what a prospective talent can offer a studio--namely their ability to create something that looks good. If they cannot offer that, they will not get hired.

Based on what I have seen in the two walk cycles, your animation skills are solid, but I don't think your drawing ability is where it needs to be based soley on those two samples.
This is the danger of supplying stylized cartoony samples in a reel--the styles can be used as "cheats" by weaker talents to hide deficiencies in their draughtsmanship. This is why life-drawing samples are considered essential in a portfolio because they are a de-facto standard that anyone can gauge talent by.
For example, if you took the skeleton cycle that you have, and animated that as a totally realistic skeleton, instead of a cartoony stylized one, then you'd have something that shows animation AND classical drawing ability.

My feeling about walk cycles is that studios see too damn many of them. Cycles are usually straight mechanical movement.

Big deal. It says nothing, but movement.
Instead, what I have told students is to work BEYOND just plain movement and step into EMOTION.
Do not just animated a cute lil' guy walking.........animate him STRUTTING, he's on his way to a date with the prettiest girl in town and he's king-shit of the moment. How would he move? What would he facial expression be? Would he have any unique movements?
He'd have some feelings in his walk, he's got a purpose and character--and he's more than just an automaton. Very few reels show that kind of thing, and I have seen my share of reels.

See, this offers an employer someone who thinks beyond the schooling most people get. In a school I used to teach at, students would get a head rotation assignment, spun out of a character design assignment. On almost everyone's reel would be these spinning heads.

Why? What does that sell? That you can spin an object? Its straight mechanical movement--it does nothing that anyone else cannot already do.
Instead, with each pass, have the spinning head make a different face at the camera--grinning, sticking out its tongue etc--so the only constant is the image of the BACK of the head--everything else changes in the rotation.

To an employer that says here is someone willing to explore and supply options to consider, and someone willing to sweat it a bit to add a bit more to the job.

1, what does it take to be employed?

Demonstratable ability. You need to be able to show that you can supply work that meets the needs of the studio you are applying for, and work at THEIR level creating the kinds of work they do. The samples you supply need to clearly address that you can do that kind of work.
This all boils down to the need to be able to show that you can problem-solve with the material--usually with your draughtsmanship.

2, how far does my work have to develope to make the mark?

Based on only those two samples....
You need to establish that you can create images that would be used at a studio--to this end, its okay to use an established model design and create some work using that model. This shows a few things: one being that you can work to a specific model (and you MUST be as spot-on as possible to that design), and two that you can tackle something with a certain amount of complexity. Obviously, the more complex a design is, the bigger the risk you take on but you also reap a greater impression if you can pull it off.

Based on your are not quite there yet, but are pretty close.

3, Would the fact that a person applying for an animation job with very high quality work but no experience in an actual animation job put an employer off entirely from employing them. ?

See, you are an unknown quality to them. Unless you can demonstrate in your samples that you know what you are doing, your lack of experience can be a detriment.
Let's be clear about something here......"lack of experience" can be defined as a few different things by recruiters. Some see it as no job experience. Others see it as not enough ability. Depending on how anal or rigid the thinking is of the recruiter, they could snub a highly skilled talent solely because they have not been PAID as yet to do work they are able to do.
That's bullshit, pretty much.......but its the lazy system that's at work in a lot of places.
"Oh, never been paid to do that work?? Then you have no experience."

This is why a carefully created set of samples that clearly demonstrates your abilities are essential. Someone with REALLY strong abilities will get noticed, and being able to show that you know enough (outside of actual work experience) to overcome your lack of actual working experience.
The advantage that a pro has is proven problem-solving ability. They've worked under demands and pressures and likely delivered usuable material.
A greehorn doesn't have that, and so the ASSUMPTION is that they might flake out--that the lovely work in their portfolio took endless tweaking and fiddling to get to the polished stage a recruiter sees it at. This is why tests are common in the biz, because they supply a realistic time-pressure upon the new talent.

4. what do employers look for in a show reel or interview?
Ability. Polish--but ruffs are okay too. Appeal. Solid animation. Good ideas. Clear thinking.
If you can do a purely mimed-out bit that makes someone laugh out loud, then you have a winner. If your work can move someone emotionally, then you'll be hired.

5. Does the fact that A "just graduated animation student" make an employer move on to the next reel?

Bullshit. Grads are the fodder, the new blood of the industry--there's the "next big thing" waiting in those reels and portfolios--most studios would be foolish if they dismissed/ignored them. The key thing here is that, with demonstratable ability to work at the level of material the studio creates, a grad is not really any different from a seasoned pro. The ONLY difference is that the "seasoned pro" has the work credits that show they have a proven problem-solving ability that a grad may not be able to show.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 1:57 pm

kzal is nekeer verder doen Razz

I'm gonna reveal something WEALLY SCAWY scary.

I used to joke to my classes about those of us in the biz that had, at one time in our childhoods, sustained some kind of head injury. Y'know....anything from an actual head trauma to just wacking your skull on something and having blood drawn.

I used to joke about this, and asked how many had sustained such a thing.........until I started noticing that the students that said "no" or were confused by the question were the ones that didn't make it in the biz.


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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 1:57 pm

Want some more advice?


Draw your blinkin' fingers to the bone.

