Thursday, April 14, 2011

Animation eye + 1, morale - 1

Have you ever had a creative epiphany from a successful endeavor which completely killed your morale?

For the past few weeks I have polished a segment of my animated short with the intent of updating my reel. And by polish I mean painstakingly positioning each individual finger, toe, knee, elbow, etc on 600 frames so that they made beautiful arcs. My plan this week was to finish* polishing the segment and add my highly-regarded "Get Out" dialogue to the end. Bam! New reel completed.

I accomplished the former, but the latter step hit a major block:

Six weeks of over-analyzing minutia in my "Head of the House" shot had inadvertently trained my eye to be more sensitive to animation principles. When I finished the short's polish, I opened my "Get Out" shot to add it to the reel and audibly gasped: It looked terrible.

This was a shot I spent months writing about on this very blog. It represented my best animation and I proudly showed it off. I even received feedback on it from some very influential animators and came away happy. But now, I see so much "wrongness" in it. Or, to be more precise, I see so many ways that I could do it even better.

The piece itself isn't bad, it just is no longer indicative of my current skill level. I have progressed enough over the past year that creative choices I was once proud of now cause me to cringe. I stared at this shot for over a hundred hours completely oblivious to errors that now loudly scream "look at me!" to me in every playback. And I couldn't be happier.

Well, at least now I couldn't be happier. When it first happened my morale was obliterated: my months-long plan to update my reel for the first time since January '10 was foiled by my obvious lack of skill. The simple task of pasting my last shot to the end of my current shot suddenly turned into a scores-of-hours process of updating my old shot to at least be decent. And again, I had tirelessly worked on this animation for months and then prominently displayed it for the past year to everyone. Goodbye self-esteem!

But it didn't take long for me to perk back up. This is natural, after all. Artist actually want this to happen. All artists look at their old work and shudder with disbelief. And all artists are exponentially more critical when looking at their own work. Many readers on this site may look at my "Get Out" shot and say "it looks great to me", which is fine. But I know I can do better and have already begun my next shot to prove it.

And I'm sure in a year I will look at my "Head of the House" shot and ask, "what the hell was I thinking" and repeat the cycle all over again (it has already happened once). I look forward to that day.

In other news, my new reel is up. Although there is a very good chance it will be replaced in the next 8 weeks. :)

*nothing is "finished" in animation, they just take it away from you and tell you to move on.

1 comment:

  1. Science is the same way. I look back at old experiments that I thought were so carefully laid out and controlled and think "well that's just a lot of crap!" But you're right, it's all about growth in our particular craft. If you never notice how much better it could be, you won't continue to improve.