ACTING for ANIMATORS
Glen Keane Animation!
Glen Keane should be included on any list of the top four or five animators in history. He retired not long ago from Disney Feature Animation, and the good news is that he is still working on his own. This animation, Duet, is something different because it is 60fps instead of 24fps, over 10,000 individual drawings. The technology of the mobile platform is frankly over my head, but I can see from the mini-documentary that a lot of smart people were involved with this project. Frankly, it wouldn't matter to me if Glen Keane was animating something to show on the side of his garage at home. He is a magical artist, and I'll always be sitting in the front row.
"Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known." --Oscar Wilde
"Hooks is a Tweetie Bird!"
I'm late to the party but have finally started Tweeting. I'm on a learning curve and still am not convinced that Tweeting is making earth a better place to live. Nonetheless, here I am, "Tweet Tweet...." Follow me, please!
Acting for Animators Workshop Schedule
July 25, Kelowna, BC, Disney Interactive - Worlds (Club Penquin)
September 22-25, Shanghai
September 26-28, Animex Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
September 30, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design, Media
How To Improve Your Video References
What most animators do when making video references cannot rightly be called "acting" in the Stanislavsky sense. Although he may be "acting out" an animated sequence he already has in his head, that process has almost nothing in common with what stage and movie actors do when they are acting. In the first place, a video reference is made for an audience of one, namely the animator herself. Acting in the Stanislavsky sense requires the presence and feedback of an independent audience. When an actor acts in front of a movie camera, he is still playing for an independent audience, the difference being that the audience is in his head. In fact, to the degree that a stage actor is acting to please himself, or is self-aware, that would be considered an acting error. The typical video reference process is a recipe for bad acting according to stage actor standards.
If you want an organically truthful video reference, the best thing would be to have your buddy act it out for you. If a friend is doing the reference, she will not have the physical moves floating around in her head. You tell her what the action is in the sequence, and she will do that in front of the camera. Her actions are more likely to be authentic and non-self-aware than your own actions would be because you already have a picture in your head how the final reference should look. You already know how the character is going to move, and you are imposing that preconception on the reference when you do the acting yourself. In other words, when you act your own references, you are trying to act and watch yourself simultaneously. In reality, it is impossible to be on the stage and in the audience at the same time. Learning this is Step One for stage actors, who must train themselves not to be self-aware during performance. Since it is impossible for you to act and be in the audience simultaneously, then you may as well not even try in the first place, right?
Video references are yet another highlight of how animators work differently from stage and movie actors. Animation teachers sometimes tell me they require their students to take acting classes so that their video references will be stronger, more authentic. The idea is logical enough, I suppose: If the animator learns how to act like a stage or movie actor, that experience will lead to stronger, more organically truthful references. But in order for an animator to function like a stage actor during performance, he must have an inclination to perform for an objective audience in the first place. An animator who wants to make references for himself alone is going to be a bad fit for the kind of acting classes that actors take.
All of which feeds into a larger discussion about...
Animator Training In General
My friend Keith Lango, currently an animator/TD for Valve (Half-Life, Counter Strike, etc.), is one of the smartest and most talented people I know. During a recent e-mail back-and-forth, we started talking about the skills a new animators needs for today's job market. Keith, who also runs AnimationClinic.com in his spare time, summed it up succinctly this way:
"...Just teaching assembly craft mechanics to get a job as a tooth on a cog in a giant entertainment product factory won't be enough. Animators of tomorrow need to know how to act, tell stories, edit, design cinematography, choreograph -- all of it. PLUS know how to clean up arcs, silhouettes, overlaps, polish f-curves, etc. Once VR takes off and Occulus and others get their VR systems working on a consumer scale you're gonna have a whole new layer of where this thing is going. New skills, new obstacles, new mistakes to avoid."
Keith is dead-on correct, of course, and I hope the animation educators among this newsletter's subscribers are paying attention to him. The challenge we have at the moment is that too many animation training programs are graduating limited-scope animation technicians rather than generalist animation artists. And this at the moment when animation is coming into its own as probably the most under-used and important art form of the 21st century. It is probably getting near the time when most training programs should be divided into two tracks -- one for technicians and the other for artists. The truth is that you don't have to be a skilled traditional animator if your aspiration is to VFX or to manipulate mocap data. But if you have in mind picking up the animation pallette and telling stories with it, you definitely need broader training. Admission to an artist track should be of a different standard than admission to a technician track. For the artist, portfolios count, past experience making short films, even if live action. Admission to an artist track should filter for "right brain" (emotion) applicants, and technician track for "left brain" (analytical).
Now, Keith Lango is one of those combo-people, a fine mix of left- and right-brain aptitudes. I first met him when he was working on "Veggie Tales" for children, and now he's making sophisticated video games. And on the side, he is writing and directing live-action movies. If he were starting out today, he would be a good fit for the artist track, with options for study in the technician track. He is a rare bird, though, having an actual actor's appreciation for performance as well as an animator's eye for process. If I could draw, I would fit only on the artist track because I have far more right-brain aptitude than left.
It is hard to believe that there were no animation schools at all in the world before 1965, when Cal Arts set one up on Walt Disney's dime. After CG came along, especially post-Toy Story in 1995, animation schools seemed to grow out of cracks in the sidewalk, all of them promising "exciting careers in glamorous, high-paying animation!" Frankly, that is not working out. We have far too many new people who can work with Maya and hardly any heirs to the likes of Ollie Johnston, Chuck Jones and Art Babbitt. Partly, this is because there are so few training programs designed for them.
At least a couple of times per month I am asked to recommend animation schools, and I admit it is tough. There are maybe half a dozen really excellent animation schools in the entire world, IMO, and they are difficult to get into. Most lists of animation schools are useless to the newcomer because, like this one on the Animation World Network, Art Institutes International, currently entangled in an US$11 billion tuition fraud lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, is undifferentiated from Cal Arts, Bournemouth University and Gobelins l'ecole de L'image. The lists themselves need to be divided into tracks so that new animators can better find a good match.
Unfortunately, there is no clear solution I can offer. I am just waving a flag here, trying to catch your attention. All of us have a lot to think about and do -- the animation industry is without any question going through a transitional phase. The idea that a new animator can go through a training program and then simply get in line at the DreamWorks employment office is coming to an end.
Anyway, DreamWorks seems to be moving to China. . . .
Until next month...
Copyright © 2012-2017 Ed Hooks