This one is the biggie if you are going to be an animator.
Look, nowadays they don't really care what you draw with--pencil or stylus, as long as your drawing skills are sound.

Again, referring to my teaching career: drawing is the crux of this.
Its the one, biggest thing that scares the livin' pee out of most people coming into this field and usually because they have inadequately prepared themselves.
Hey, gang...........the resources are out there, in stores, libraries, on the 'Net right in front of you, there's so much info to be had for only the effort to find it.
Can't afford school? I'll be the bold, cocky bastudd again and say you don't need it......if you have the work and study ethic.
The books and examples exist out there in the market and info-places for ANYONE to tap into. Schooling can fast-track the ones lucky enough to get it, and work at it, but schools can also be a big distraction too.
I've seen plenty of talented people enroll in school only to fall prey to their hormone and spend their valuable time ( and money) pursuing the opposite sex more than putting time in on their animation disc.
Likewise I've seen uber-talented people waltz in the door and then resoundingly display zero discipline for the work--and waste their time and money accordingly.

Hey.........look at that for the message it is.........the playing field is level no matter what path you take. What tilts the field towards or away from you is what YOU bring to it.

I've had students shove their latest anime opus under my nose. The SAME drawing of the SAME girl/guy in the SAME pose with NO background or any other indication of artistic progress. Hey, I'll be honest........I patronized those people, because I was paid to do so.

But you know what? THAT is not drawing.

No-one in the biz wants to see that........look around at what's being done in the field you are working in.
Anime is NOT a largely seen domestic style ( in North America at least)--it's only largely consumed here.
99% of the anime/manga done is done in Japan, not here.
I know a lot of people do not want to hear that--that they will challenge that point to the end of the day.

Its the stone-cold, blunt truth.

Classic drawing skills remain king--and they always will.
Basic, bog-standard stuff like composition, staging, and PERSPECTIVE are LACKING in most students work. Figure drawing is given far too much emphasis before, and occasionally after, students enroll in schools.

Buck that trend, willya.

As much as one might not think, something like Spongebob, or Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Ren and Stimpy, or Justice League all stem from the same classic drawing skills. Oh, anime and manga do too......make no mistake, but what beginners often do is master the STYLE before they master the substance. Two very different things.
If you can draw well classically, then ANY style is within your grasp. If you grow up on just one design theme, you WILL be at a loss when faced with tackling others.
I've seen this time and again.

Copy the shit out a GOOD drawing that you see. Analyse the lines and see how the original artist applied them. Get inside their head......the artist was/is using shapes in a specific way. Duplicate that, UNDERSTAND that.
Master it.
Look, here's a concession for those who are now pouting.........draw that anime stuff--keep doing it. But now ADD other things. Grab some Mary Blair Golden Books, some Syd Mead images, some Jack Kirby comic pages. Get some Peter Chung, John K, Bill Waterson, Lynn Johnston, Ron Cobb, Picasso, WHOMEVER grabs your eye.

Look this is a trap here........I'm going to tell you about it beforehand so you don't fall in.
Develop some taste. Pick and choose the creators above--or your own list--and seek out those that work FOR YOU.
Nod your head politely when others revere and speak their favourite artist's names, then shut'em out and go back to your own list. Forget all the names OTHER people mention--unless they grab you--go with your own likes.

Why do all this?
These other talents have the answers in their successful works, and its your job to suck in what they have.
How does Jack Kirby make a comicbook panel dynamic? How does Syd Mead come up with those wild designs? What choices decided that painters use of colour? That cartoonists sense of design? How do they handle things you are weak at?
If they appear weak at it, find someone else who is strong--suck' em in.

Copy their shit. Duplicate their brushstrokes, their pencil lines whatever--do this so you can LEARN.
Once you've done just that, then put on your own spin.

What that?
Mommy says its bad to copy or trace?
Oh fer cryin' out loud....look when I'm done slapping you silly, I'll sit you down and tell you that is not true.
Emulation is a HUGE learning tool--probably the best one out there.
All that bullshit about discovering your own way from the outset is........well, bullshit. You have to be on the damn road for you to FIND your way in the first place. Copying other works/artists will give you that road.
Its just a means to an end, don't sweat it.
If you are the crazy bugger than can duplicate Lynn Johnston, Ron Cobb and Picasso and then MERGE all those styles you WILL be your own person, artistically speaking.

You are not a machine--- your style, your way of saying things will emerge in time.
Take stock of what grabs you......if you love everything, then narrow it down to what get's you all gooey. If you love "too much" stuff you'll likely homogenize your work to the point that nothing really establishes itself.
Have some taste, be discriminating---its oooookkkaaaaayyy!

This is part of your education too, because the work we do isn't just physical effort--the ACT of drawing/animating--its also esthetics as well.
Making pictures purdy.
Honing the intuitive choices you make is vitally important in this craft because ultimately it determines what physical effort you apply yourself to, and whether or not that effort pays off in a successful image.

This kind of thing can be the biggest obstacle for aspiring artists.
Its the leap from consumer to creator.

All of us here are consumers--that's what brought us our respective distances. The difference though, is that the creators have become able to disengage those consumer tendencies ( re: fandom) and focus their efforts on the work and its demands.

