Friday, January 4, 2013

"Wait.. who are you? And what do you mean by 'get better at animating without animating'?!"

... are probably the questions that are going through your head right now.  And very valid questions they are!  So, let's address them (along with some others)!

"Wait.. who are you?"

Like you, I'm an animator.  Well, kind of.  For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be an animator.  I was one of those kids (like many out there i'm sure) who was highly influenced by Disney movies, and instead of reading my school textbooks, I would draw flip book animations in the bottom corner of the pages.  But as it would have it, life got in the way of my dreams.  It wasn't until my early 20's as I was working an office job did it hit me: drop everything and follow your dreams!  So, I went to school to study animation and visual effects, with a specific focus on character animation.

Where does the "kind of" come in?  Since I've graduated with a B.A.S. in Animation, I got into the industry, but not as an animator.  In fact, I've been in the industry for nearly 6 years and have never had a job as an "animator" specifically.  I've worked mostly in motion capture and performance layout and have actually animated shots in a feature film.. but I never had the title of animator.  That didn't mean I that I didn't still want be one though.  So, while working, I joined and attended Animation Mentor, until my work load got a little overwhelming and my assignments suffered for it.  That, plus other reasons, is why I dropped AM after 2 terms.

Now, I've actually lost the taste to become an animator and other related interests and passions have taken it's place.  But that doesn't mean my love for animation and sharing animation knowledge has gone away.  I absolutely still love the art and I love being part of such a optimistic and passionate community.  Which brings me to this blog!

"What do you mean by 'getting better at animating without animating'?!"

The idea came to me after talking with a friend who had just graduated Animation Mentor.  I asked to see his reel, which turned out pretty good.  He was quick to defend his work even though no offense towards it had even crossed my mind.  "I want to get better at the performance stuff", he said.  "I'm thinking of signing up to another school to get better."  To be honest, this kind of took me back a little.  He just spent a good amount of time and money to go to arguably one of the best schools to learn 3d animation, and he wanted to do more school?  It was at that point where I advised him not to... haha.  I suggested he just take some time off, and enjoy not having to animate for little bit.  Then I suggested other things he could do to maybe build or inform his skill at animating, that didn't involve animating anything.  That's when it hit me.

As an active participant of the forums, I often see a lot of other aspiring animators holding their focus on getting better at the art by doing school.  It seems like that's the only option they consider, or even see.  And while school is great (and some schools are actually really good, and I'm not taking anything away from them), most of them teach you the technical and artistic skills of becoming a 3d animator, but they kind of miss out on the intangibles of becoming a great animator.  In my opinion, what they teach you in school, is not even half of being a great animator.  Being an animator is so much more than knowing the skill to animate.  It's about giving life to a character, to present an illusion of life if you will.  And just how life is full of things other than knowing how to breathe, animation is full of things other than the principles.

So out of that, this blog was born!  In here, I'll post tips and suggestions of things to do that will hopefully inform your animation, without ever needing to sit at a computer and keyframe controls on a rig.
Think of it this way.  If you want to become a great tennis player, your first thoughts might be to sign up for classes, you could hire a coach, you can play everyday on the court until you eventually get better.  But when you're playing tennis, you're actually applying other skills and utilizing other physical attributes that can be trained in other ways than just "playing tennis".  For example, you can train for a marathon to build endurance and leg strength, you can chop down trees to increase the power in your swing, you can go to the batting cages to improve hand eye coordination, you can take dance classes for body coordination, or play first person shooters to improve your reaction time.  All of these things can boost your skills and attributes without ever hitting a tennis ball with a racket.  And that's the sort of thing I'm trying to address here.  Need another analogy?  Just check out the Rocky IV training montage.  Everyone else is Ivan Drago; You're Rocky.

"But you said you've never held a job as an animator.  Why should I listen to you?"
Ah.  It's true I've never worked professionally as an animator.  In fact, I probably get as much animation done in a year as a pro does in a week at work.  So I'm aware that my creditability is weak.  But with that said, you don't have to listen to me at all.  That's the power of free will baby!  What I share is purely out of my feelings and knowledge and ideas, so you can take it as you will.  However, I do know the clout real professionals have on those wishing to work next to them someday, so along the way I hope to interview real working animation professionals and ask them "how do you get better at animating, without animating?" and share their thoughts to you!

So there you have it!  Again, the intention of this blog is to share knowledge, so I will always have an open ear towards you!  Let me know your feelings, your thoughts, your ideas.  Do you think I'm on to something?  Do you think I'm completely off base?  Do you think I'm missing something?  Don't hesitate to tell me!  And again, if you've gotten this far, thanks for your interest!