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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Book 'em

Animators don't need to be in the same studio, or the same country, as their producers.
I was one of the first American animators to work long distance, mailing in animation from New York City to Burbank for a WINNIE THE POOH special in the eighties. (The mail never lost a package though there was one that took two weeks to get there, resulting in several grey hairs for the artist.)
The Internet makes it even easier. Entire tests and films can be uploaded and sent where they need to be. Today there are animators living in many different locations and they are still working for L.A. studios. One friend in Hamburg regularly does so, and so does one in England. It's a small world after all.
While I like the one-on -one approach of directing and prefer to have animators in a studio (and work in one myself), it's okay to work this way if I know the artist's work and work habits. As for me--I got a cat so I would have someone to talk to.
Now that my textbook is done I'm working on an illustration job that involves daily phone calls with the producer and lengthy exchanges via email. I love the fact that I can make changes instantly by leaving the Photoshopped roughs as separate levels, send a small Jpeg across the country and then keep the bigger files for the finals.
There are, of course, drawbacks to this situation. The screaming FAX machine was one of them. It is supposed to be top of the line but since they don't send instruction books but make them all electronic now I don't know how to quickly deal with the machine that seems to have a mind of its own. Its settings worked for a day, then changed so that the FAX went on whenever anyone called. It's now been taught a lesson--but I can only receive FAXes manually. Only one client uses them so it's easier than I thought, though still not an ideal situation.
My studio now uses virtual materials. It really is possible now to animate a featue at home. I'll be testing the Mirage software soon courtesy of RIT. It's highly rated by friends who have used it. The graphics programs are of course a standby. A computer program mimics chalk, pen, brush, airbrush, and paper texture--all in one handy palette. I don't get my hands dirty and very little paper is wasted (unlike the book, where a whole plantation of hemp plants died for the privilege of bringing my words to print. I did not use tree based paper since I had a high rewrite rate and so I feel a little better than if I'd killed some forests for this. Nearly four reams of paper had to go to the recycler during the production of my magnum opus.
I use a Wacom tablet and have just replaced the nibs and one pen, which actually got worn out! and the response is back to normal.
I do draw on paper; it's still the best way to get a strong preliminary sketch. It's then digitized and modified in Photoshop and finished in Painter.
Lovely stuff and the whole megillah paid for itself in a matter of weeks.
Boxx computer even asked me if I would do a testimonial about the machine after the book is done. I am perfectly happy to do so since this monster of a computer effortlessly handled hundreds of huge graphic files without once shivering and fainting the way my totally overwhelmed laptop did during the early stages of the production. 2 Gigs of RAM will lead to a sort of confident feeling.
There are new bells and whistles on these programs all the time so it pays to know when to get the upgrade.
I expect I should upgrade Painter now.
Most upgrades on CGI software are a pain in the ass since they are not backward compatible with older versions. I was furious when MAYA 6.5 did not work with MAYA 6. I've now got to install MAYA 7. I think I will stick with graphics and not worry too much about CGI programs since I have been told that if I did not like being on a neverending treadmill, I should stay away.
Fortunately story and writing are not dependent on OS or versions of a software. You still need input--a computer WILL NOT create art by itself.
Of course I mention that in the book and have gorgeous artwork from a student to 'back up' the statement.

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