Sunday, January 11, 2015

Freelance Animation 102

The check did arrive and the first payment was happily received by my bank as I handed it to the teller. I start the task of doing character designs in a very simple and cartoon style. Style A is a group of typical stick people designs of kids and adult characters. I noticed while drawing the adult characters that the black stick arms and hands looked pretty creepy, but on the kids it looked fine.

I always like to do a few more samples to give the client a choice in which style they like the best. Here then is Style B, which is more of simple cartoon designs, without the stick limbs.

I thought these would be two different styles to start with and will be ready if the client has something else in mind. Sometimes designing the characters takes the longest to do, but in the end you will have a final design that everyone approves and you can start animating.

And so, give the choice of these two styles, which Style do you like? Style A or Style B? Let me know, and let's see if the Client agrees with you or not... Leave a comment, what Country are you from and your choice.
Merci, Danke, Muchas Gracias,Thank you

Next Time: Going with the chosen style...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Freelance Animation 101

In between full time animation work is a world known as "Freelance". This is often an exciting place when the job you have taken on is working in your favor, however it can turn into a dangerous place when things aren't going so good. I think everyone should freelance now and then to help them use their knowledge and talents they have gained during those full time years of employment.

I have discovered that there are two different laws of Freelancing. One Law is when you really need to find a job, it seems impossible to actually find one at the time. The other Law, is when you finally find a job, several other job opportunities pop up.  I always grumble,"Where were you two months ago?!" I'm sure there are other laws on the subject, but these two seem to be the most common.

When you first are contacted by a potential client, you must find out as much information as you can without sounding too desperate. You're at a party, people are interacting with one another and some approaches you in casual conservation. You aren't going to talk their ear off by telling them everything you did that week and so with the first contact email or phone call, you need to let them tell you what they want.

Here are three important questions you need to find out first. 

1) What is the job? 2) How long will the job last? and 3) What is the budget?

Depending on the job, the last two questions may be answered by the first question. If they are look for an animator to be a part of a team, they will usually ask you what your rate or day rate is. This is where you can loose the job if your rate is higher than what they are willing to pay. By asking if they have a budget sometimes gets them to tell you what they are willing to pay. You should also have some idea already what people are making for the job they are offering.

Here's a really good blog for Animators or any creative freelance person showing why you need to have some sort of contract before you start any project. After you have a contract, you should sent up a payment schedule to make sure you will be paid for the work you do. A good payment schedule is to start with 1/3 of the payment upfront. This will let you know if your client is as honest as you are. You shouldn't start the project until the check is cashed and everything is a-OK.

Be wary of animation jobs or gigs on websites like craigslist. You really have to be careful and make sure you understand the terms of the work. A lot of ads promise that you will be paid on "the backend". This means, you do the work now for free and later, when the theme park opens, you will get a % of the profits. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a bunch of BS. Not all ads are posted by bad people, you will find a few hidden jems out there every now and then. Bottom line, always have a contract of some kind. If they don't want to sign it, you probably don't want to work with them.

Recently, I began a freelance job, have gotten thru all of the above and now, I'm waiting for my first payment to arrive. Yes, "the check is in the mail," only 8 days and counting. Then I get that email, "What's your address again and how much is the first payment?" Welcome to Freelance..

Next Time: The check arrives...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Free Laika Event in LA area!

Happy New Year everybody and if you live in the Los Angeles area, love stop motion animation and Portland weather, rsvp and drive over to the Pacific Design Center this Sunday!
Inline image 2

It was a pretty packed all day event. I arrived to see the BoxTroll's screening and the entire theater was filled up before the screening. I liked the film's story, characters and the stop motion is always amazing. The real surprise came at the end of the screening, when Jerry Beck introduced the film's directors, Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, CEO and Lead Animator Travis Knight, Actress Elle Fanning and Actor Sir Ben Kingsley.

Kingsley was the voice of Archibald Snatcher, the BoxTroll's worst enemy. He explained that he did most of his voice work lying down in a comfortable chair and gave his performance thru his voice, allowing the animators to come up with the gestures and face expressions. Here's a very brief clip of the panel, Ben Kingsley is speaking about the characters in the film.
Reference video is usually shot during the voice recording session to give the animator reference during the actor's performance. Actors will gesture or make facial expressions when recording audio and this is for the benefit of the animator to use or not use later on. Mr Kingsley only had his voice recorded and let the animators come up with his performance.

After the screening, they had a table setup displaying the actual stop motion models to show how big they really are. Here are Snatcher, Eggs and Winnie.
Liaka has pioneered the facial animation by inventing a series of animated face plates which are used in lipsyncing dialogue and making facial expressions easier for the stop motion animator. Here are some Eggs' facial expressions used in the film.
The upper row are for Eggs's Brow expressions, which snap together to the lower eyes, nose and mouth row below. The full face expressions are both showing how the entire face can change expression.

Here are a bunch of animated faces from ParaNorman. Notice the four faces in the middle are of a bubble gum popping onto the face. You can also see the very squished face of ParaNorman as well as the stretching of his cheek. These are replacement facial expressions which saves the animator a lot of work, so he or she can concentrate on animating the character's performance, one frame at a time.
These are replacement facial expressions which saves the animator a lot of work, so he or she can concentrate on animating the character's performance, one frame at a time.
Which Liaka film is your favorite?