Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Andrew Stanton Part 3


This is the third and final part of the interview. I hope you have enjoyed it. We look forward to interviewing alot more people in the future... Just dont expect them every week. These things take alot of time and I'm pretty buzy. I'm hoping some of the other guys will do some interviews. Anyway, fill out the iTunes reviews and if anyone wants to pass the word about our blog and podcast, thats always nice. We look forward to more great interviews.


available in iTunes and:


no time to put up an mp3, maybe later...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Demo Reel Tips...Part 2!

First of all, let me apologize for my lack of posting, mostly to my fellow Doctors. I've got a lot to say, it just takes the time to put the words down. Now that Cars is wrapped for me I'll hopefully find the time to pay attention to this blog.

Okay, I'm done feeling guilty now.

Last semester one of my students asked for tips on how to put together a good reel. I had actually started to write down some tips for a reel when Dr. Gordon, our most prolific Splinedoctor, beat me to the post. However, I still feel I might have a unique "inside" opinion on this topic, being that I've had to sit through my fair share of reel reviews (and hundreds of mediocre-to-bad reels!). So here I go: I'm going to give you some tips from my perspective as a Supervising Animator at Pixar for things to consider when putting a reel together to send to a studio. Some of this will overlap some of what Dr. Gordon already said:

1) Research the Company Your Applying To . Do you think that animation departments at companies like Pixar, ILM, and Electronic Arts are looking for the same types of reels? Would you send the same exact reel to each of these studios? Well, my first piece of advice is to tailor each submission specifically to the type of work that studio does or is looking for. Pixar does traditional character animation, specifically for features. ILM animators tend to do special effects animation for live action movies (usually monsters, aliens, spaceships, etc). Electronic Arts probably needs animators that can get across a good sense of physics and action since they are a video game company, but mostly cycles for the game itself. No matter how great your dinosaur fighting a space alien animation is, it ain't gonna get you in Pixar's door unless it's complemented by some great character pieces that show original acting choices. If you send a hand drawn, stylized student film to Electronic Arts, they may not be interested either as they need people with computer experience. if you're missing the work needed for a specific studio it's time to go back to the drawing board to do more work to round out your reel.

2) Most reels are too long. I'd rather see 30 seconds of superbly executed character animation than 3 minutes of mediocrity. Keep your reel short and sweet. If the work isn't good, we won't make it to the end; we'll take the tape out and move on to the next reel. And that happens more than you wanna know. . .

3) Cut the fat. We don't need to see your entire development through every animation class you've ever gone through. Put your best work on your reel and cut the rest. Yeah, we've all done the bouncing ball and a walk cycle, but I don't need to see it. Let's move on to the good stuff, shall we?

4) Good pacing is important. But isn't it a good idea to start off with your earlier stuff to really "wow" us with your advancement? Think again. What if we get bored with your Animation 1 class work and eject your tape, only to miss some gem you animated in a later class? Start your reel off with something strong to hook us. A good rule of thumb would be to begin and end with your two strongest pieces and to fill the middle with your other best work.

5) Clean sound and a good picture please. If you've got a dialogue test and we can't understand it, that's a problem. Make sure the sound is clean and clear. And maybe make sure you pick a track that is that way BEFORE you animate to it anyway. Makes perfect sense, huh? And good picture means exactly that. If it's a pencil test, make sure there is enough contrast to see it. If it's computer animation, be sure to render it in a way that is clear.

6) Please don't loop shots more than once. If we want to see it again, trust me, we'll PLAY it again. It's really easy to do with the rewind button.

7) Be honest and clear about which work is yours. I cannot express how extremely important this is. I don't know how many times I've looked at a reel that has a LOT of animation on it, obviously done by more than one person and I've got some complex description I've got to cross reference to figure out who did what. Or even worse, the person applying for the job wants me to assume they did all the work on the reel. This is extremely unprofessional. My recommendation: find a clear way to visually show only the work you did. If your shot falls in between other people's work, edit it together so your work shows up in color and the other work is in black and white. Or. Only. Show. Work. That. Is. Yours. Comprende?

8) The Good, Bad, n' Ugly About Student Films. I'm going to be extremely frank for a moment: most student films aren't that good (but then again, most Hollywood movies aren't that good). I am not going to watch a 6 minute turkey. Sorry. However, there are rare cases where I'm drawn in because the quality is so high. How do you know if it's good enough? Well, that leads me to. . .

