Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Flash stinks some more

Mitch commented on my first Flash post expressing a fear that Flash animation will be detrimental to the craft itself. People use it who don't have a clear understanding of classic principals and it could happen that, over the years, those skills are lost completely.

Others would argue that Flash is just a tool and that it's down to the animator to get the best out of it.

Flash is a tool, yes. But it's a tool for producers - to get volume of product for less money. It's really not a tool for animators because it in no way helps you create better animations. It's all about cutting corners. That helps producers, not animators.

A) You're a lazy-ass animator.

B) Or someone who just learned computer skills and call yourself an animator because you can move stuff around.

Or, more positively...
C) A creative person who wants to get an idea out there quickly and easily or a writer who is just happy seeing their script 'illustrated'.

'C' offers a perfectly valid reason to be excited about Flash and similar programmes. But that makes it great for writers and creators and, especially, producers. Not animators.

So to continue with the 'tool' theme because people who argue the merits of Flash often come back to that, Flash isn't a tool in the way that a hammer will help you drive nails into a plank of wood to stick it to another plank of wood. Because a hammer can help you do a far better job at hammering in that nail than you can without it. Flash is more of an instant glue spray - okay, so it won't hold as well as hammering four nails will but it's way quicker. A shortcut. With serious comprimises.

This, ultimately, is bad for animation.

I have worked with Flash animation. I have worked in Flash animation studios. I have seen animation directors have to fight every day against the corner-cutting Flash provides. I've seen animators who were hired on the strength of their traditional animation work for a year on a Flash project and lose the ability to create a strong pose from scratch because they became so used to working in the cut-out Flash method. And, though it may seem ridiculous to some, I've seen people like that guy above hired because sometimes it's quicker just to get someone who already knows the programme.

I've also seen directors love that they can keep their crew close to them and keep the creative process alive all the way through.

But the sacrifices are great and, even then, I don't think that will last all that long.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why Flash absolutely stinks

So, because budgets have reduced with Flash, stuff can be produced at home. Good, eh? Yes, but the huge problem is that, in each of these steps, budgets have been reduced. And reduced. And reduced.

And reduced some more.

When limited animation was used to cut budgets, it must have been quite a similar scenario. Okay, so the quality wasn't the same as full animation but you can still get really entertaining animation from limited techniques if the right people are doing it. Just like Flash now.

But what happened to limited animation?

Before long, it was shipped to the Far East. The craft of animation was soon seen as almost a production nuisance. More than that, budgets fell and the craft was severely devalued. Animators who had spent years honing their skills found it tough to get work and, when they did, they were being paid less for it. Many people had to leave the animation industry for good.

And now, people are celebrating the fact that Flash can allow people to produce stuff at home. But, in the process, it has once again devalued the craft. And how long do you think it's going to be before all Flash animation is shipped to the Far East for even less? Honestly? It's already happening and once more facilities are all up and running, there isn't a producer on this planet who won't take advantage of the cheaper production. Animation will vanish once more and the craft will have lost so much value that, if you could find work, you'd be lucky to make minimum wage.

That's the future of animation. Once again.

So, yes, it's allowing some projects to get going that otherwise wouldn't have been greenlit. But the lowering of budgets also means that many projects that would have been funded before will now not get funded. A cheap-shit Flash show will get off the ground way easier than a high-quality production. The animation will vanish, the work of animators devalued.

That stinks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Flash positive for the industry too?

There were some good comments on the last post - that Flash isn't right for those wanting to get the absolute most from their animation and that it could even cause whole generations of animators to lose the craft. Some good points there and I plan to go into them in my next posts.

But first I just want to expand on what I was saying yesterday because it has larger implications. Beyond just the individual, Flash makes it much more realistic to put a full project together and actually get it off the ground.

Back in the day, an animated series or film required a huge number of people - storyboard artists, layout and background artsists, animators, assistants, clean-up artists, a whole ink and paint department and many more. And a whole bunch of production people to just keep track of all that. Financing something like that is a seriously daunting task. Convincing someone else to spend that amount of money on your project? Almost impossible.

Limited animation was required to make projects a bit more realisitic on television budgets and then the dreaded outsourcing happened. Studios in the Far East and elsewhere can pay people a hell of a lot less to get your job done. Unless you were an animator in the Far East, that sucked shit.

The positive, however, was that budgets reduced to an even more realistic level. You might be wondering how this could be considered a positive but what it means is that the risk involved in launching an animated show is not what it once was. So you could say there is more room for creativity.

Whether that happened or not is open to debate.

