Monday, February 25, 2013

Animex Talk

Animex Talk is more directed at animation than games, having the two sections gives a good mix of both industries and you are also able to see the similarities between the two, along with some differences. Everything that I have taken from Animex Game is still relevant to my animation practice, any advice can be adapted to suit your own area of work.

Day 1:
  • Ed Hooks, Acting Instructor and Author
  • David Au, Storyboard Artist / Assistant Director
  • The Mill - Murray Barber, VFX Supervisor
  • Stuart Sumida, Professor of Biology
  • Rhythm & Hues Studios - Hans Rijpkema

Ed Hooks was a really inspirational speaker, he teaches acting to many animators and spoke a lot about the industry and where it was going. One thing to bear in mind is that we should all consider ourselves as global, work will take us anywhere and we need to have an understanding of the industry and follow it wherever it goes. Need to be aware and involved. If you want something, you should go out and get it, if you don't try you won't get. A thing that was brought up time and again by each speaker was connections. It was all about the people you knew and most of them had got their jobs through people they knew within the industry. David Au said make a lot of friends and never get too comfortable as there is no stability within the industry. He reminded everyone that they'll be working long hours to reach a deadline and even though this may not bother some people, in the long run you have to set yourself goals, you don't want to be working through the night when you're a lot older. 

The Mill was up next with a talk from Murray Barber. It was interesting to see the differences between working for Tv and for film. The main one being the budget, because of this it can affect what can be achieved in the time scale and you need to be able to solve problems quickly. Stuart Sumida, originally a biologist, told us the importance of knowing how things work, people and animals. In order to create a sense of believability you need to study the skeleton to understand how joints move and work. People can tell when something is not accurate even when they don't know fully. Having seen Life of Pi when it came out in cinemas I was really looking forward to seeing more in depth view of how the film was created. The software and rigging system that was used for Richard Parker was actually adapted and evolved from the one used for Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, and Aslan was adapted from their first major film, Cats and Dogs. It's great to see how technology progresses comparing the final outcomes to it's predecessors. It will be interesting to see where this technology could be taken next as when Hans showed us both the real tiger and the CG tiger next to each other, I, along with many others could not tell the difference between the two. 

Day 2:
  • Straandlooper - Alastair McIlwain, Managing Director / Animator
  • Aardman - Will Becher, Character Lead Animator
  • MPC - Ferran Domenech, Animation Supervisor
  • Double Negative - Andrew Whitehurst, VFX Supervisor
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios - Rob Dressel, Layout Supervisor

Alastair McIlwain of Straandlooper bought up an interesting point, that the technology we use is forever changing and that can affect the way we design, produce, view and distribute the work. It's something to keep an eye on as even with softwares, each year there is a new version with tweaks and actually new areas to increase productivity and the way we work. We have to be able to adapt to these new pieces of software and to make the most of them. Will Becher from Aardman attended Animex and although I had previously seen him at Bradford Animation Festival and it was a very similar talk; it just reminded me how much work actually goes into making a stop motion feature film. It will always amaze me at all the little details they put in and I have nothing but admiration and respect for everyone working within that industry. 

The next two talks were from 2 VFX companies situated down in London, Moving Picture Company and Double Negative. Ferran Domenech from MPC spoke mainly about the animation done within Prometheus which I found really fascinating as I had never properly looked into the way it is done within visual effects before. To make sure everything lines up in the end, they matchmove the footage and then from here they can start to animate. It was great to see the breakdown shots of the animation, from blocking through to the muscle system to the final outcome. One thing that Ferran mentioned was to always test the rigs out beforehand, you need to be sure everything works before you dive into the animation, if something is wrong it needs to be fixed straight away. With Double Negative, Andrew Whitehurst showed us two types of visual effects, a more invisible type used in Skyfall and more stand out obvious effects used for Scott Pilgram. Whether it's seamless or obvious each needs as much attention to detail as each other. The last speaker of the day and of Animex Talk was Rob Dressel, layout supervisor for Disney. Working in layout is very similar as previz, working out each shot of the film, camera and character positions, blocking out some rough timings and screen direction. I spoke to Rob the night before at the networking event and he said it's good to have an understanding of layout and cinematography and it can also help push your animation more. You know why the scene is laid out in that particular way and can use it to influence your performance. Another person I spoke to was comic writer, Jim Zub. He spoke about critiquing and that you always have to put your work out there to get better, it may knock your confidence but it should motivate you to improve and better yourself.

The whole week at Animex has really opened my eyes and given me so much knowledge and motivation to become better. I met and spoke to some great people and will definitely be attending again next year. For anyone who hasn't been, I can assure you it's well worth going. Teesside Uni have so many great connections and it wouldn't have been possible without Gabrielle Kent, festival director. Each year they have great speakers from round the world and unlike some other festivals this gives you a real chance to get to speak to them all and get that all important advice from professionals.  

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