9) Be Honest With Yourself. One of the hardest things about being an artist, but the most useful, is the ability to take a step back from the work; to step "outside of oneself" and give an honest self critique. That is how the best work is created; it is built up, destroyed, and built up again in a lively, plastic, ever-changing process. If you're not sure if you're work is appealing, you may simply not be cut out to do the job. And of course usually the best artists have other friends with similar eyes to bounce their work off of, so if you can't always be honest with yourself, don't be stupid and ignore the wisdom of others!

10) Sometime You Just Need to Try Again. Maybe you're really good, but the studio just ain't hiring at that time. Well, buckle down Bucko and keep doing better work for your reel. And submit it again when they've posted positions. Just don't stalk us. Like everyone else we really don't respond well to that.

11) It's the Animation Stoopid. We don't care if it's rendered, you're a good modeler, or if you know how to use every animation program. This seems obvious, but it's about who you are, what you've got to say, and the amazing work you do. Show me the animation! I don't give a squirrel's butt if you're an expert at Softimage. AND ALSO: I'm writing this blog submission as an ANIMATOR looking at ANIMATION REELS. I could just as well be saying, "It's the Drawings Stoopid" or "It's the Programming Experience Stoopid". If you're interested in applying for Story, Layout, Art, Technical Director Positions, etc. you're reading the wrong post (well, some of this advice is general enough to help I hope). See Tip #1 about researching the company; you also want to research the positions they're looking for!

12) Be kind, rewind that VHS & keep your DVD simple. This may sound ridiculously simple, but please have your tape cued so we can pop it in and watch it. It's really annoying to wait five minutes only to find we've rewinded the worst reel we've ever seen. I'm also very partial to the DVD reel now. It's kinder on the environment and I know I'm not gonna have to rewind it. But be careful! Don't make me navigate through some complex DVD menu. If you can just make it automatically play when it's put in that's great. Or give me ONE option that is clear (HIT PLAY).

13) No gimmicks please; your work speaks for itself. We don't need any disclaimers. We don't need fancy packaging. While we're always amused when we get a reel that looks like a submission for Survivor, it won't get you anywhere near an interview. A resume and cover letter are always important and appropriate, but are never noticed unless the reel is extraordinary. All this being said, there are still a lot of people that will send their insane reels anyway. And I'm glad, because we'll have fun watching them and laughing and moving on to hire you, the great animator who sent us what we wanted in the first place.

14) Do Great Animation. This is the hardest part. If you're a great animator, we're interested. If you don't think your reel is up for the scrutiny, keep working on you animation chops. Simple advice huh?

Well, that's it. I'm sure I could think of even more stuff, but I've crammed as much as I can into this. Good Luck!


Spline Doctors up on Itunes!

We are now up on Itunes! Be sure to subscribe and post some reviews of the show.

Thanks to Mike Stern for helping me out with all that XML and RSS stuff. Now I can return my podcasting for Dummies book.

itunes link

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Just a Big Thanks.

Just wanted to give Andrew Gordon a big thank you for his energy and excitement for this blog. Most of us haven't posted in awhile, now that things are getting busy and Andrew always seems to find the time and energy to keep it going. So Thanks Andrew I love listening to the spline casts just as much as everyone else.

-Dr. Stephen G.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Top Nine Movies of 2005

I love movies. Like so many other Americans I didn't happen to make it to the theater that much this year. For me personally it was partially that there wasn't much I was interested in seening on the big screen and also because the filmgoing experience has turned into a bit of a chore.

Before we get too far into the new year, I wanted to share my favorite nine films of 2005. Now there are a lot of films that I didn't get to see (Good Night and Good Luck, Syrianna, The Pacifier) so this is somewhat imcomplete. These aren't necessarily the BEST movies made, but they are the ones I liked the most.

Top Nine Movies

1. Brokeback Mountain- After Hulk I thought Ang Lee was lost forever. Happy to be proved wrong. Heath Ledger will deservedly take home the Best Actor Oscar for this one. I wish more movies could be this haunting and engaging.

2. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit- A perfect movie. What more can you say? I was laughing from beginning to end. A great story well told. The animation was exceptional. The Lady Tottington scenes were especially good.

3. Serenity- Granted- I'm a fan of the TV show, but come on-- this movie rocked. Finally a film verison of a TV show for the fans. A terrific ending to a 14 part Sci-Fi opera. Proof that a low budget with a good story can still make a great movie.

