Free and Handy Advice on Advising

If you are a student then perhaps you don't feel confident enough to go around flinging your opinions at other peoples work. But here is the thing, when you do it in a constructive way it can be very beneficial for both parties involved. Having to articulate your thoughts about what makes animation work forces you to clarify your understanding of the topic. In short talking about animation (if done right as I will get to at the end of the post) can make you better at animating.

I've found some amazing free software of late that can help facilitate these conversation in person or online.

Active Pen lets you draw over the top of other programs, great for analysing the line of action in that pose or planing the arc you want something to follow.

Debut is the best free desktop capturing software I have seen by a long shot. The creators (NCH Software) make a whole range of free video and audio editing tools that seem reliable, are easy to use and don't tax your computers system like many of the commercial alternatives.

I'll add these to the Free Software section of the ARC resources, where you can find links to a whole bunch of free goodies.

So back to being a constructive critiquer, here are my tips.

  • Watch the listeners reactions, you may have the best piece of advice you will ever have to give, but it will be waisted if the other person is not in the mood to listen and I'm afraid you can't make someone be in the mood to listen. Choose your time.

  • Stick to the animation principles (AH! I mean rules), subjective stuff about style should only be on the table if someone asks you for your opinion.

  • Don't give advice unless you can take it too, pig headed people are identified quickly and are rarely listened to ever again.

  • Have your own house in order before advising others on a topic. This is the great thing about advising others, it can help you lift your own game. If your going to tell someone else their character pose is off balance then you had better make sure your poses are balanced too.

  • Keep it as clear and simple as you can. I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this one. I often find myself going off into a rant only to discover the student has a glazed look over their eyes that says, "I stopped hearing anything you are saying half an hour ago."

So get out there as soon as you can and start throwing your ideas around to those who are willing to listen, its good for everyone involved.


Dognam Hippy said...

I'm practicing by critiquing the 11second Club entries for January. Timely advice Ian. Excellent post, especially about seeing through the 'stuff*' to look and critique the animation. I totally agree. It helps to sharpen an "animator's eye" when you have to comment on another animator's work.

*Appealing character design, lighting and shot design are important. But I reckon Ian might be able to expand a bit on that?

To me, it's getting down into the nitty gritty of animation, stripping off the 'stuff' and, for example, looking at some of Glen Keane's ruff planning for movement... then, as a next step, also looking at the other layers that build a final product (framing, lighting, textures, character design...)

frank said...

Hi Ian,

This is a simple free screen marker program: screenmarker

Not as fancy as active pen, just a simple marker.

frank said...

Hey Ian

You know when someone presents a 'polished turd', sometimes the sparkles are very distracting, how does someone, say for example, an animation teacher, provide a worthwhile critique?

I am tempted to say,"That's a good warm up. How about this time show me each planning stage so we can have a conversation at each decision making point."

I plan to set 50 - 100 frame exercises. So that I can say 'start again'. Thoughts?

frank said...

"Stick to the animation principles (AH! I mean rules), subjective stuff about style should only be on the table if someone asks you for your opinion." Is an animation god nugget.

frank said...


Mitch said...

are you secretly asking me to draw over the top of other peoples work?... I think you are.

^_^ naw I wouldn't, but these two tools seem very interesting, and I'll keep them in mind. I might not have use for them now, but I'm sure sometime down the track I'll use them.