Being a professional animator
A Day in the Life of a Professional Animator
By: Delio Tramontozzi of AnimationMentor.com
"DahhHH Nnahh NahhHHH..... DAH DAH Dahhhhhh," bellows from my small desktop speakers at my desk, while getting inspired and killing some time before the start of the day and dailies.
With a smile and a "Goodmornin' Tozzi!" I look up as both Rick and Jay pass by on the way to their desks.
Next, I hear "CHAINS!!! more CHAINS!!!" from Glen in his office. He must have passed by silently, otherwise I would have seen him enter his office adjacent to my desk.
I respond, "The Uru-Kai! The Uru-Kai are coming!!" as I chuckle and contemplate what a thing of perfection it is that Howard Shore used chains in his Lord of the Rings soundtrack!
Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, Shawn jumps from around my Shoji Screen with a "TOZZZZZI!!!!!" and a smile larger than life. As he and I are sharing what we were up to the night before, an overhead page rings out "Animation dailies starting in 5 minutes in UJ-2" from the paging system speaker behind my desk. "Doh!" I exclaim to Shawn, as Glen walks out of his office and says, "Let's go guys!" and with that we grab our pads and pencils and are off.
As we walk into UJ-2, people are filing into the seats and finding their spots so that all can see the projection screen. Glen takes a seat up front alongside Susan, the production coordinator. Glen is the sequence supervisor for the current set of shots that I have been working on and therefore takes the helm. As the rest of the people find their seats, he is loading up our animation sequence from the avids for us all to review together. It proves to be a great time in the day where we can all get together as a team. We get an overview of the work that each of us are doing individually. The atmosphere is light, as someone makes a funny remark and we all chuckle. We first watch the entire sequence so that we keep consistency through each animation shot, and make sure that the work we are doing tells the story at hand. The fun really begins when Glen brings up each of our shots individually. Taking a closer look at the shots, we are able to make comments to each other, and present ideas or problems that we may be encountering with our shots.
The movie file I submitted for dailies today is going for approval to show the director. I finished the last tweaks to the shot the night before. After all of our shots are reviewed and Glen makes his last suggestions and approvals, dailies come to an end. He spins his chair around and calls my name along with other animators that just had their shots approved. Susan tells us that there are new shots to turnover to us. Inside I am ecstatic! I love that moment when a new shot is thrown onto my plate. I think it's because no two shots are ever the same, and they present new challenges to overcome.
At that moment, Glen leans over and says, "I think you're really going to like this shot. It follows the last three you did. At this moment, General Grievious needs to make a fast getaway. He needs to recover from his fall fast and get to his speeder ASAP. Let's also take advantage of all his limbs that he used to cushion his fall with and get him moving in a way that the audience doesn't expect."
"Whoah! Six limbs!! Cool." I thought to myself with both trepidation and exuberance, "This really is going to be a challenge. Let me do some blocking and get it in front of you, and see if you like where I am going with it." 918 Parker Street, Suite 12, Berkeley, CA 94710 Phone: 510.809.1177 Fax: 510.809.1172 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ok, so now I am totally stoked and wicked nervous at the same time! I take the shot turnover sheet in hand as I take off almost running back to my desk. The sheet is really helpful in that it provides me with the name, length and plate locations for my shot.
Planning & Blocking:
When I return to my desk, I load up the same avid sequence that we were just viewing and loupe the section with my new shot bookended by a couple of shots before and after. Doing this, I am able to ingrain the essence of what George (the director) is looking for from this shot and what kind of action Grievious is going to have time to perform. After that was committed to memory along with my newly formed ideas, I then scour our entire reference library along with the Internet for reference footage. I wanted to get an understanding of how a creature's mechanics would logistically function with six legs, and to find the closest examples in real life to see what that would look like and would it be creepy enough for our Grievious character. I decided to hone in on spiders crawling, crabs scurrying, even a scorpion's walk. When I felt I did enough research, it was then time to do some thumbnail sketches to work out key posing ideas using the real world animals as reference but applying those ideas to the character's form. That proved to be a valuable step, as I started sketching and then later on recreating the poses in the computer. It quickly became evident that the character's design was not going to easily lend itself to the type of locomotion we were going for. If this shot was going to work, it was going to have to be a combination of all of those animals' movements. In order to help wrap my mind around the equation and let it stew for awhile, I called out to Shawn to see if he wanted to go grab a bite for lunch.
Shawn replies, "Sure, we can grab a sandwich, and then head back to my place to check out the new Battlefield 2! What do you think? Rick's going to go as well."
"Heck yeah!" and within seconds we were off to lunch.
When we returned from lunch, the shot was all worked out in my head. I was going to animate him like a crab for the first 30 frames, then segue Grievious into a spider scramble to gain speed. I grabbed the camera matchmove scene that was created by our matchmove department and started blocking out my animation in the scene. This way I could also work out my staging of the action to the actual scene camera along with the preliminary timing and spacing for the shot. I knew that once I was able to work that all out, the hardest part of the shot would be done. As I blocked in the key poses with some breakdown to help sell the action in key moments, I called Shawn over to get his opinion. He came over to my desk and we watched the movie together a couple of times and he said,
"Whoah! That is going to be a great shot. It looks really creepy with all of those legs moving in that manner."
I replied, "Thanks! I want to push it further though, do you have any ideas?"
"Hmmm, maybe you could have him raise his legs up behind him up over his back?"
"Yeah! That would be a really wacked out move, and that would help the audience relate that movement possibly to a scorpion with that posing, which could help the whole believability of the entire action. Right on dude! I'm going to try that, thanks for your input!" And back to work I went.
I was going to work hard to get in all of these ideas into this first blocking pass.
6:30pm rolls around and Glen walks over to my desk, 918 Parker Street, Suite 12, Berkeley, CA 94710 Phone: 510.809.1177 Fax: 510.809.1172 "So how is it going?"
"Oh, pretty crazy," I say with a smile on my face," here, let me playblast a movie file to show you were I am at and get your thoughts."
Glen, "Ok, great."
As I proceed to take him through my ideas and thumbnails I can see his excitement building with a hint of uncertainty. He proceeds to tell me that he loves all of my ideas and that he is very curious to see how the action will play out over the shot. By this time, the playblast is done rendering and I play the movie file. I also pull up the movies of the real world creatures that I was referencing, to hopefully help sell the entire action.
"Whoah! Now that's cool! And CREEPY! I like your ideas on how you are attempting to solve this tough action given his limitations as well as the camera's. Now, let's hope that George likes it too."
And with that I am elated! I went through such a roller coaster of emotions all day long wondering whether I would be able to make the ideas work, sometimes yes, sometimes no. However, when it all came together at the end of the day, it really feels good. I prepared the file to make another movie and submitted it to dailies for review in the morning in sequence, and then later in the day for the director. Even with all of those emotions that I ran through in the day, the work and my good friends around me make me think to myself, "I wouldn't trade this for the world."
As I proceed to take him through my ideas and thumbnails I can see his excitement building with a hint of uncertainty. He proceeds to tell me that he loves all of my ideas he and is very curious to see how the action will play out over the shot. By this time, the playblast is done rendering and I play the movie file. I also pull up the movies of the real world creatures that I was referencing, to hopefully help sell the entire action.
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