4. Grizzly Man- A deeply moving film. I have seen plently of so-so documentaries made with truly amazing subjects, but it has been a while where the filmmaking and documentary subject matter have been so evenly matched. Walking a razor's edge of taste, Director Werner Herzog delivers one of the finest movies of the last decade.

5. 40-year-old Virgin- I love that the audience is mostly laughing with rather than at the main character for most of the movie. Also the side characters are pure gold. I'll watch anything with Paul Rudd. See also Wet Hot American Summer.

6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang- I had the most fun at the movies this year watching this film. KKBB was a truly hilarious surprise (and it didn't hurt to have seenit at the Parkway Picture Pub and Pizza with a beer in my hand). Writer/Director Shane Black's work has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me (Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight) but it was great to see what he would do for a pet project. Most of his films have too big of a budget to try anything very risky. It felt like anything could happen in this film. Plenty of unexpected things did.

7. No Direction Home- Martin Scorsese's engrossing four hour doc on Bob Dylan was a real treat. I have always been a Dylan fan, but this movie was an really interesting investigation into the life and times the leader of the singer songwriter movement. As with Grizzly Man, not just an interesting subject matter, but a well made film.

8. Batman Begins- Sure the fight sequences are about as coherent as the second Bourne film, but for a property that has always had its share of big sceen fumbles, Batman Begins was pretty cool movie. Director Chris Nolan chooses to play it straight and focuses on building a character-driven film rather than a collection of action setpieces. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson and Christian Bale totally commit to their roles and fill out the Batman universe quite effectively. The end battle leaves a bit to be desired (Whouldn't the fight on the train been much cooler if Batman had picked up a sword?), but such adventures have a hard time topping the first and second act. Becoming a superhero is more exciting than seeing the superhero do things (Matrix anyone?) More drama than action, This film thumbs it's nose to the recent trend of flashy overly dependent CGI multiplex popcorn pictures by placing the viewer in a believable tactle Gotham, complete with working Batmobile. If only the fight scenes were better shot and edited, it could have been a classic.

9. The Squid and the Whale- Bad parenting has never been so eloquently filmed. It's not a film for everyone, but I really admired the richness of the world and the well rounded characters. The tone reminded me a lot of Alexander Payne's work. Sad, relatable and deeply embarrasing. Also Ken Leung is brilliant here as a psychologist.

That's all for this year. Here's hoping for better in 2006.
Dr. A

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Stanton Part Two

Thanks for all the feedback and comments on the first part of the Andrew Stanton interview. Here is the second part of that interview. I have to say, this one really is great. I've tried to make some changes to the audio. Sorry for the low volume on my end. Enjoy the SplineCast! I'm still trying to figure out how to get these up on Itunes. Look for the third part in a week.


Stanton Part 2

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Andrew Stanton SplineCast

As promised here is the second spline doctors "splinecast" In this 3 part series, we talk with Writer/Director Andrew Stanton. You will have to excuse some of the audio quality. I'm doing this stuff in my office...

Let us know what you think....

Andrew Stanton part 1

As usual, it plays in Itunes and Quicktime


Friday, February 10, 2006

Stay Tuned for an Upcoming Spline Cast

Next week sometime, I'll be putting together another Spline Cast. An Interview with a director. I wont say who, just to keep things interesting. So, if you want to post a few questions, maybe I can ask a few of them.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Great Site for Reference...

Every now and again you find a site that just has alot of Gold. An animators job is to figure out how things move or behave and make them come alive. This site has ALOT of great footage. I love the web.

As soon as we are able to capture Hi Def footage, this will be an even better way to reference live action. With Hi-Def, you see everything! I was watching Discover HD, an awesome channel for animators. They had a great show called equator. Some of the footage of monkeys they showed was unlike anything I had ever seen. The details of the motion were so subtle. It excites me to see this stuff because I know I want to get that into my work. Which leads me to another question... As Hi-Def becomes the standard, does that mean that the animation we do will have to be more detailed? If you are working on Games, do you now have to put in more detail? I know this is true with textures and so forth, so why not animation? Anyway, its something to think about. In the end, it always has to feel right or just be a good performance, Hi or Lo Definition.

Please post any good reference sites you know of...


Thursday, February 02, 2006

sorry about that

I dont know how to put up clips for reference without violating some stupid copyright law...
Looks for a post coming soon.