This is one of those "gut skills" that you either have or you don't. Some people can seperate the two, and some are so lost in their fandom they can never divide the two.

Draw from life. But don't bore yourself doing it. Draw the stuff that truly fascinates you--chuck the rest--at least for now.
Chip at your fears.
I use to taunt my students by suggest they take that dancing blob they like animating so much, and make it into a Gundam robot. Once they find out what a Gundam robot is they are rightly terrified. I would be too.
Draw Times Square in NYC. Then make it a down angle. Then add in Godzilla and the X-men trashing the whole place. No cheating--draw it through.

Alex Toth once said his personal measure of an artist was a guy that could draw babies........ethnic babies. The ethnic features are so subtle in infants, but they are there....and we can all easily recognize them.

Feeling daunted by now?
Hey, you should be.
Animation is less a career and more a lifestyle--almost any commercial art is.
There is NO SUCH THING as a fully trained artist--God never made any such animal. There's always something to learn.

One last thing:

Doing this stuff is geeky.
People loathe that word, its like admitting you eat manure or something.
There's always people that are in your life, or will come into your life that will question your passions. Hey, we love some of them, but THAT is why doors have locks, folks. Succeeding in this field comes down to a 100% selfish act.
You have to do it, or die.
Anyone who gets in your way kind of/sort of/ deserves the boot prints they get from you. I mean that in the nicest possible way. Art is self-expression and the primal, nigh-unholy ( or holy, if you like) need to GET THIS STUFF OUT is really something only other artists can really understand.
The rest of the planet will just have to accept our word on it and assume we are weird.

I'm starting to ramble some, and I'm not the only seasoned pro sitting here, so I'll let other schmoes chime in. If I've gone off the deep end, they'll offer their own swing.

That's all for tonite.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:00 pm

Here's some thoughts about schools for all those about to enter into school...

First, high school.

High school means nothing. High school is this BS requisite you need to get into college and university and the efforts you make there are meaningless elsewhere.
Once you are in college, or university, or trade school, everything changes.
You no longer just have to "show up" actually have to accomplish something.
See, in college, what you do directly sets up what you will do in your career.
The efforts and habits you display count DIRECTLY for your employment after graduation.

If you screw up in class, you are screwing up your job prospects.
In the past few years the most frustrating part of being a art/film school teacher has been watching students piss away their money ( or their parents money) by goofing off in class.
They want to sit at the back and have a gab-fest with their buddies, or "do their own thing" as opposed to what the class is doing or just plain not show up.
Sometimes the students are too involved in pursuing the opposite ( occasionally the same) sex for the year or two they are in school
Sometimes these students will come along and BLAME the instructor for THEIR own piss-poor performance.

Hey, great for them--they have demonstrated they do not have what it takes. The industry does not want or need them. They lack committment, focus, discipline and guts.
Doom on them.

Look, I'll say this now and it bears repeating: an education is TAKEN, not given.
Simply sitting in class listening to lectures will not help you retain the lectures /examples given. Seen this HUNDREDS of times with many, many students.
Learn to take notes IN HIGH SCHOOL--if you come away with ONE skill from the place, make note-taking the one.
Personally, I'm appalled at the number of students.....MORE than 80%.... in my classes that do not, will not, or do not know HOW to take notes.
The ACT of taking notes helps to hardwire the information into your brain because its not just a visual/auditory stream its also a kinesthetic/tactile stream as well. It forces you to process the data at a much deeper level than you would if you were simply being exposed to it. There's a lot of value in the see/hear/do method of learning--the do part being what cements it.
Note-taking will save your ass.

The other skill to learn is the courage to ask questions, and to keep answering until you get a answer that HELPS you. Not just an answer, but one that can solve your problem. There's more than a few students that are far too timid to project their voices, stand up and ask questions in class. Too many times I've had students come to me AFTER class and ask me to repeat the lesson.
Hey, I don't have time. The time for it was IN-CLASS.
Hell, I had one student come ask me how to storyboard only TWO days before he was to graduate, and had already completed his film--yeesh! Its too late, pal!
Seriously, let's look at this life-skill for a second: If someone is afraid to ask a question in class........what are they going to do on-production in a real job? How can they be seen to be responsible for their task if they are afraid to speak out if they are having a problem? Talent that hides on the job like that gets let go once its found out that they haven't got the balls to manage themselves.
By being open and honest with YOURSELF and others in a direct, forthright way, you are helping both sides--even if its because you lack some knowledge or experience.
Timidity in school is a bad trait to develop and foster. Kill it while its little.

Likewise is something even more insidious: learned helplessness. This is considered the blight of our times, because a LOT of the younger generations are developing this trait.
Ever seen a forum where someone posts they need help with their homework assignment and just want the answers?
Sure, we all have, I'll bet. That's classic learned helplessness.
These students miss the point in that its the EXERCISE that is often the point of the exercise and not the results. Methodology is often very important in determining technical proficiency. Given the wealth of immediately available information sources, if so easy to become complacent in getting answers.
Sometimes completing a task requires simple scut-work..........sweating the stuff and the details until its done.
This learned helplessness also breeds global questions like " How do you draw? or "What makes stuff good?"--questions that simply take far too much time to answer in any useful way.
The way to beat learned helplessness is pretty simple: use your head. THINK.
Don't look for short-cuts to a result if the method is the point of the exercise. Look for the common answers to provide you with the groundwork for SPECIFIC questions that more readily answer your needs. Form some opinions on your own--don't be afraid to be WRONG.
Experience, after all, is the outcome of screwing up a lot, right?
There's a real stigma in making mistake in modern culture.....fight that. Learn from screw-ups, but make intelliegent screw-ups. Do not just give it a half-hearted effort and hope someone will correct you early on.

