Monday, 9 September 2013

Inside the Mind of an Obsessed Animator

Have you ever noticed how when you're really into something, that subject sort of becomes your point of reference for everything and the lens through which you see the rest of the world? You know, like that technophile who constantly talks about the upcoming app or piece of hardware that will alleviate whatever issue they're dealing with at a given moment? Or the really political person who attributes every positive aspect of daily existence to their party of choice and every negative aspect to the opposition? Or perhaps you've been particularly inspired by a certain book or author and regularly catch yourself saying "You know, that reminds me of this part of (fill in the title). You should really check it out sometime!"

I've been seeing the world at 24 frames per second since my opening scene, but focusing on animation over the last couple of years and particularly over the last few months at Swagger (while simultaneously working on my own personal and contract animation projects) has caused some noticeable shifts in the way I do things.

First, I've become a bit of a neat freak at home. You may well be asking yourself how this relates to animation, so let me explain. Until recently, cleanliness and order have never exactly been my top priorities, but anyone who has ever had to deal with multiple people working on the same media project without a consistent method for storing data has learned very quickly how important it is to be as simplistic, logical, and intuitive as possible. Whether I'm working with data leftover from the days of Swagger before the arrival of Yours Truly (or, as I like to refer to them, the Dark Ages) or whether I'm trying to sort my way through Illustrator files sent from a designer I have had no prior contact with, I always spend a considerable amount of time renaming and reorganizing files in ways that make it easier to find and adjust them later on. In fact, I would estimate that I spend somewhere between a fourth to half of my time at work organizing and labeling files. Due to the consistency of this necessity, I have incorporated efficient storage practices into my instinctual reactions on a near-subconscious level to avoid throwing multiple fits every day. As an indirect result, I've become much more neurotic in my organizational habits and my home is in a much better state than it used to be because of it. It's actually gotten to the point where I get excited about filing clothes, books, and every other item in my place by size, alphabetical or numeric order, etc. Weird.

Secondly, I now pay much more attention to things with slick motion graphics that most people rarely seem to notice or care about. When watching television these days, I'll usually be more involved with the commercials than the actual programming, talking about the clever transitions and geeking out about the energetic kinetic typography until one of my annoyed friends kindly points out that I've been enraptured with a piece of work meant to sell mustard. Likewise, it seems like there have been an increasing number of films I've seen where the content of the story doesn't pull me in as much as the design work during the opening title sequences. It's an art form I didn't pay any attention to a few short years ago, so I can't really act surprised now when I bring it up with people after the film and they have a hard time recalling what it looked like, but it can be frustrating nonetheless.

Lastly, I've noticed that most of the time I now tend to see shapes before objects and form before function. In other words, my first reaction to objects anymore is aesthetic rather than practical and I often find myself slowly moving to see different angles or multiple objects with interesting shapes and wondering how I might transition between the two if I were animating them and had control over their color and lighting. Sometimes, if it won't make much of a scene, I'll place two objects in the most dynamic positions possible and just look at them from different directions. Similarly, because I think of cartoon characters more than any adult should (but for professional reasons, I swear!), I sometimes get in the habit of striking dramatic poses throughout the course of conversations and holding them, as characters would move if I were to play with them in AE or C4D.

The point is... Is there a point to all this? Let's find a couple. 

It's good to be interested in your work. Organization and sensible labeling are great practices to get into both for your own benefit and for the benefit of those other people who you know are going to have to sort through your files or projects later on. Also, it's good every once in a while to sit back and appreciate the time and effort that goes into producing the things we take for granted (not just animated commercial segments, but that can certainly be a good place to start!). And, on a related note, everything can and should contribute to your creative process, and maintaining that kind of mindset can help a person to observe and appreciate their surroundings in ways they might not otherwise. You never know when that next bit of inspiration might strike or what from, and it's always a good idea to keep quality material in reserve in case nothing comes up when you need it. 

Also, cartoons are still cool.

What does your job make you obsessed with? How does it make you see things in your world differently? Leave a comment below or tweet at us @swagger_media!

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