Thursday, July 19, 2012

Something I've Been Thinking About Lately

Here's a post on Matt Williames' blog about acting and performance. He talks about the need to create perfect arcs and technically appealing spacing over focusing on the performance.

This is something I've been thinking about with my own work quite a bit, so I thought I'd share.

"This is something I feel that within the last year I've really had to come to grips with myself as an animator. If you're like me and known you wanted to be an animator since you were 9 you've been hearing for most of your life "animators are actors". You would have heard that if you could focus on one thing it should be performance. You've been hearing that animators are actors with pencils and all the other cliche things to be said. WHY then do so few of us really understand or impliment this? No doubt I include myself in this list.
We all have to come to a point in our artistic lives where we sit down with ourselves and have a very brutally honest heart to heart. We have to ask ourselves "Am I REALLY an actor/artist, or am I just a good technician?"
It's painful... growth, however necessary can be extremely painful at times. Growth shows us where we were/are weak, and sometimes it's embarrasing that we didn't see how weak we really were/are at the time. I bring this up because i feel like being vulnerable is a key elemant to personal growth but also the growth of others around you. We have to be honest with ourselves: are we really good actors, or can we just convincingly move stuff around. Understanding good weight, spacing, drawing things well or even convincingly ISN'T ENOUGH. It's something i feel like exists a lot today unfortunately (animation that is merely technically pleasing)... I wish i could say i have not contributed to it. There are so many animators out there (and I am talking specifically hand drawn although this does not solely apply to the hand drawn animation) that are very technically sound animators who blow you away with there tech. prowess. They understand drawing, and spacing, control their volumes well, blah blah blah. But they don't tell you jack squat about the characters they are performing. They don't THINK about their characters, instead they overindulge in squash and stretch, through in fancy smear drawings, flaunt their beautiful arcs... all at the price of a better pose that could have told you something important.
I think this can be partially attributed to the fact that we as a generation stand on a lot of brilliant work from the past guys to look at and be inspired by. And if you're like me you could sit around all day staring at Milt or Frank drawings/animation. It's our blessing and our curse-- we subconciously revert to what we know will work, we play it safe. That's how acting patterns begin, and cold sterile art is born. Ironically the old guys had NOTHING to look at (animation wise) and found their inspiration from life or other areas of art.
This is a tough thing to do (not copy the past)-- I am not just talking to students, I am talking to every animator: Pro, amateur, retired vet, whoever... no once escapes this question. But here's the GOOD news, no one has to create only technically pleasing art. You absolutely can create a moving performance. YOU have something special to say in a way that only YOU can say it. That is what will set you apart... the challenge is can you call a spade a spade and realize that maybe you've just been a good technician all these years/months/whatever! I know I had too and still daily ask myself why i am doing what i am doing.
The real turning point or inspiration for me was actually being rejected. I applied and was rejected from Pixar. No pity party here man, it's what woke me up! It hurt my pride a little, but that isn't necessarily bad. More importantly it showed me that I wasn't focusing on what really makes animation work, I was a technician who was fascinated with charts, solid drawing, interesting design, fun timing... so what man. So what... if none of that has something personal behind it, it's just mechanical. It set me straight--
I share all these thoughts not to discourage and get down on anyone, but to encourage everyone that they can be amazing! The trick is are you willing to look at yourself in the harsh light of day and really ask yourself this horribly honest question? I know if i want to do something special with my art, I have to every single day. NOW GO KICK SOME BUTT!"

Here's the original post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More 2D Prep Work For Sheridan

Ralph Test from omar elhindi on Vimeo.

Here's another test pretty much devoid of character. It was done more to test out a design and my mechanics.

CG animation happens to have the advantage of a consistent character to work with. Of course you have to still make efforts to keep the character on model, but your model is still always within the lines of your original design. With 2D work, you need to be able to draw your character from all angles, understand the design and keep it appealing.

Considering my poor draftsmanship, I took an existing character (Wreck it Ralph) and attempted to draw him instead of trying to design an appealing character myself, and learning to draw him from every angle.

I think one more mechanic test and I'll be ready to give a 2D test with acting a try.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Advice from Bobby Pontillas

Here's an email response from the very talented Bobby Pontillas.

Hey Omar!  

Thanks so much for the message dude! Sorry for the late response, we're pretty crazed around here and I wanted to set aside some good time, so pardon my stream of consciousness answers =).