Now, college....

Every animation school and art college is different. They have common traits, but there's unique aspects to them that influences student life. It could be facilities, staff, procedures, curriculum all sorts of variables.
There are something to keep in mind though:

In high school, you might have been the king-shit artist. Best in the class. In college, its possible you will be just a face in the crowd as far as talent goes.
That can intimidate the hell out of people. I've seen it happen.
Look, here's the prop you need to keep in mind if you feel this: Everyone has come to the school for one purpose--to learn. Sure, there's more accomplished talent out there--there always will be--but whose to say you cannot develop into one?
A typical class will have talent all across the spectrum--its a given.
Foster a learning environment as much as you can with classmates and you can pick up stuff from the talented ones.

Now, bear in mind you will encounter egos. There's hot-shot kids out there that treat others like dirt, or at least indifferently. You can still learn from their stuff--you just have to be sly about it. Internal class politics can come into play and be a hassle. Hell, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often that it does, given the highly compettive nature of the biz, but it does happen.
If it does, you have to take firm, strident measures, tapping into instructors, staff and school administration. Always remember that with college-level schools you are a PAYING customer, so you should get value for the dollar in terms of instruction and study environs. If the school will not honour that, fuck 'em. Get your money back and get out if you can. Brook no BS if life get's difficult because students or staff turn into assholes. ( okay, I've used up my bad-word quota for the day, I know)

Likewise, if instructors do not know their stuff--CALL THEM ON IT.
There are schools out there that hire grads to teach classes they were taught only a year or so before. Some of these grads have NO work experience. So schools hire instructors that might have done something in the subject area, but they do not have extensive experience in it. It happens. Instructors hate being called to question on this kind of thing, but hey, it helps them and you. Do it if you see it--but be careful.
Another thing that you need to know: degree programs. The usual thing with degree programs is that they need/require instructors with Masters degrees in that subject to teach that material. Trouble is, there's not a lot of folks out there with Masters degrees in animation disciplines, and more and more schools are offering "degree" programs.
Now, these programs USUALLY have government criteria they have to meet, to make them all official. There's bound to be some schools that offer degrees without any criteria in place, the word "degree" being just a sexy catch-phrase.
The problem with the legit schools is that there's been signs they will hire ANY Master-degree ticketed instructor to teach their classes.
And therein is the vicious circle--you can have a degree program taught by instructors that do not have a degree in what they are teaching. I suppose some school aare/have looked into ways around this detail, but its one that is of concern these days.

Likewise, industry trained teachers seem to be the best source of instructing talent, but how does one gauge their quality?
Usually the alumni of a school are the best, most honest source of info on that--as they've measured the staff and can appraise them better than anyone else.
If you have good staff, get on their good side and STAY there. Ask questions--ask SMART questions. Listen to what the instructors have to say. Training in this field is more than just learning about animation principles--its about job life, good AND bad experiences, and outside influences amongst other things.
I've become friends with some of my students after the fact, because they have become COLLEAGUES in the work place.

Something else about staff.........some of these people maybe be the ones that hire you or work alongside you in the industry. So, to return to an earlier point, if you screw up in their class, they can remember you--and not in a good way.
College is the immediate stepping stone to your career, the launching point. Don't blow it.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:03 pm

The screwjob.
Its going to happen to you. Its bound to.
At some point you'll do work, start a project, maybe work on a job and >poof< that paycheque you were expecting doesn't appear.
But the excuses DO.
Expect to get screwed at some point in your career, but if you are lucky, it will not be for a huge amount.
If I count teaching with my freelance gigs, I've been gouged about $20,000 over the years. and a big chunk of that came in a teaching gig--so freelancing has been pretty tame.
I know of people that have been ripped off more, and less--but I know of very few that have NOT been ripped off at some point.

There's a common conceit amongst the layperson that artists know jack about business--that we do our craft for "art's sake". Likewise some folks think that art--commerical art-- is easy and that anyone can do it, or that it takes little effort and they can just swipe the work once you deliver and "promise" to pay in two weeks.
And those "two weeks" stretch out to never.
This happens with the guy who commissions you from 4 houses down to big corporations with millions in holdings. You'd be surprised at how chintzy and scummy supposedly reputable companies can be with a outside contractor. Getting ripped off happens a lot more common that you might think.