Then along came Flash. Just as one person can make a little cartoon in an afternoon with Flash, one studio can make a whole show in less than a year with just a handful of animators. So, not only can more shows get off the ground because the financing is easier and less risky, but studios can keep the work in-house. No outsourcing! That's great for those Flash animators as they can actually find work. It's also great for directors who are open to Flash because they can keep that creative process close rather than having to ship it off after storyboard stage.

There are a bunch of shows being produced in the US and in Europe that, ten years ago, either would never have been produced or would have been shipped to the Far East. And, in the Far East scenario, the project could have ended up divided among so many co-producers each with ownership and creative input that the porject could have ended up a mess.

Flash has allowed people to keep that work close, easier to fund, easier to make and easier to retain creative control. That's got to be positive for the industry, right?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why Flash rocks

Okay so, in reality, we booted out those cel painters quite some time ago but the point still stands - Flash (and its equivalents) allow us to make cartoons without having to have a massive team of people.

Much has been said all over about Flash animation and its effect on the animation industry in general. Probably too much has been said. Nevertheless, I'm going to say my own piece (or pieces) here.
I'm quite a traditionalist when it comes to animation. Mostly this is because I see programs like Flash as more than just tools for animators - they are tools for producers to provide cheats to animators (or people who can just move stuff around) to get high volumes of product at a cheaper cost.
But, having said this, I discovered Flash years ago, back when they had just launched Flash 4. The tutorials were bizarrely good and, after about a week of messing about with it, I sat down on a Sunday afternoon and made a cartoon. A very basic little short animation in Flash. I sent it on to a few people who thought it was pretty funny and it made it on to the websites showcasing Flash animation at the time. It gathered momentum and seemed to spread all around, popping up on other websites. I even got an offer to animate on some Italian show from someone who saw it and I still get the odd bit of mail about that cartoon to this day. None of that would be particularly spectacular if it wasn't for this - I made that on my own on one Sunday afternoon.
I had the idea then and there and just went ahead and made it. I didn't have to get a team together. I didn't have to call in a ridiculous amount of favours. I didn't need 347 cel painters.
How cool is it that, in this day and age, a creative person can just go ahead and realise an idea in an afternoon? Or a week if you really want to work at it?
To me, that's pretty damn amazing and breaks open the world of animation. It means anyone with a shred of creativity has the tools to get their ideas out into the world and show people what they can do.
That's pretty amazing.
On an unrelated topic - does anyone know how to stop blogger joining up all my paragraphs? It's really pissing me off.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Things they don't tell you in the manual

Thing is, they don't even give you a manual with iPods any more. They've quietly been removing everything from the box each time they bring one out. In two more revisions time, it will just be a box. The one after that, nothing.

But if they did give you a manual, it should have this warning on it. Big smears. Not pretty.

I wonder if the iPod Touch has the same materials issues as the iPhone. I wasn't all that happy with that as you can see by clicking the iPhone tab below so I guess that might make me a hypocrite having an iPod Touch. Or maybe I'm just complex. Yeah, I'll go with that.

The Touch is great for watching old Yogi Bear cartoons and Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

That Hanna Barbera Treasury book

Got it yesterday and, wow, that's one lovely book. How much must it cost to put something like this together? I mean, even just paying children in the Far East, it must still add up. There are pockets everywhere with goodies like replica mini comic books, storyboards, cards and more.

Some things that first strike me about the book - well, the shiny cards smell really toxic. I could feel my nostrils burn sniffing those. Don't try to tell me you've never sniffed book inserts because I know you'd be lying. We've all done it.

Also, it only goes up to the late 60s. Now many would argue that time period covers the golden age of Hanna Barbera and they're probably right. But it means no Funky Phantom or Captain Caveman. Maybe there's room for a second volume?

But what's there from the 50s and 60s that doesn't smell toxic is absolutely wonderful. Some real treats in there and loads to look at. Importantly, lots of stuff I had never seen before. I totally recommend it to fans of animation or anyone wishing to recapture feelings from their youth when life wasn't horrifically oppressive with people trying to shaft you over at every turn.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The thing about computers

If you moved your office into a porn shop, how much work do you think you'd get done? Honestly?

None. I'm right, aren't I? How could you with all that porn around begging you to, well, look at it and stuff. Well, stick me at a computer with internet access and it's like dumping me in a porn shop. Productivity drops to zero.

