Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Giving Inspiration a Jump Start

Inspiration is key in animation (any art really). It's important to truck on when you don't feel particularly inspired (especially if you're animating for a living) lest you stop altogether and get stuck in an endless downward spiral into the void of "I don't know what to do!!!" If you are starting down this void, I encourage you to seek out inspiration and to know what stimulates you. Here are a few things to do when uninspired:

1. Watch other people's animation.

Vimeo is a great resource, especially when you start connecting to people. The videos your connections "like" will turn up in your feed. 'Reel'y Inspiring is a Vimeo channel I visit fairly frequently; it's awesome to see what other animators are up to, the different styles, and whatnot.

OnAnimation is a site I frequently visit; it covers a huge range of material.

There are a bunch of great behind the scenes videos you can watch on YouTube, and most of the big companies have a YouTube channel for their own stuff. ILM, WETA and Blizzard, to name a few, all have their own channels.

When at work, I'll take time to go through the dailies viewer and see the latest submissions. Just seeing how other people realize their ideas is huge motivation. You can also see a bit of their progress and realize that they're a lot like you. No one gets it the first time. Animation isn't easy. Watching videos from other disciplines is also really cool; like seeing muscle simulations, lit and rendered shots, or fx sims. It is especially rewarding seeing your own shots go through the pipeline.

You can also watch films for inspiration; animated or vfx filled. Non-animation-related films can also be hugely inspiring, especially with regards to performance (which is huge for any character animator).

These are a few other links I check out (not an exhaustive list):
Animation Progession Reels: This is an awesome way to see other people's workflow, and how ideas change throughout the process. In feature and VFX animation, accepting change is all-important.

Spungella: The owner of this page is JD, and he's a very talented animator who doesn't hesitate to answer questions or share his workflow. He posts his personal animations often with a breakdown of his progress; there's always cool links to anything animation related. It's very diverse!

Flip: This is Cameron Fielding's blog; though it hasn't been updated in a while it's still full of good stuff. He has put up a lot on his own experiences in this field and shared a lot of his workflow. He's now doing e-critiques of people's work, which is cool (RandoFlip is awesome). He hasn't updated in a good long while, but there's still some great material on there.

Pencil Test Depot: I love seeing rough pencil tests!

2. Talk with other people about animation as a whole, or a specific animation you're doing.

It can be easy to build excitement while speaking with another animator. I find when talking to someone about a specific animation, my ideas get better; they get bounced back and forth, smoothing them out, and refining them. Creativity does not exist in a vacuum. I will often bounce ideas off my wife and she'll take it in a completely different, but awesome, direction. You see, it's important to have someone that is not in love with every part of your idea who can look at it. You need that outsider's perspective, because ultimately that's who's going to watch it. Unless of course you do animation and then don't show anybody.

Talking with people who have no idea what animation is can be beneficial as well. There are gems hidden in what they have to say, as people see naturalistic motion every single day and intuitively know if something looks wrong or unnatural. They might not be able to express specifics, but even a statement like "it looks weird" can be beneficial to a certain degree and get your mind going in a different direction. It's important when taking this direction to not get offended or take what they say too personally. Take the critique gracefully, even when you don't agree with it, because their advice could mean that your shot gets that much better. But that's another topic all in itself.

Also, having to explain what it is you do to someone with no context (I've found most people lump every CG profession under "animator"), remembering why you got into it in the first place, and the parts you love about it... well, that can also light the fire of inspiration within you.

I've been going for some years now to the Bring Your Own Animation Event in London. People go to get their work critiqued and meet other animators. I try to turn up every month and give feedback, and it's always great to be able to help out and give something back. However, it's also great to be in a room with like-minded people and be surrounded by that excitement and energy. If you're in London, I'd highly recommend going; the place is usually absolutely buzzing.

3. Go out and do stuff.

Step away from the computer, the sketchbook, and go outside, meet with people and live. We build our ideas off of observation, so go live life and take note. Go visit the zoo while you're at it, or the park, or anything really. Get physical, go walk somewhere, or ride a bike. I ride a bike into work most days and it's a great way to clear the head and come back the next day refreshed. It's easy to get bogged down by work if that's all you do. You end up thinking about while working (good), after work (less good), and even dreaming about it while you sleep (the worst). Take a break and give yourself a chance to recharge. As excited as you are about animation, you can burn yourself out if you don't give yourself an opportunity to cool down.

These are just a few things, and I'm sure I've forgotten something. There are more inspiring links, sites, and ideas that I happen upon from day to day, but the ones listed are those I regularly visit. Feel free to send me the inspiring sites you frequent, or leave them in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for more.

Keep on keyframing!