Now, what can you do about it?
First, get an education in basic business, contract and copyright law. Get to know a lawyer--someone in, or around the family or friends. Ask them questions, if you can.
NEVER assume.
There's an old expression: trust, but verify--it'll take you a long way.
Heck, read up on bankruptcy laws as well, because that can be how the perps try to get out of paying you. And it also might help you get out of a personal bind if a non-paying job sinks you.
If you can get contracts for every job, do it--but keep in mind that some jobs can be done on a handshake and a smile. I've done many jobs that way, and most came out fine.
You don't need to be anal about contracts--just be sensible. If they do not offer you a contract, offer them one. If they balk---there's your best clue.
The charming glib line of bs is just that, bs. If someone will not bind themselves to you in agreement, then they ARE planning on running away at some point.
I've had contracts put in front of me that looked like they were written by Nazis. Do not feel obligated to sign on the spot. Take the document home and get someone to look at it--get someone that KNOWS what to look for to look at it. If the client rushes you over the contract, tell them to wait. If they get nasty over that--walk away.
Keep records, detailed ones. Record times, dates and the gist of conversations if you feel the need to. Don't make this obvious, just do it serpetitiously. Make sure you have a copy of your contract too. I'll say that again; MAKE CERTAIN YOU GET A COPY OF THE CONTRACT TOO.
Trust your instincts too.

Here's a tip: if they send you a contract to sign, and their signature is NOT on it yet.......don't sign it. Be wary.
Send it back and request they sign it first--if you agree to the document.
This is a little dodge some idiots try to pull ( and yes, its been pulled on me) where they think that not signing the document means its not a binding contract.
Now, in some places, its not......the argument could be made that YOU made the thing up. But in most venues, its considered to be an INTENT to enter into an agreement and WILL be treated as if the agreement was actually signed by both parties.
If a client is totally sincere, then they will offer you a signed agreement, or sign said agreement right there with you. That is the act of a binding contract.

Continued in part two:

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:03 pm

To continue:

Now.........keep in mind something here: a contract is just a piece of paper. Its a BS hunk of nothing that relies upon a convention, an IDEAL to work.
Oh, it DOES work when its needed, but waving the contract in someones faces usually gets a laughout of them and little else.
That is where the lawyer can come into play.
Lawyers are expensive, right? Yes, they CAN be. In the few times I've needed a lawyer, I've never paid for their services but gottem aid from them nonetheless.
Its a seldom known thing called PRO BONO--which is pretty much work for the communtiy good. Most regions require lawyers to do a certain amount of pro bono work a year. Usually its pretty basic stuff and the lesser the headache it will be for them to sort out the more likely they will work pro bono.
If you have a disagreement, I mean a REAL disagreement over the job--don't get all pissy with some bunghole in the office. Go to your lawyer and discuss it with them.
More hassles have been solved by pre-empting the muthahs that WERE going to screw you simply by having a lawyer call or write the perps and scare the crap of them with legal language. Sometimes its as simple as the lawyer calling the perps and asking why they haven't paid you.
Now, the perps will come to you and ask why you had to be so mean and nasty and turned that awful, awful lawyer on them when you could of all been friends....
They'll try to make it seem like you mean to be against them.
It really says you mean business and that you care about your business. Smile when you do this........because your victims with have themselves some sour-stomach sleepness nights over it. Make no mistake--they'd use the same thing on you if they could.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibilty.......use this "big stick" wisely. Wait until they say "we cannot/will not pay you" before you go all Dwayne Johnson on their heinie.

Also keep in mind that, again, the contract document itself is NOTHING if you cannot or will not be able to enforce it.
This is the crux of most screw jobs.
I lost about $18.000 in a teaching job ( and a house, and a vehicle) and couldn't recoup that loss because of the horribly inept accounting by the school's money guy, and his/their bright move of running the school into the financial muck.
Crap happens.
Crap can happen to YOU.
So, are you at these buggers mercy?
Yes, and no.
You do have some tools at hand and you need to know how and when to use them.

#1 is control you work until you've been paid......something.
The people that are most likely to screw you will pay you nothing. Once someone pays you even a token amount, it usually says they are serious.
Theives and creeps want something for nothing--and they will try--serious clients understand cash flow affects you as it does them.

#2 is if they are late in pay, you are late in delivery. Want to see a body move massively? Deny it something it needs or thinks its entitled too. Businesses are organic in that way.
If they refuse to pay you, you can try some bolder actions. I did say before to not get pissy with people, but.........sometimes......there's a place for it.
I had a job that I was getting screwed on...... and i was not happy, so I walked in with the work under my amr and stood in the centre of the studio waiting for one of the key people to emerge.
When they did, I said I wanted to be paid for the work. When they hemmed and hawed for a second, I said it again. VERY loudly. At the top of my voice, rattle the window, turn sand into glass loud.
It constantly amazes me how easy it is to make humans cringe. The perp attempted to usher me into his office.
Nope, I was quite comfy where I was and we could discuss things here.
Boom--shouting match. I was told I was disrupting the studio. I looked around and pointed out to the perp that I was not, as every person in earshot had their head in their work and was staying out of our lil' spat. They were more efficient than they'd been in days.
Boom, more shouting, and magic.....the perp hits that pinnacle of frustration and says they'll pay me to get the flip outa there.
And I walk out with a cheque in hand.

