So “Top Cat The Movie” is showing at the local cinema next week. Should I go? Looks kinda awful, anyone know any different? #animation
Whilst I haven’t had a huge amount of time to work on my own shots of late, client work and some story dev have been taking over, I’m usually always thinking about my next animation challenge. As i’m currently working on a human body mechanics shot I want the next one to be completely different and was thinking of doing something canine to mix it up a little.
Until the other evening when I was sat with a friend who pointed out this amazing couple of clips from professional Horse Dressage events. I have to admit i’m a big fan of horses anyway but these videos blew me away.
The horse, named Blue Hors Matine, is something of a legend in the Dressage world due to some incredible performances in major events as well as the musical choices that she performed to, which completely broke the norm.
My favourite of the videos can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKQgTiqhPbw (there are many others to enjoy) and even with repeated videos I entranced by the weight and motion of a 1 ton+ animal moving as if she weights nothing. The motion is so bizarre it would probably look entirely fake if you were to animate it exactly and yet it is so caricatured that to me it just begs to be attempted.
Luckily for me this challenge comes at a time when animationrigs.com have recently released their fairly tale horse rig and so I have the perfect rig and reference videos to work from.
This one is going to be exciting.
As part of our mission to bring together as many animators as we can to offer everyone not only a great way to discuss and improve thier shots but also a wide ranging insight into the way the industry works - and the characters involved - we recently sat down for a virtual back and forth with Junior Animator India Barnardo (@Indi_pops) who is currently working at Framestore London. India, as well as working a full week in a industry renowned for long hours, is also very active in animation circles such as the 11 second club as well as keeping us entertained and informed with her twitter account so she is a great person to give us a view behind the sometimes closed doors of the animation industry.
So without any further ado lets meet India.
Name: India Barnardo
Junior Animator, Framestore commercials, London
Teesside University, BA Digital Character Animation
Favorite animated film:
Eric Goldberg, Mark Walsh, Jim Finlay, Glen Keane, John Lassester
Best piece of advice you have ever been given:
Don’t take any critique personally, and always strive for better. Oh and as my Dad always says “sleep when your dead”
My website is in the process of being upgraded at the moment. But all my latest production work is stored here:
AC - “Easy one to start, Can you remember when you started wanting to animate?”
IB - “From a young age I always knew I wanted to be involved in something creative. I loved art and started life drawing from an early age too. Everything I worked towards was focused around art. Then at 16 I was lucky enough to do work experience at Framestore.
I discovered so many jobs that existed within the TV & Film industry, I couldn’t believe how many jobs there were. I still however was not exactly sure what I wanted to do. I carried on pursuing art. When it came to looking at universities I contacted Framestore about the courses they recommended, and I went down that route really. Over time I had seen a few making of’s, and I was especially inspired by the Monsters Inc extras. And that was that! I had chosen a Animation degree, and still not even quite sure what I was letting myself in for!”
AC - “It is a deep well to dive into. How did the work experience come about? Was that through a normal school program or outside of schooling?”
IB - “Well my Dad worked in advertising and design before I was born, and had worked with Framestore when they first opened, so he knew a couple of the founding members of the company. He hadn’t spoken to them in a long time, and it was a bit of long shot, but once I was in it was down to me to make the contacts I needed really. I got two weeks there, which was a great amount of time!”
AC - “What year was this? What sort of things did you do there? Do you get to shadow a particular person or get involved in producing something for the production or is it more of a case of sitting watching what happens and trying not to break things?”
IB - “I think it was about 2004. For the first week I got to sit in a different department each day and help out, which was great fun! Learning about all different sides to the industry, finance, clientèle, as well as VFX. I got to see the different buildings and some sneaky peaks of movies in the making! The second week I got to shadow the runners and see their side of the industry and how they progress into the company.”
AC - “Sounds like a really great introduction to the industry. So you left there and knew that animation would be your sole focus or did you still continue to do other types of art as well?
Were you using a computer for art before that time really or did the CG animation then push you into more computer based things?”