Yeah so, As much highly as I think of online courses like Animation Mentor, IAnimate, etc, and lord knows its done so much for me,  I would always recommend having the experiences of an actual brick-and-mortar school, and obviously Sheridan is in the top-tier of animation schools, But man, there's just something about the energy, and the esprit-de-corps you get with the other students, on campus, pullin all nighters in the lab, stressin to make deadlines, that sort of thing yknow?!  You learn so much from each other, and it really brings everyone together.  I only had about 2 years of that at the Art Institute of Seattle, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  So , the Sheridan route, can bring nothing but good things for you, especially since you already seem to have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of animation.  Sheridan can push you to be an artist!

It was tough transitioning from games to film actually, really tough.  You spend all day animating for your day job, but at the end of the day, none of that work is really applicable for a reel you might submit for a film job.  So you're animating around the clock, doing new work after hours, taking courses like AM or I-Animate.  It didn't happen right away for me either,  it took years and years and a lot of rejection letters!  So at times it's discouraging.  But you know what they say, if you really want it , you'll keep trying and eventually you'll get it.  

For me specifically, what happened was, a fellow student from AM, Rich Fournier, landed a temp gig at Blue Sky on Ice Age 3.  He got that temp gig because he made a good impression on one of his mentors from AM.  He busted his ass and performed well on that movie , so they eventually called him back for a full-time gig !  We had always kept in touch, he asked me how I was doing one day, and I remember that time in 2009, I had just been turned down for the Disney Animation internship, so I was feeling pretty down.  He mentioned that Blue Sky was hiring full-timers, I thought I had no chance but he encouraged me to send him my reel anyway, and he would put in a good word because he knew my work and work ethic from AM.  At the same time,  I met Jamaal Bradley back in Seattle,  Jamaal had worked at Sony for a few years and was then doing a stint in games at Valve, but was going back to Disney for Tangled.  I had never worked with him before, but he came across my blog , saw some passion and potential, and knew I was trying to break into feature films.  He took it upon himself to contact me, impart advice, take me to lunch, all to just help me get my foot in the door.  It was amazing!  So when I told him I was applying to Blue Sky, he was like, "Oh?  Well I know supes over there, let me shot them your demo reel, they'll have some influence."  And he did that, so I was attacking Blue Sky from several angles really.  So that's really how I got their attention.  It was all people that did me favors, and went out of their way for me.

When they actually watched my reel, they said, "Well, you need to work on your polish.... but we like your ideas."  I had a bit of my short film, and assignments from AM.  But I think the ideas in my short film got me hired.  So one thing I like to tell students now is to push for the best ideas, and specific characters.  You'll spend your whole life refining your craft, but the things that will help you stand out are your ideas.

Breaking in is the hardest thing to do, but once you get in, don't half-step.  You'll start to meet tons and tons of amazing animators, and your reputation and work are your biggest assets.  You have to hit the ground running.  Come in, do your best on your first shots,  you'll get cast better shots, the better shots you get cast, the more opportunities you have to shine.  

One thing I would always always recommend too is to get to know as many people as you can.  Not to say you have to be schmoozy and talkin up everyone.  But most of the opportunities that came my way, came because someone put in a good word for me,  and that only happened because I made great relationships with people.  Back at Blue Sky, and even here at Disney, my favorite animators are always hard-working, extremely humble, talented, and won't ever hesitate to help other people.  And there aren't a lot like those people.  Start that work ethic even now, in school.  Be that guy.  And as karma works it's magic, you'll find others are more than willing to help you out with things.  There's no room for arrogance.  Because what starts to happen when you think you know everything, besides being known as an a-hole, is that you stop learning.  One of my supes here at Disney, Tony Smeed, asks anyone, even trainees, for feedback on his work.  He's very talented, but one of the reasons he's so good is because he's humble enough to learn from anywhere or anyone.  Those are the kinds of guys that succeed in this business, they are constantly students and people want to work with them/ hire them.

Anyway I think I've rambled on enough!  Again I appreciate the message, best of luck and remember to stay humble!

-Bobby P

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hand Drawn Warm Up

Here's a crappy piece of hand drawn animation that I did to get myself back into the 2D game again. No character, and a bunch of it is on 4's, some even 6's.
Hopefully soon I'll give a whirl at a 2D test with character.

Quick and Dirty Sidestepping from omar elhindi on Vimeo.