Hurry Up And Get It Wrong!

Wrong by Happy Dave
Wrong by Happy Dave

Most of the quality blogs with advice for animators out there have touched on the subject of productivity at some stage. Just recently DJ sent out an email about it, and there was this good post on the Spline Doctors Blog about working faster.

I was always a little tentative about touching the issue as a teacher because there was always a percentage of students in each class for whom the issue was taking the time to get it right, and the last thing they needed to hear about was ways to go faster. But now that I'm not teaching (apart from here on the ARC I guess) and my point of view has become an optional extra, I figure that only those motivated to get it all right are likely to be reading.

All that said I still feel the need to include this disclaimer. Non of what I'm about to say makes it acceptable to make anything but your best animation as a student. When experienced you can reach a point where you can assess the priorities of a production and adjust the quality level to suit, but if getting into the industry is your goal it will take the highest quality work you can produce. Being a productive student does help you learn more about animating as I posted about here, but this is something that should compliment your consistent focus on raising the quality of work you produce.

So it seems that the level of productivity I can manage is proving to be one of my biggest assets in my new job, it is definitely the thing about which I get the most compliments. Its usually followed on my part by a moment of paranoia where I ask, “but you happy with the quality of the work too aren't you?” But I have been reassured repeatedly that everyone is happy with that too. It is so ingrained in us that seed comes at the expense of quality, its even fair to say that in life it is true as a general rule, I would even go so far as to say that it is true of many aspects of animation. But life isn't that simple and there are some things we can get into the habit of doing that can perhaps make us faster and improve our animation.

As I said in the title its about messing it up as soon as you can. Or perhaps another way of putting it would be that once you allotted planning time is over and its time to animate, get some movement happening as quickly as you can. Go with your gut instinct and get a few keys down and then test it, its so easy these days, one click and you can watch your animation. You may come up with something horribly wrong, but you know what else you will come up with? A clear idea about what needs to be fixed!

I'm usually repulsed by my early tests, but not long after I screw my face up in disgust I start to think about what can be made better. Some other people I have worked with seem to go for hours without testing their work and I find it mind boggling. They must sit there for ages second guessing themselves, hesitating, rethinking, and then I bet (unless they are some kind of genius and I probably have met an animator or two in my time I would place in that category) they still get it wrong half the time. Animation, in case you hadn't noticed, is quite complicated and the chances of you nailing everything on the first go are tiny, even if you sit there thinking about it for ages.
ICK01-at244by-Anna Sattler by G & A Sattler
ICK01-at244by-Anna Sattler by G & A Sattler

In an attempt to try and give you an idea of the kind of process I'm thinking about I though I might make up a kind of inner monologue narration of what its like when I'm working. Could be weird, but anyway, lets give it a go.

OK sooo the Fred (the character) is entering here and running over to the table where he pounds his fist down with rage.......

I'll need passing position and extreme walking poses about here, here, here, here and here. Then a pose where he settles his weight. Aaaand an anticipation followed by a pose with his fist down on the table.


So straight of I can see the walk is to slow, like a casual pace when he is meant to be angry and the ending looks too staged. What if he anticipated the slam down on the table (lifting his fist into the air) while settling his weight over both feet.


Now I can see I made the walk too fast, put an extra two frames back in each stride. The poses don't have any emotion. Think back to my planning and discussions with the director. Get a better Line of Action into those poses. Push for more change between the final poses so the pond on the table has more impact.

TEST... Mostly Yuck!

Some poses need more work. Start adding some extra keys or breakdowns.

TEST.... Yuck!

Some poses need more work. Changed my mind about the timing in that walk, take those frames back out. Start to think about spacing, get the foot stomping down in that walk and lots of effort in the punch.

TEST.... Yuck!

Some poses need more work (See the pattern emerging). Overdid the spacing in the feet, needs a slight ease in, will try more swing on the arms (stupid gymbal lock on the wrists). Not getting the impact in the slam on the table I want, will try an extra pose where the body has twisted and fist is dragging.

TEST... Yuck!

Some poses need more work.... etc etc

And so it goes on.

My point is that I get it wrong over and over and over, and that is my key to being productive. Embrace getting it wrong, rush to get it wrong as quickly as you can and as many times as you can. Boast to your friends about how wrong you got it. The more things you find wrong and try to fix (an important part of the process you shouldn't skip) the better your scene will be and the more you will learn about animating..... nice.

So get out there and start screwing up your animation folks. YAY! I got it wrong!

Caroline and Megan Jump for Joy! by tbonzzz_6
Caroline and Megan Jump for Joy! by tbonzzz_6


frank said...

The fear of making mistakes is such a debilitating disease.

Perfectionists achieve perfection by testing, challenging and making mistakes. Perfectionists do not achieve anything by doing things perfectly, that is a myth.

I agree, we should celebrate our mistakes. But celebrate them at the appropriate time: in the manufacture, in the planning, in the seeking of critiques, of our animation.

Then hopefully we will not discover our animation mistakes when our work is 'finished' and having been screened, and hearing about obvious errors as critics are disembowelling the animation over the wine, cheese and pickled onions at the after party.

I had a student advise me it was not fair that I asked them to re-do some work where they had made an error. And I totally agree, it was not fair. Because I looked around the room and wished the other 20 students were making the same mistake and could learn from it by having to do the work again. the student who had tested their knowledge and had made a mistake was going to benefit so much more than their classmates.

Just to be clear. It is not a student's job to aim to make mistakes.

Mistakes happen.

The student's job is to get stuck into the work. Save their error free work and then test the limits, experiment and make mistakes in the process of exploring the principles of animation, posing, acting, cinematography, decency, society...

That is a fine way to gain an education.

So I would challenge Ian's post title and suggest it say "Hurry up and explore. Test what you know. Don't be scared of making mistakes." Don't aim to get it wrong. Aim to get it correct, but don't be scared of making mistakes.

Ian said...

In the second paragraph I mentioned how being a teacher had always kept me on the reserved side of this issue because I was in a position where I had to accomodate all student. I can see Franko that now you are burdenned with the same issue.

All of the qualifications you offer here are for accomodating students who might take this the wrong way, or missuse it as an escape rout of some kind (but you told me to get it wrong!)

A focussed hard working student struggling every day to be the best animator they can has nothing to fear from the strong language in this post.

Who are we accomodating by watering it down? Get it wrong Vs Explore? We mean the same thing. Embrace trial and error as part of your learning experience.

Anyone who thought this post was about intentionally being a bad animator and thought they were off the hook when it came to quality is perhaps a lost cause anyway. :P