Thursday, October 23, 2008

The bleak future of animation - part 3

I meant to get to this post yesterday but ended up having to attend the birth of my child. Live blogging would have been seen as bad form. So where was I?

7,000 drawings a year. Possibly a little less. Possibly much more. That's how much a traditional animator or would-be animator could rack up in just the normal course of their day. That doesn't include personal studies or sketches or little thumbnails that they would do along with those drawings. That's 7,000 finished approved drawings.

You don't get this from Flash animation.

Nope, really. You just don't.


In Flash, with most working methods, it is about manipulation of libraries, often totally flat and completely predefined. Drawing within Flash is for two things - to rough out a piece on the timeline so you have an idea of what you're doing (and some animators skip this, at their peril), or to make a missing symbol or hide a join, and some studios discourage or completely disallow this for fear of loss of control. The good Flash animators will likely (hopefully) have doodles of poses and expressions around their desk from the scenes they are working on. But that's not the same or even close to what is expected from a traditional inbetween, clean-up or animation drawing. And certainly doesn't approach the same numbers in volume.

But Flash animation isn't the same thing, is it? So does it matter?

You also don't get this from 3D. In 3D animation you are manipulating marionettes effectively. It's about posing them. It's an art in itself of course so not really all that directly comparible to traditional. But, like Flash, good animators will often have poses roughed out in pencil first. Again, not close to what is expected from a traditional finished drawing.

3D animation is a whole different form though, more like stop-motion. So does it matter?

Some of the best Flash animators learned traditionally and then were trained in Flash. Some of the best 3D animators learned traditionally and then were trained in 3D. In both methods, traditional animators have a massive advantage, are often the people directors seek out first and can have a great positive influence in studios.

Those are the 7,000-a-year drawing people.

Could it happen the other way around? Could someone spend five years animating on a Flash show and then produce a great piece of 2D animation? Or even 3D?

Not the way the 7,000-a-year people could.

Yes, I'd say it matters.

The most-excellent Cold Hard Flash reported on something Brad Bird said about a Marky Maypo spot. He said "I sometimes worry that people whose knowledge is limited to Flash tricks will never be able to reach the level of skill demonstrated in these little demonstrations of genius." Personally, I think he's right. How could he be wrong? We're comparing with the 7,000-a-year people.

But what happens when those animators retire or die? What happens when their influence is gone? What happens when you take away the people who were practicing to the tune of 7,000 drawings a year?


Andy Latham said...

The death of animation happens.

It's going to require individual animators to seriously pull their fingers out and learn do these 7,000 drawings a year on the side, in addition to their normal jobs. It requires a lot of thankless dedication to save an industry, just as with anything else. It's certainly not easy though.

Congratulations on the birth though! I hope it brings you a ray of sunshine amidst all these animation woes!

Humphrey Erm said...

Wow, you're really creeping me out now Bitter Animator! It feels like the apocalypse is coming...

But I have a question for you, and I don't want to put you on the spot or anything, but what would you suggest people do to improve? Should studios make more 2d films, should we stop outsourcing the animation or are there any other ways to prevent this?

Congratulations on the birth by the way. Nice to have some good news in a mostly bleak post :)

Red Pill Junkie said...

Congratulations on being a daddy!

...You're happy about, right?

Bitter Animator said...

Thanks guys! Yes, I'm happy about the new addition to my family! Although the newborn stage is crazy and far more work than it should be. I just have to keep telling myself that I'm bigger than she is.

Very good question, Humphrey. That's the big one, isn't it? I've been trying to think of an answer but I may not have one you like.