Royce Wesley participated in ANOMALIA 2012 where he delivered a course on Dialogue and Emotions. After his visit and positive experience with the whole ANOMALIA event and his animation students, Royce proposed his ideas to us for ANOMALIA ADVANCED. We are greatly appreciative for his initiative. This year will be different, more advanced and thanks to Royce’s ideas.
Watch also a video interview with Royce at the end of the article.
Since Royce, however, is not able to join us this summer, we were privileged to welcome on board other top professionals from the industry that have gotten excited about developing the specifics of the advanced program and work together at the very moment to bring the ideas into a dedicated intensive experience for the upcoming summer. Very experienced and passionate artists such as Mike Belzer from VALVE, Neil Helm from PIXAR and Jason Schleifer from DREAMWORKS.
In this blog post, we would like to share our initial ideas and motivations with you as discussed with Royce a year ago, giving him our credit for his leadership and visionary ideas that help shape our and yours future. And also to reveal our sincere passion and hard work for helping you grow faster and better in collaboration with the top professional animation artists that share their excitement for education, their students and ANOMALIA.
I would be EXTREMELY excited to help develop an advanced program for Anomalia, and have been thinking about this some in the past year. I think that an advanced course for animators who already have general physicality and acting experience is a great idea. Focusing the education experience for a smaller range of skill level would definitely help the students to develop quicker over the short period of time they have, and I’d be happy to throw in some ideas on how to do that.
To throw out a few things here in terms of what I’d see as the focus of an “advanced course”, it would be mainly focused on how the animator approaches animation. Developing a strong base to start from, understanding WHY you make the characters move the way they do, as well as developing good practices in the way you fundamentally use Maya can make all the difference.
CLARITY IN ANIMATION:
Often times once you know the basics of animation it’s easy to just start making things move and having fun. But it’s important to take a step back and understand the bigger picture of character and context before jumping into actually making it move. I’m sure you’ve heard all of us Pixar guys talk a lot about simplifying and reducing motion. The core of that idea stems from making actions clear. Clarity of the character’s pose will help the audience read the action instantly. Simplicity of motion helps to emphasise the movement, and will also help contrast the gestures you want to emphasise based on the acting and dialogue beats. On top of that, it’s about adding defining motions which COMPLIMENT the characteristics of your character. Making sure that each gesture has meaning and makes complete sense for who they are.
Additionally, the more complex a character becomes, the more difficult it is to keep things clean and clear. Helping students develop a strong workflow in how they work through a shot can be the most helpful thing in terms of building a strong base to continue improving their animation. This is tricky because everyone works differently, and what works for one person may not work as well with another. But there are commonalities that do seem to cross most boundaries of technique. Working individually with each student to help refine what works best for them while also imparting specific global suggestions of workflow will help them to develop the fundamental structure to tackle any shot with any character.
DETAILS – POLISH – FURTHER DEVELOPMENT
A course focused more on animating a few test shots could be beneficial to focus in on some of the more polish and refinement parts of advanced animation. Things like continuing to develop acting skills (phrasing, acting choices, etc.) and refining polish of movements (weight, spacing, etc.) could be covered in that period.
But I think it is important not to just jump directly into the primarily craft oriented side of animation. My theory is that spending the time to really try and get the MEANING of why we make things move ingrained first, and having a clean way of approaching how to make that happen in the computer will take a bit longer in the beginning, but over the course of using that thought process and cleaner techniques over a year or two will dramatically increase the speed in which a character animator develops.
CHOOSING THE STUDENTS:
In order for something like this to work best, it would require a fairly strong understanding of Maya and animation by every student. There is a certain level of natural skill in observing and reproducing motion that is important. I often find students who have worked for years in animation, but their work falters because they lack the “eye” for seeing a motion like overlapping and being able to understand the mechanics of how to replicate that on a character in the computer. That “eye” for motion can be developed by people who don’t have the natural talent for it, but it takes intense dedication and years of practice. First and foremost I would look for that natural talent in students.
Secondly, a year of actual time spent working on character based animation in Maya would be the minimum in terms of technical level of skill. I don’t think it really matters if it’s time spent at an actual job, or time working on projects in school, or time doing it on your own. Actual time means intensive long term work in front of the computer making CHARACTERS do things with THOUGH. If someone’s been animating for a year, but in that time only had two or three jobs that lasted a week each, that isn’t what I’m talking about. Nor is a full time job animating spinning logos. That time put into actually animating characters thinking and behaving will be vital to have a comfortable grasp of the software and techniques so we can focus on the more advanced stuff.
Finally, a class size no smaller than 8 and no larger than 15 would give the one-on-one attention necessary to help each student develop their individual process of working that’s best for them while also having a large enough size that they have a group of unique minds to bounce ideas off of each other and learn from each other. If the class is too large, it is easy for a student to slip through and not get the attention they may need. If it is too small there isn’t enough dialogue developed amongst the students to form a consensus in critiques and feedback.
That’s kind of a brief outline of the thought process behind the course. The actual structure would probably be similar to what I did in the previous class at ANOMALIA, with Lectures and Demos and both short and long form assignments which help focus in on developing what I wrote above.