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Quite often aspiring animators are mesmerized by the slick tools, the stimulation of the creative process and the ability to showcase your skills and abilities. But animation is not a solo sport. Nor is it all about the individual animators.
Animation is teamwork, and ADi shows it...which is why their entire creative team got together to offer advice and share their experiences to our aspiring animator readers.
ADi is a Portland-based visual communications studio that focuses on business-to-business marketing, advertising, direct response TV and other business-centered production. Their wide-range of expertise have earned them customers from independent film producers upto Fortune 500 companies.
The following interview with ADi was contributed to by Donald Fergus: Lead Character Animator, Nick Nakadate: 3D Technical Director, Sean Hutchinson: Producer, and Kate Ertmann: President / Executive Producer all got together.
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus on this one?
We focus on telling stories for our clients, stories about complicated concepts that are difficult to tell in ways besides the clarity that animation – a unit of visual communication - can bring. It can be used in many verticals – like marketing, advertising, education and training – and every industry. We have been using animation, both 2D and 3D, as the exclusive way that we solve visual communication challenges for our clients for 15 years. It started with doing infomercial production and spread from there.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is _________.
Dynamic. Virtual reality. Facial performance capturing. Using animation as a business tool
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation?
Best: Creating awesome imagery that appeals to your personal taste and style (and the worst is doing the opposite of that). The best is complete control of production in a desktop environment: No rain dates, missing crew, pick up shots, etc. Another best is Just about anything is possible, if given the time, budget, and allowance for creative control.
Worst: Complete control of production in a desktop environment: We have sole responsibility for delivering compelling visuals from scratch. Sitting in front of a computer, time waiting on computers, explaining technical terms to the layperson, clients who like to noodle things just because it is digital. Another worst is that clients know anything is possible, but don’t always understand the direct correlation of that to time, budget, and creative control and know-how. Also, being a newer, creative, ‘hipper’ profession, people presume work is always fun and therefore don’t always get that this is a job and we need to get paid for it – even if it is a cool animation to produce.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
MoneyGram and the most recent project that we worked on has some of the best animation I've ever done in it, although I can't tell you about it. (we do a lot of visualization and other NDA projects for clients, so we cant talk about ½ of our work)
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
Industriousness and teamwork. Curiosity and a healthy ego.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
Mostly from the Art Institute of Portland, and networking and local trade orgs – like 3DPDX
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Limit every animation you do to 5-10 seconds in length when in school or practicing. When deciding to spend a week polishing an animation to perfection or making two more animations in a week, choose to do 2 more animations. Practice your craft, stay on top of technology trends, don't get discouraged, focus your goals.
Also, go into the field because you love it, not because it's considered "cool" or you think you will make a lot of money. Be an artist first.
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
Projects where client doesn't have a clear understanding of their audience and outcome goals, or doesn't have an investment or hierarchy for arriving at a consensus on feedback. Also, animating subject matter that I'm not interested in.
[It is challenging] When there is some sort of barrier to being able to establish a trust-base with the client – then every review is subject to questions based on there being ulterior motives for the deliverable between client and vendor (us).
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
An MA in Digital Motion Imaging, Art Institute and two were Self-taught.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
We use AutoDesk products – mainly 3D Studio Max, and sometimes Maya. We also use AfterEffects and the whole suite of Adobe products. Also a variety of plug-ins. Try anything and everything you can get your hands on. Be versatile. I would suggest that beginners use free software, or failing that, Cinema 4D.
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
There is certainly an increase in demand, as movies, TV and video games are all filling up with 3D effects. You must learn however, to both specialize and generalize, which is a difficult tightrope to balance on. It does what video can't. You can show something microscopic or show the internal workings of any sort of object – be it organic or inorganic. Animation has become a business tool, not just an entertainment tool.
It is certainly increasing, I dare you to watch a commercial block during prime time and find a commercial that doesn’t have some sort of animation or vfx – be it in the end tag or during the main action.