Posts tagged speaking of animation

About Comparison Reels

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There’s been a trend developing over the past few years of showing off a side-by-side comparison of the various stages of your animation work.  Video Reference, Blocking, Spline, Final, or any combination therein.

We’ve seen this trend among students and professionals alike, and we’d like to describe what it feels like to view them.

It’s a real drag.

For a number of reasons.  First, let’s examine the possible viewer reactions:

1) Your animation lacks (but your reference is awesome)
Seeing someone who is talented as an actor is inspiring, and their failure to communicate those ideas through animation becomes frustrating.  Of course this shows great potential, but it also means you have a lot to work on before you can get your ideas to connect.

2) Your animation lacks (because your reference lacks)
This is the most common result.  It becomes clear why we have trouble believing or connecting with your character.  If you start with poor reference it’s hard to end up with anything but poor results.  Many people are under the impression that good animation consists mainly of smooth, flourishy movement (and lots of it).  Respectfully, we’d like to disagree and state that good animation consists of a believable performance that the audience can connect with.

3) Your animation is good (but your reference is not)
This is rare, but it happens.  You wonder how the hell they got the animation to look good when their reference is not supporting it.  Don’t ever leave your audience scratching their heads.

4) Your animation is good (but you missed nuance)
The animation would have stood just fine by itself.  But place it right next to the reference and suddenly it’s clear how much nuance you failed to see in your reference.

You may have noticed there isn’t a single overall positive reaction to seeing comparisons of your reference and your animation.  This is purposeful.  If you are making a demo reel let your work speak for itself – it’s really as simple as that.

“…But it’s educational!”

Is it?

Showing the (perceived) ‘order of operations’ for creating animation provides very little educational substance.  It is tantamount to a video of someone playing a piano comped next to sheet music.  “…And that’s how you write a symphony.”

Symphony Comparison Reel

Animating a shot – similar to writing a symphony – is a constant ‘back and forth’ process full of experimentation, exploration, nixed ideas, and purposeful decisions at every moment.  Showing a start, middle, and end completely ignores the ‘WHY’ – the educational part.  Why was the decision made to put a crescendo there?  Why was that idea cut? Why was that part modified? Why were only parts of the reference utilized and not others?

What was it failing to do originally, and why is it more successful now?

Answering these questions is paramount.  The progress comparison cannot stand alone as a piece of educational material.  However, when coupled with critical thinking the viewer can actually learn something about the animation process.
example | example | example | example

So here’s a general rule.  If it’s a reel – let the finished product speak for itself.  If it’s to teach others – then break down the process and articulate what choices were made and why.  You will learn more by dissecting what you did, and so will your audience.

In future posts we’ll discuss the process of actually pinpointing usable reference, and how to utilize it effectively.

|Jacob, Ben, and Steve

Happy Birthday SOA

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Today Speaking of Animation turns one year old!

Last December we launched our site with simple goals like spreading animation knowledge, interviewing amazing artists, and building a pachyderm launching trebuchet.  We’re still waiting on the last one.

We’ve had eight really wonderful and informative podcasts in the past year (with the ninth on the way this weekend) and we’re thrilled to see that you guys have responded positively.  You seem to enjoy listening to all these talented people talk about their craft just as much as we do.  Also, we had our first ever triviriduzzle game (which some of us thought would be a total flop) but ended up entertaining plenty of people for a good amount of time.  The response was overwhelming, so we will probably do something similar again in the future.

Most importantly, though, thank you to everyone who has emailed us with questions, encouragement, or suggestions over the past year.  To everyone who has commented on a post or shared their opinions,  and everyone who has downloaded our podcasts or participated in the give-away game.

It’s been a wonderful year, and we hope to have many more.
-Steve, Jacob, Ben, & Adam

Game results

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We have a winner!!!

Teresa Nord was the fastest person to get every single question correct.  (answers on the previous post)

We actually ended up with three of the six people getting 5/5 correct.  That’s amazing!  John Paul Rhinemiller also had 5/5 and submitted only two minutes behind Teresa, and Alexiss Memmott was less than 20 minutes behind John.

Art of How to Train Your Dragon

Teresa will receive the autographed Art of How to Train Your Dragon book.
John will receive the How to Train Your Dragon DVD.
Alexiss will receive a How to Train Your Dragon poster.

And since we don’t want any of these super knowledgeable triviriduzzle game players to go home empty handed, we were able to get two more posters for Bo Stock and Charles/Carolee Eubanks.

Current autographs on the Art of How to Train Your Dragon book (everyone without a description is an animator):
Chris Sanders  (writer/director)
Dean DeBlois  (writer/director)
Simon Otto (Head of Character Animation)
Kristoff Serrand (Anim. Supervisor – Snotlout)
Gabe Hordos (Anim. Supervisor – Toothless)
Shaggy Horby (Anim Supervisor – Astrid)
James Baxter
Fredrik Nilsson
Olivier Ostaphylas
Steven Meyers
Leif Jeffers
Mike Stern
Bill Diaz
Alexis Wanneroy
Adam Dotson
Tyler Phillips
George Schermer
Adam Strick
Michael K
David Stodolny
Rebecca Perez
(and we’re working on getting more in the next few days)

Thank you to EVERYONE who played. It was a lot of fun.



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Here are the clues we sent to the six remaining finalists in the Dragon Give-Away Game.  We assumed everyone else would want to play along, too.  The first of the six to email us the most correct answers will be declared the victor.  We will let you know when we have our winners!
(why do we need a tie breaker? click here)

Which animated films do these groups of clues describe?  Last minute trick – FIVE QUESTIONS!!!

Tie Breakers!
(none of these films were used in the original game)

Primary granter
Heated release
Why the long face?

He got his chance to shine
He used to be in charge
He finally got a chance to play

Unfinished book
Kiss by the water
Half the end is missing

A bachelor in need of motivation
Mirrored personalities
Televised hero

Going down to their level
Circle of life
Thumper restrained

(highlight below to view)
#1 Pinocchio
#2 The Princess and the Frog
#3 How to Train Your Dragon
#4 101 Dalmatians
#5 A Bug’s Life

Best of luck to the contestants!

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Dragon tie-breaker tomorrow at noon

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We’ve determined how to narrow down our winners out of the six first-place ties for our Dragon’s Book Give-Away Game.

There will be a showdown tomorrow at high noon! (Thursday, Oct 28th)

The Dragon Tie-Breaker will be the same format as the original game with one little twist.  Speed.

We have not been able to stump any of them yet, so chances are pretty good that all six of them will get every single answer correct… again.  So this time, they will have to be smart AND quick on the draw.  The FIRST person out of the six to email us with the most correct answers wins!  The second person to do so is second place, etc.

Tomorrow at noon we will email the questions to the contestants, and also post them on SOA so everyone can play along at home.   We will let you know when we have a winner.

Let’s remind you what they are playing for:
First Place:  Autographed Art of How to Train Your Dragon book
Second PlaceHow to Train Your Dragon DVD
Third PlaceHow to Train Your Dragon poster.

Good luck to everyone!

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