#3. If that cheque bounces.......unleash holy Hell on them. Now, you've two tacts you can use:
A) Do the same thing as before, and walk in the door. Yelling. Say baaaaaaaad words. Loudly. Be scary--make a scene--but never, NEVER get physical unless accosted first( and stare them in the eye--use your laser-death stare--yea, you have one.).
Do NOT take work from anyplace but your own desk on-site, nor vandalize ANYTHING.
If they call the cops, let them come. The cops will sort things so it gets calm, but it also puts the perp in a pretty awful light with their neighbours. Be respectful from that point, but be absolutely firm--no compromise. You MIGHT get something from it. If you do, cut and run--but do not accept another cheque unless they take it to the bank and cash it for you.

B) Sic yer lawyer on 'em. No holds barred, no announcement. NEVER say you are going to sue--its a empty threat--just do it. Or don't. The chilling effect of quietly turning the lawyer loose cannot be underestimated.
Confrontations are hard. Personally, I HATE them. I'd leave the tussle all shaking and messed up. Its not fun, but sometimes doing what you need to do means taking the "not fun" road. Rehearse if you need to. Practise makes perfect--even in screaming matches.

#4 if the studio you are working for announces that the cheques will be late--stop working. Immediately. If someone comes around and asks you to keep going politely tell them "not until the cheque is in hand".
Look, very few productions are so tight-wound that they cannot bear a couple of days without production. Those kinds of delays are built into the schedule.
Usually pay-stops happen on a Friday. If it does, gather your work from your desk and take it home with you. If they say you can't, again, politely tell them to "eff-off" and take it home anyway.
That work is your trump card--NEVER abandon it in that situation.
If they say taking the work home is a breach of contract, reply that not paying you is ALSO a breach.
NEVER assume the studio will be there come Monday. Bailliffs have been known to come and change the locks 30 minutes after the staff have left.
Do not do a single line of work until that cheque gets in your hand and then clears at the bank.
If it happens again.......bail from the project.
You ALWAYS have the right to remove yourself from a situation that doesn't work for you. I've done it a couple of times, you'll likely need to do it.
Sometimes you just have to walk away and take the loss. Hopefully it will not be a big one.
The work you do is predicated on getting paid and paid in full. If you don't, if they won't, then you shouldn't finish the job.
That work you do is a commodity to them, and the pay they offer is the same in return. Its a fair trade when done right.
But you have to look out to keep it fair.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:05 pm


A fact of freelance life that we all do this work for paying ( we hope) clients and the work has to meet their needs or its no good.
Part of that process is one of consultation and corrections, but how does that work?

If anyone here has ever done freelance work for someone fussy, they probably know the feelinsg of doing some art, showing it to the client and getting the feedback, and making changes to the art as required.
And do this over and over.

And over.

And if you were young and clueless......over and over some more.

If you are of the mind that the work..........your work is sacrosanct, stop now. Do not proceed into the biz any further because........well, without accepting critiques or corrections you have no future in the biz.
That does not mean you should be a doormat either.

Corrections/revisions are a fact of life, but they are also one that is terribly and easily abused by unscrupulous folks upon newcomer and ignorant talent.
Every job is different and a rigid apporach is seldom the best one to take, but having a idea of this is useful.......and will keep your sanity.

See there's a sobering way to look at corrections and thew work itself: in that for every peice of piecemeal work that you do there's a price that work has.
If you do a job for $1000 with a week deadline, it seems fairly decent pay as far as pay goes.
But if you get a correction that takes you an additional week, then you've only made $500 per week, and done the job twice. The second week could have been spent making a second $1000, but you spent it on the first job.
Everytime you do a correction, it divides the price per piece of work by the number of times you've altered it.
Corrections are considered to be part of the price of the intial job, and a accepted part of said job. The aim is to please the client, and that can only be done by having their feedback--so there's really no way around it.

The USUAL guideline for a job is about 1 or 2 rounds of corrections, and then the client would need to pay for any changes after that. this is the kind of thing you need to know BEFORE you start the job.

On some animation gigs, what looks like a attractive footage rate, can end up being dismal or barely-subsistence wages because you'll do a lot of footage in a week, and then spend a month fixing it, while trying to get additional scenes done. This is why crusty sorts like myself are so strident about the demands of the biz, because absolute confidence in one's abilities is essential to making a liveable wage, if not a successful go at a animation career.

Now, you need to have your head on your shoulders on the job to be wary of this, and those in their first jobs are prone to be taken advantage of.
At the SAME TIME you do not want to be so anal about this kind of thing that you raise needless concerns about corrections--you need to have a mature, open-minded view of this.

Sometimes corrections are called for via a thrid party, someone further down the pipeline and the party directing you said changes is just the messenger.
Sometimes the changes are warranted by evolutions in the product or story itself--designs might be altered, scripts re-written. Ideas may be re-thought.

Sometimes changes are due to incompetency or just plain ol' indecision--and this can be chillingly common.
The worst phrase that could come out of a client's or directors mouth is:" just keep working on it and I'll let you know when I see something I like".

The sad thing is that not a lot of people have real skills in articulating themselves well---and unfortunately more than a few of those people can be the ones that hire us.

In that case, gently put down your pencil and consult with the client. This is when YOUR time becomes valuable and the client needs to arrive at a choice or..........or you simply wait.
Let's face it..........some people like to play others--its a form of control and there's those kinds of loathsome dipshits out there. Sure they sign our cheques, but there's no reason to humour that kind of abuse--so don't.
Weigh the request for changes as being either that the work needs it, or that the client just isn't sure about what they want. Help them with suggestions if need be, or do a bit of extra work/effort to offer them a solution on your own.
sometimes the job calls for YOU to take control of an idea and then offer it to the client as a solution.
More often then not, they usually are delighted that an obstacle as been overcome--and you look good in the process.

