When I started in my new job some went to great lengths to explain to me that games animation would be very different to the other jobs I had done. I'm afraid this hasn't really been the truth, there are specific qualities your animation needs to have and your animation is subject to constant change to suit the game, but I haven't really found these any more difficult to deal with (so far) than I would the requirements of an animation director with a specific vision for his or her product.
Socially it has been an interesting experience, with over a decade of animation experience now I'm among the older animators at the studio, but the younger animators have more experience at meeting the specific stylistic needs of a game. As a result I've been asking lots of questions, and have been getting as much information out of younger less experienced animators as I can. Some are reluctant to talk about specifics at all, while other have felt the need to apologise for not articulating themselves very well. I've been wondering why this would be the case.
Day 054/365 - Captain Jack plays Pac Man by Great Beyond
Day 054/365 - Captain Jack plays Pac Man by Great Beyond
After a few discussions with my co-workers I can think of two main reasons why a lot of animators are weary of spelling out in detail how they do their job, especially to another experienced animator.
Firstly one of the senior and I believe best animators expressed to me that so much of what he dose has been learned as he works, that when confronted with explaining how or why he does something he often finds that he has never really articulated it before. I guess you would explain this as having a feel for how it should work, and a casual observer might explain it away as talent, when in reality it has come from years of trail and error. When explaining to me how he does something this senior animator often has to stop and consider something for a moment before continuing, of sometimes even has to star over from another angle in order to capture his meaning. You can really see that even though he knows what he is doing in an intimate level, it is not something he has read from a book, or that can be conveniently encapsulated in a quote, he is struggling to bring together strands of accumulated knowledge into a cohesive sentence.
Secondly I think that because working animators are self taught to such a degree, we all have to cope with a level of insecurity. I know when expressing my thoughts on how to do something, I have to combat the fear that someone will leap forward and say, “Hey you don't know what your talking about!” And in a sense they would be right, because my opinions are largely based on observations about how I work and they could be entirely different for every other animator. There are undeniable facts about how animation works of course, but even then there is the matter of where they should fit into your priorities, if they should be considered on their own or in connection with other factors and so on. See what I mean? Its scary throwing your ideas out there, its something that confronts you as a blogger too, every time I post a how too up here on the ARC I'm wondering it I'm finally going to get caught out :P
The Rissington Motivation Board by Simon Clayson
So this poses a question for students. If animators are reluctant or unable in some cases to share how they work, and it turns out to be a unique thing for each animator anyway, how do you learn?
Well the same way every successful animator did, by doing it!
Getting it wrong.
Doing it again.
Asking someone what they think is wrong with it.
Doing it a different way.
Comparing it to some animation you respect.
Doing it better.
Then doing it again just because you should.
Guess what? Do some more!
I am convinced it is the only way you can make it. Having worked with hundreds of animators in my life and having seen with my own eyes the myriad of different ways they approach their work I am becoming more and more convinced that the way you animate is less and less relevant, what matters is the end result. Set high stands for your work and find a way to get there. It can't come from a teacher, a text book or a blog, it can only come from within you.
Animator by London Short Film Festival
Is there time in your classroom set aside for just shutting up and working towards this? If not WHY? Maybe your need to sit down as a group and talk about it. I have experienced three different learning environments for animation here in Brisbane and I would say that in every case there needs to be less time spent talking about animation and more time spent with mouths shut, heads down and minds focused on production.
Animators at Work by J0NESY
I'm afraid in a time when education is a product provided to customers instead of a social service and funding is dictated in part by “customer satisfaction”, teachers have been robbed of the ability to employ sit down and shut up tactics in our tertiary class rooms. Long gone are the good old days (in my opinion) when a teacher was trusted to know what was good for you in the long term and was empowered to make you endure tough times now for your future benefit. So ITS UP TO YOU, maybe your class can agree on times when there is no chit chat, agree to levels of output beyond the minimum required to pass (passing isn't enough for a career). If you're going to be respected like adults within tertiary education then perhaps its time your class sat down together and made some adult decisions. Decisions about sacrifice, about long term planing, about a reaching a fulfilling future.
What action are you going to take? You want this don't you? PROVE IT!