And tissue costs skyrocket.
Well, the current climate being what it is, if I'm to stand a chance of ever getting a show off the ground (and we all know that best case scenario takes that chance just ever so slightly above zero), I have to embrace digital methods. I don't like it (a subject that's been discussed all over many times but I may well give my take on it soon) but it's the reality.
So I guess I may have no choice but to put up with all that fantastic porn.
Oh, if you're wondering why I put dots in between these lines it's because poxy blogger kept joining up the lines and removing my spaces. Why? I have no idea. I'd find out and try to fix it but well... you know.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Almost 300 views unaccounted for... unless...

Who knew that spambots were little egg-shaped things?

Thanks for the comments on the last post! I've ordered that Hanna Barbera Treasury book and am looking forward to it. You know, they should do some sort of ultimate HB collection DVD with everything - Funky Phantom, New Shmoo, Quickdraw McGraw... every single one of them. Or, more realistic, a highlights DVD set that has one select episode from each show. I'd love that. Sure, they're not the best examples of animation out there but, man, I think they were damn entertaining.

I wonder how they paid for that amount of content?

And thanks to Adam H on the 'We The Robots' recommendation. A great site and I really enjoyed trawling through it and imagine I'll be a regular reader from now on.

I must look into getting a counter. Anyone know how I go about performing such hi-tech wizardry?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hello? Hello? Anyone there?

I clicked on my profile yesterday to find that there were over 1000 profile viewings listed. 1000! That's a lot of views.

Now, I'd say about 523 of those were me checking to see how many views there had been. And probably about 100 or so would be my blog mate Andy navigating from my comments on his site. But that still leaves over 300 unaccounted for. Who are you guys? Are you coming to the blog? Hello? Is anyone there?

If you've stopped by today, leave a comment to let me know you've been here. Even if it's just to say, "Hello". Or "I'm here". Or "You're a dickwad" or whatever. I don't mind.

The bigger question here, however, is why would I possibly care how many times my profile had been viewed? Really, why? I know I shouldn't. I mean, I didn't start this blog to get a following. And yet, now that the numbers have gone up, I find myself wishing for more. Like I want people to read what I'm writing. Is that totally narcissistic or just self-validation? Or just the human need to communicate. Answers on a postcard please.

Or in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hello? Can you hear me?

Thing is, I did flag that I was thinking of taking a reduced week. About 7 years ago. And then on roughly 37 occassions since then. So it shouldn't come as a surprise.

What's the big deal anyway? I sit on my ass for at least three out of the five days I work. I could go down to a 2-day week and still get the same amount of work done. Unless those days were included in the 'sit on my ass' days.

So I'll be developing my own stuff. Maybe try to sell a show. We'll see...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Worst morning ever

And yet this depicts almost every morning of my entire life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Colourful World

Just a filler image today as nothing is going on. There weren't any Santa related deaths this year. My run-in with the 'free' paper guys has gone unnoticed and life is quiet.

That's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Oh, and they're not free

Don't for a second fool yourself into thinking these papers are "free". Companies are willing to pay good money (or even dirty money) to advertise in these things. That means your attention has a monetary value. The second you take one of those papers you are paying by giving that attention.

That is a transaction. So you're not handing over money. But your attention is worth more than that to them. That's why they aren't even bothering their asses charging for them.

Realise the value your attention has. Don't just give it away without thinking. It's worth something. You are paying. And if you think advertising has no effect on you or you know enough to make your own decisions, well, that's bollocks. You think these companies are going to sink that much money into something that doesn't work? You think that's how they became so rich?

No. You are influenced by advertising with every choice you make.

Every time you take one of these papers, you are paying.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

You free newspaper guys

You guys have well and truly made my shit list. You're worse than those charity people who mob streets. Don't get in my face in the morning. I'm grumpy enough at that time without being offered 576 free papers on my way to work. You clutter the streets, slow people up who are already slow enough and don't seem to understand that, if I wanted a paper, I could find you. You don't have to push the damn thing in my face.

I hope you all get crabs. Itchy crotches upon you all.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Don't forget to take down the decorations!

I'm not sure if this is a global tradition but, round here, the 6th of January is your cut off for taking down those decs. Or Santa will cut you. Actually I think it's after the 6th but getting them down before then would be safest.

Here's a top tip: if your tree is real, try planting it in the garden so you can reuse it next year. If your tree is fake, well, there's no point in planting it so don't do that. Really, it doesn't grow any bigger.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Holidays over, back to work...

I'm actually looking forward to going back to work. It's not that home is all that terrible or anything.

But at work, I get some alone-time, I get to listen to the music I want to hear, I don't have to visit anyone who is more than a room away, nobody cares if I get a haircut or not. At work, there are actually fewer demands on my time.

And for the time I give up, I'm paid. That's nice, isn't it?