Now, in my career, I've done multiple rounds of corrections--the most being fixing a job 11 times. Yes, that is abnormal, but that situation was unique as well.
I've done many jobs where no corrections were called for AT ALL, and done jobs where there were 100% corrections. The WHOLE thing had to be re-done.
Some of these jobs were no problem, some even enjoyable.

Some were blood-curdling nightmares.

But that too, changes.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:14 pm

Niche Talent--

This is a bit more of a rant than a the usual expose on the animation biz, but its something that still applies to this thread and topic, so forgive me and here we go....

Yea, niche talent.
What the heck is that?
My definition of a niche talent is one that is skilled in working in one or two stysles or genres to the exclusion of other styles or genres.
Example someone that can draw Spongebob like nobody's business, but cannot do Jack Kirby comicbook characters to save their life.

In the animation biz, there's a surprising number of niche talents. I know, I've worked with many, and taught many as well.

I view niche talent as ...well, as a problem, because my observations of these folks show me that they can do that one thing very well, but are often terrified--or at least reluctant to work in/at those areas they are weak. Some that can do cute& cuddly characters will often have trouble with action advneture stuff, and vice versa.
These folks are very comfortable inside their genres, but when the job changes to the others can be daunting.
More than not, I've seen such talents try to pass off their skills in their reluctant genres, and do so with oft-mixed results.
Egos can blind some of these folks into stepping tinot work that they clearly do not have the chops to tackle-at least not without prior exposure or preparation.

Now, this is not a condemnation of such, its just an observation.
Its a fact of life in this industry that talent doesn't always have broad exposure and specialization tends to creep in. So much emotion and physical energy is expended in just getting one's skills to a high level that having a broad-based "visual vocabulary" might not be attainable for some.

I think, at some point, there comes a time when one is forced to consider their path in this: do they specialize in a narrower range, or do they just seek competency in a broader range?

In my own case, I chose the latter.
Oh, it wasn't easy, and I'm never happy with my work to any great degree, but its a choice that;s kep food on my table for many years.
I was a comic book nut when I started in this biz...but most of the work I was doing was cute & cuddly stuff ( old-timers call it Funny Animals) so I was a fish out of water.
Now, in doing all that c&c stuff, I was exposed to lots of different styles, but i always felt my action adventure stuff suffered. And I think, to a degree it did.

To be candid, I never thought I truly grasped the c&c stuff, but I can do it to the needs of my clients and studios. The comicbook stuff I can do to at least convince the viewer that I have some apprecation for the medium.
When I started out, the c&c stuff was wretched.....oh, it really was. But I think, having done it for so long that it has brought me something to carry over to the comic stuff--that being a sense of design that straight bland line work and hatching/crosshatching doesn't really have.
I think one of the things that really set me on the path I'm on is the idea that I saw myself as a cartoonist, rather than a animator or comicbook artist--a broader title than either specialty entails.

There's a polarity going on though--a need, or deep nigh-unconscious desire to grasp harder the principles of both and excell as them all. Its often mitigated by the needs of the deadline at hand and all those skills I'm still learning--even after 21 years in the biz.
Now, some critics might just say I've fielded a rationalization to being a hack. I don't think so--as in my own career, this mindset has paid my bills. I've found it to be survivable--which is the driving thought in my choice. I may not be extremely accomplished in any specific medium or genre, but I can at least demonstrate competency--to the satisfaction of those clients I mentioned before. In navigating a career, that is a practical tact--rather than seeking that lofty stardom that some few ever really attain.

Here's my advice/POV on this.

Having hired/fired and taught people in the biz I can say that showing range is probably a healthy thing. Range meaning being able to demonstrate skills in a bunch of different things.
I can tell you without a doubt that perspective is one of the most terrifying drawing challenges students and newcomers face--and its almost a universal weakness these days.
I'm not talking about just being able to render basic forms in 1/2/3/4 etc flat and/or curvelinear perspective, I'm talking about being able to render advanced archetectural forms and structures in percpective. A old, decrepit, haunted house with turret corners and Victorian fiigree and detail on it, in a angled shot. Stuff that takes a lot of thinking and work to render.
And the kind of thing that scares the pee out of most talent.
Anime is rapidly become one of the biggest style crutches in student work these days, and the bane of many a instructors ( and recruiters) existence.
Look, its just a of many, many styles. Its why a lot of press gets made about drawing from life because classic drawing techniques all start with the human figure and the observational and rendering methods that have been proven for hundreds of years now.
If all your interests are entrenched in something like anime..........well, broaden those horizons a bit.

Do not tackle this kind of thing half-assed, or half-heartedly............and certainly NOT because Ken Davis told you to do it..........use the time you have to explore FOR YOURSELF.
Draw outside your box. Draw stuff you HATE, and do that because it'll force you to bring something to it--to find SOMETHING in that imagery that you DO like.
Draw stuff that terrifies you. Right now, dark lustrous hair is driving me fug-buckers--been trying to nail down the highlights and forms on this for years, and now that I have the time--I'm spelunking into my talent range. I'm looking at how to master the feathering of lines in ink---how to hatch and cross hatch in ink. Its a nut-buster, and frustrating as hell. My results, thus far.........pffft, only about 50% happy with it. It still eludes me.