IB - “After the work experience, I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to be. I continued to concentrate on my art, and I had started an ICT course (i know it’s not exactly the same thing) but I liked the notion of combining work on the computer with my love for art. I never really had access to animation computer software before University. So most of my computer work consisted of photo editing and image manipulation.”
“With the work experience, I decided it was a good opportunity to try and stay in contact with the HR department at Framestore. Just to get advice about entering the industry really and what to concentrate on. However, staying in touch with them worked out better then I could ever have wished for. They visited my University during an animation festival, Animex. I got to talk to them, and they invited me back as a casual runner over the summer. I continued to go back each summer, and eventually I was offered a full time running position. I couldn’t have asked for more! So with a foot in the door, I continued to animate and learn as much as I could!”
AC - “Can you just explain what a runner does, for those of us who might not know?”
IB - “Sure. At Framestore there are a few types of runner in fact. In the commercial building they are there to keep the building looking tidy, looking after the clients, serve lunches to the clients and take tapes or cans of negatives to the correct companies.”
“In the film building it tends to be fairly similar, but they have a lot more heavy work in general, they have a bigger building too.
Then there are system runners, that will help with running equipment around and then sometimes there are film specific runners, where they’ll look after the clients on that particular show.”
AC - “I guess that means you have also visited a fair few other VFX places in London too?”
IB - “Yes! Got to deliver quite a few things to various different companies! It’s a really great way to meet people and network!”
AC - “So that would be your summer job, which university did you attend? Was your course specifically animation or a more wide ranging VFX degree?”
IB - “I went to University of Teesside, It was a BA Digital Character Animation degree which starts off quite broad and then you hone down into what you want to concentrate on :)”
AC - “Whilst at university I guess you had the benefit of a group of like minded people to work alongside? Animation is sometimes described as a bit of a team sport, do you feel like you could have progressed as much as you did in that period if you had been trying to work it all out alone?”
IB - “At university a group of us created a brilliant society. All the different disciplines joined together to help one another, animator’s, riggers, musicians, artists, programmers, you name it. It was a great group. Individuals would run a session giving their slice of information to the group to help others. I took charge of the life drawing classes for our society, which in itself was a great learning curve. It was a great collaborative experience.”
AC - “How did your first professional interview come about? And how much work did you have on your reel at that point?”
IB - “Whilst I was running, an opportunity arose. They announced there would be a junior animation position and a junior modelling position up for grabs. So to start with people gave their showreels in, to indicate their level. If you were accepted you went through to the next “round”, which was a challenge. For the animators it was to animate a monkey playing with a bottle, about 5-10 seconds long and we were given 3 weeks to complete it. Then once the challenges were finished there was the interview stage, which was with the head of production and the head of animation. The amount of stuff on my reel was about 30 seconds worth I think. A bit of a mixed bag, but I knew I didn’t want to pad it out for the sake of it, as I think editing your work down to what you think is the best of the best is an important skill too. On top of that I had the Monkey animation to show.”
AC - “So now you are a Junior animator working on commercials at Framestore? How big is the team that you work in? Roughly how many animators and what is the breakdown of junior / senior positions?”
IB - “There are seven animators and two riggers currently. It’s a great team to work in :). Because the work is quite fast paced in commercials, we tend not to have daily reviews, but we’ll usually have a catch up once a week if time permits. We all sit together as well, so information is easy to pass around anyway. Also, sometimes we aren’t always working on the same projects, so one animator might be having meetings everyday and another might be having one a week, depending on the group he/she is working with.”
“Seniors tend to have the responsibilities, they will lead projects, the Head will lead the whole team and check on everyone regardless of what project they might be on, and the juniors get more and more responsibility in terms of the types of shots they are trusted with, going from background/cycle work, to a full on hero shot.”
AC - “I was told when i was at AM that animators at Pixar and Dreamworks etc are expected to produce about 4 seconds of footage a week. I imagine in commercials that the expectation is to create a much higher level of output. So how much footage would you say you produce a week? And how do you break that time down into planning, blocking etc.”
