Brian Seger found success in animation by taking the road less traveled. While most animators and illustrators seek traditional roles—Brian found a niche. And this has made all the difference. By combining his two degrees, in Art and Biology, he was able to carve out a place for himself in the U.S animation scene.
This niche has led Brian to work with a long list of high-profile clients, since his beginnings in 1996, clients that include National Geographic, Merck, the National Forest Foundation, The Discovery Channel, The Smithsonian, and the Adler Planetarium.
After achieving success in biology-related niches Brian opened his own animation and illustration company. Ever since Brian has been an animator, illustrator, and all-around top dawg at Chromavantage, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Animation Career Review recently caught up with Brian who gave us the opportunity to glean some advice for aspiring animators.
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus?
In technical or product animations. I just tend to get more work in that area. I would like to do other things of course but sometimes you just have to follow the money.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is _________.
3D will be the cool factor, for awhile. Once that has worn off being able to tell the story will still be the focus.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation field?
Best: nailing the project and giving the customer more than even they had anticipated. Worst: "design by committee" - having too many clients involved and the result is always less than expected and you end up getting blamed.
Among your achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
Being part of a team on a project for National Geographic and getting involved in a lot other areas throughout the production. In addition to that I also created matte paintings for backdrops. Then seeing it all come together and broadcast to a national audience. Invaluable experience to be sure.
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
Don't try and be a "Jack of All Trades". Try to limit yourself to a few areas at most in a specific program and become efficient at what you choose.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
I was fortunate to be hired at a company that needed illustrators and they then taught us how to use the software. Having a general working knowledge of animation processes definitely helped me learn the application. So my training wasn't formal at all. We learned on projects as we went along. My supervisor always called it "trial by fire". Never seemed great at the time but looking back it was definitely worth it.
What was your most challenging projects, and why?
I worked on an animation for a Aviation Company that was for a trade show. The script continued to be revised as the deadline rapidly approached and I had to struggle against the clock to not only make the deadline but incorporate changes back into existing animation. Never really came together, at least in the way that I had envisioned it all.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
I prefer Maya for animation. My newest inspiration is using Modo. I can't wait to open that every day! I would recommend Modo definitely. Having gone through Maya training and remembering what that learning curve was like Modo seems to be very intuitive.
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
The best experience has to be the project for National Geographic. We worked with an art director from Nat Geo and he very articulate and knew exactly what he wanted. He would use black pastel paper and draw and sketch the scene he wanted. It was an excellent example of traditional art skills used in cooperation with new technology. This was in the mid 90's so it was a challenge to achieve the look and feel he wanted, we struggled with the software and the hardware often finding new ways to do what we wanted. He was very patient and encouraged us to see his vision and work towards a common goal. The end result was a complete vision for the project that meshed well with the video. Definitely my best experience to date.
What aspects do you think would be critical to creating a great graduate reel? What key things should NOT be in the reel?
Brief and to the point only showing the best work you have. NOT - cheesy music - just because you think they're the best band in the world doesn't mean it works in your reel. Also, really obvious or basic beginner animation. The old standard of lifting a box or weight. If that is your main focus - do more. If you're using it as filler, its really just a waste of time.
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
I think it increases. More and more animation is being used and we don't even see that it is animation. We can achieve many things that can't be done with a camera and actors. It can only get bigger and better.
What are your thoughts on the role of traditional art in modern animation?
Coming from a traditional background I see it as completely helpful and necessary. I have often worked out scenes or ideas for clients in detailed sketches or drawings. Using that to communicate with the client has been tremendously helpful. Then everyone is on board and knows the direction.