Saturday, September 12, 2009
During my research for a third animation book I'm writing, I came across this cautionary tale about a local commercial animation production. Commercials are one area of animation where I have almost no experience, and stories like the one below make me grateful for that.
An animator started on a commercial and (on the first day) discovered there was no storyboard, no animatic, and the animation director (a live action director that had never worked in animation) was out of town and out of touch. The problems that transpired in the days that followed are what you might imagine. There was no guiding vision for animators to follow. What they tried on one day would be overruled the next. And not only was there no process in terms of storyboards and production pipeline, the producer at the helm bowed to every client note and demand––pushing it all to the animators to pull off a miracle, at one point even asking them to re-animate the entire job from scratch in less than a week. And, best of all, no matter how many times the animators tried to explain their needs to the producer, he never once listened. I can't think of worse animation work-place scenarios sans physical violence or verbal abuse.
The above example is all the more shameful because the short turnaround time of an animated commercial greatly depends upon an efficient production process with all goals clearly defined to steer a crew to a proper finish. When the basic needs of the crew are ignored, they can't possibly do their best, and their morale will suffer along with the work. A commercial schedule does not allow for the luxury of time to sort this all out. A production has to have a running start and be fast reacting to any hitches along the way. Producers and Directors share a responsibility not only to the work, but also to the workers. Yes, the finished animated product must speak for itself, but the battles fought and lost by the crew in the example above are ones that need not happen in the first place. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel (which is itself a common production process mistake), this commercial job existed as if there was no such thing as a wheel. Somewhere a Geico caveman is crying.
I wonder how many producers or directors would admit to being the obstacle that they might be. If you are one of these producers, would you want a builder to build you a house without first making a blue print? Or to start building a frame without pouring a foundation? Would you want someone with no experience in plumbing to connect your toilet? Someone with no knowledge of wiring to ready your house for electricity? You get the point, right? So, if all these things are painfully obvious, how could you allow a production without a process? How could you ask a crew to start animation without an animatic? How could you ask them to animate without clear direction? And, how could you allow a client to give any note they wish at any stage of the production regardless to how it may impact the deadline or costs? How can you hire animators and animation artists for their expertise but, at the same time, ignore all their expert advice on how to make the production run smoother? And, how could you ask the animation crew to work with all these handicaps and pull off a miracle? Now go stand in the corner and think about what you've done.