IB - “It really does vary a lot. Depending on the project. The last project I was on, there were two animators (myself included) and we had about 3 weeks to complete the 60 second ad. But this work was quite abstract in comparison to another show. I think for Coca Cola Siege we had about 4-6 weeks to complete animation, but that was a high profile job with a lot of animators on it. It can really vary. Also, it depends on the type of animation too! For example muzzle replacement animation is completely different to full body animation.”
AC - “Lets talk about how you work on a shot personally. At what stages of your own Planning / Blocking / Polishing etc do you start to show other people for their advice?”
IB - “I try and show people as often as possible. Usually after blocking, and then as much as I can thereafter, as long as I think I have attended the previous comments of course!”
AC - “Is it hard to accept comments that might not be favorable? Perhaps if something isn’t working or the director is thinking a different way?”
IB - “Not at all, I never take comments personally, whether it’s a idea that might have to get changed, or the way the subject is moving. It’s about getting it correct for the directors vision. Sometimes one might not agree with the choice, but it’s never a personal insult on your work. You just have to run with it. Sometimes it works out great and you think “Why didn’t I think of that in the first place!”
AC - “So for someone who might have a fear of showing their work to others, for instance on a blog such as ours, you would suggest just going for it and accepting peoples views? I guess it’s always going to be hard to be objective when it’s your own work that you have put lots of effort in but other peoples comments can be incredibly useful in helping improve a shot.”
IB - “Yes most definitely. It’s good to be able to distinguish between great help and ideas, or just different ideas. Go with your gut if there’s something you really think works. But never shy away from getting critique from peers or people online. Fresh eyes are on of the best tools to give your future self (as Kenny Roy always says). take notes before delving into a shot, show it around. Someone else’s idea might be exactly what you’re looking for OR it could stem your thinking off in another direction and you might come up with an even better result. Sometimes you can get sooo many opinions you don’t know which to choose. But just concentrate on the ones that ring true and you think will make the shot what you want it to be.”
AC - “So those extra pairs of eyes really help to push your shots forward?”
IB - “Oh yes, most definitely. Sometimes your so “in” your shot, you can just miss out obvious things, it happens to everyone. It’s the best way, fresh eyes can give you a whole new outlook on a shot.”
AC - “As a junior in a large company that is well respected in the industry you must work with a lot of highly talented people. Do you feel intimidated from commenting on their work? Do you ever feel like you can’t make a suggestion because this animator is “better” than you are and therefore can’t learn anything from you?”
IB - ”Yes to start with it was very intimidating, wanting so hard to perform on demand and get it right straight away (which is obviously not going to happen!). But as I’ve settled in with the department and get on with everyone well and trust them all, and seen how they work. It’s much easier for us all to collaborate and work out solutions and have a laugh too! We often discuss how we tackle things if a shot’s not working or a certain technique, oh gosh and we are always discussing workflow! Who likes what, who prefers what in the rig or in maya, who’s got what hot keys! “
AC - “Looking back, all the late nights, the studying and the huge amounts of work that you have no doubt done to get to this point, would you do it all again? Is all of the effort worth it?”
IB - “Haha.. easy answer! Yes! Bring on more late nights and more work :D”
AC - “Lastly (for this part at least) animators seem to constantly be updating their reels with extra little projects so it seems like the work never stops, its not really a job you can get into and then just sit back in and do for the next 40 years just because you are in right now is it? Do you ever feel like your choice in career stunts your social life in ways other jobs wouldn’t?”
IB - “Yeah, I’m always working on something new (if I can!), I think artists mainly do it because they want too, but you do have to keep up with the times, especially with technology changing so much, it’s good to keep ahead of the game :). As far as the social implication, No not at all. I think it’s important to put aside time for social times and hobbies, as if you don’t live a little you don’t collect experiences or great interesting references for your animations or art!”
Thank you India for your time and insight. Hopefully your experiences will help to inspire other animators who might be a little further down the path than you are. We will no doubt be speaking to you again, if you’ll let us, but for now have a great day and good luck with your Career.