But here's the key: I'm not afraid.
The solutions will come, somewhere, time.
More in part two:

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op zo mei 18, 2008 2:15 pm

Part two: Niche Talent-again and.........mojo!!!

A story, if you will....

Once upon a time, when I used to own a studio, we had a job come in to storyboard for the sequel to Ferngully.
The designs for this were really nice, feature-quality for a DtV feature, and a few of the senior talents in the studio took on the work.

Now, at this time, my skills were still kinda rough, but I tackled it with the same focus i apply in any other job.
We did the work, got the cheques and waited for the revisions.
They came partner's have only a couple of changes, but mine................totally rejected out of hand.
To put in bluntly, the work I had done sucked shit.
It had to be re-done.........and the source client requested that someone else tackle it.
Of course I was crest-fallen, but more than that, I was SCARED.

See, I had been paid for this work. There was no-one else in-studio who could do these fixes--everyone had their own revisions or other jobs to manage.
I had to do this fixes on my own--and clearly this was over my head.

I had no choice in the matter---it was now sink or swim.

So, what I did was this:
I got some feedback on the tepid shot selection I had from my partner, and was told to just look at the model pack to try to put some life into the characters.
So I took the entire pack i had, and COVERED my desk with it. I taped drawing to the walls and window beside me, and jury-rigged my mechanical drafting arm to stand up so I could tape designs to that--a kind of Heads-up display.
I had a small open space in front of me where I could put a clean-sheet down and I sat there.

I sat there and stared at those model designs for the whole day.
My brain was going: there MUST be some pattern, some principle governing these images....something I'm not capitlizing on. Something I'm missing.
I was scared shitless--to tell the truth. My artistic inadequacies staring me in the face. The designs they had were soooooooo good, but my skills were so..................bleh.

I'd took some of the drawings and put a sheet over top them, traced off the images......trying to see if there was pattern to the strokes...

I bugged out for home and slept on it and came back early the next day.

A something clicked. A pattern emerged, a cadence to the way the lines were placed, the forms structured--and inkling struck me.
About 1/2-3/4s of the way thru that second day I started my revisions--a shot in the dark.
I got the stuff done on the third day and we sent it down--and I held my breathe.

A couple days later we got word: they thanked us for the job and said it was fine. They asked who we got to replace me.
The client could believed their ears when we told them that I had re-done the job myself. That I sucked it up and busted ass and delivered on something I was clearly NOT able to do beforehand.

This job became a sort of rite of pasage for me, as I never looked back. The ideas I grapsed at that moment stuck with me and formed part of the current skills plateau I work with today.

The moral of the story is that when I first tackled this job, I did not have the "mojo" was missing. Being forced in a incredibly dire and painful situation to fix the job, and do it to their standards I had to find AND muster said mojo--and in doing so, ADDING to that limited skill set.
This is the crux, because fear is what holds niche talents in place. If no-one notices that all they can draw is anime, or Spongebob, or 70's Don Martin MAD comics characters, or whatever ONE or two things they are good at drawing--then they will be safe.
The thing is, sooner or later they will be found out and that notion of safety will pop like a soap bubble.

I want to expand a bit on the suggestion of drawing what scares you a bit more, and I'm going to step out onto a controversial limb here.
I'm going to make a suggestion that I have done quietly before, but I'm going to do it openly here. Its not without qualms because its a subject matter that really polarizes people.
One of the things I have suggested to people to draw is porn. Specifically Erotica.
Now, before eyeballs and cerebellums explode--think about the reasonings in this.
One: you never have to show this work to anyone (and NO-ONE has to know).........just as you do with ANY kind of material in your sketchbooks. This kind of stuff is soley for your "education as an artist.
Two: Erotica is tough to do. Its incredibly easy to do material that is crude, but to do something that its both provocative ( re: sensual) AND tasteful is tough. People have a ingrained interest in sex to begin with, so its a natural subject of attention. This is NOT about a exercise in getting your jollies, it about expanding your skills into arenas most artists never really venture into.
Three: because its a subject of keen interest, the level of focus applied would tend to be greater--if only to "get it right" and have it meet your tastes. It will focus your drawing on human forms ( if you deviate from that , I now. Ever.) and in situations that will often require more than one form.
You, in theory, should learn more and have a greater vested interest in the results.
Again, you need not EVER show this work to ANYONE.

And if erotica simply isn't you bag, try........horror, for example. Drawing corpses or similar distasteful stuff can be of similar value.
Again, you need not display or divulge that you do this--and you need not ever even attempt it if the idea offends you.

The whole point is to step outside that box from time to time and try something different--in the hope you can take something back from it. Its meant to expand your repetoire and visual vocabulary.

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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

Bericht  Tom MDP op di jul 22, 2008 10:45 pm

ne podcast van ne animator, zeer grappige inhoud, omda ge het herkent Razz


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Re: So you want to be an animator... here's what to expect

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