Receiving Feedback

My job was to produce a 10 minute storyboard (give or take 3 minutes) of an episode. I was given the episode script, and a copy of the series’ Writer’s Bible, and was told to complete the storyboard of the episode, and send it to JAM Media for reviewing. The feedback was always constructive and extremely thorough, which was incredibly helpful.

There was usually a 3 day delay from when I would send in my copy of the storyboard, to when I would receive feedback, leaving 4 days to fix all the issues before I had to send in the new revised copy.

Any time I had a question I was normally answered within a couple of hours, which was incredible helpful.

 

The only problems I would have had over the entire process was that whenever I was having a technical issue, I was entirely alone. None of the team I was working with had any clue how to fix the issues I had with rendering or file formatting, and the tutorials and troubleshoots were entirely useless. It was only through sheer trial and error that I managed to complete some of the renders on time.

The Workflow + Writer’s Bible

Whilst I would be working from home, the JAM Media team were excellent at communicating and giving me all the instructions I would need to complete the project.

I was told that the software I would need for the project was Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, and it honestly was not very difficult at all to learn.

The most interesting this I learned whilst preparing for the project was the Writer’s Bible. I was sent a copy for the show I was working on, and I was blown away by all the stuff I didn’t know I should have even thought about! Little details like which of the main cast should be leading the party when they go on adventures, and how that same character must always be standing in the centre of the group when they’re not on the move. There were also other details like examples of movies/shows that we were basing the cinematography off (it was mostly Wes Anderson films), and little non-verbal quirks that some of the characters have. My favourite Writer’s Bible tip was how it described how each character would react if a banana were to spontaneously appear in front of them (some reactions were “immediately eat it” or “study it to learn more about inter-dimensional travel” which was especially humourous and taught me a lot about the personalities of the different characters). It was a really great way of establishing a world without the television show having existed yet, and a great way of ensuring consistency with the locations and the characters with all the different storyboard artists. I made a mental note to definitely make one of these in the future for my own projects!

JAM Media

In early October 2016 I was contacted by JAM Media about the potential of working as a storyboard artist for the company. Of course I accepted the proposal and was given a quick test (a piece of script which I was to create a storyboard for). I passed the test and thus was hired by JAM Media to complete a storyboard for their upcoming animated show.

 

I did sign a non-disclosure agreement so I will not reveal anything about the actual show itself, but I will talk about what I learned during my time working for JAM.

John Henry’s Hammer Productions: An Overview

My placement at John Henry’s Hammer Productions lasted until early September when we were suddenly told that working with this company would no longer count towards our total placement time. We were then left with a choice of remaining with the company to work voluntarily, or leave to find another placement.

In my time working at John Henry’s Hammer Productions, I went in hoping to learn more about 3D character animation, and came away with not only that, but with a better understanding of how to organize a large project with many people working on it.

 

The animation was a fascinating process. I spent a lot of time animating the face of the character since the initial animation was motion capture and had no facial animation. I learned a lot about subtle facial acting as there were very limited controls with the robot character and it was a challenge to convey emotion when the only thing you could control was the character’s eyes.

We were also given a whole new bunch of controls to learn, such as a custom plug-in controlling the image plane in the background containing the live-action footage that were were to animate over, which was slightly buggy and a bit of a pain to work with if you weren’t technically savvy. It was an obstacle to conquer, along with the other custom company plug-ins allowing us to update the rig and change the model complexity at will without messing up the scene.

The biggest benefit to working at the company, however, was learning how they organised such a big project using the websites Slack and Shotgun.

Slack was an incredibly efficient way of communicating with either individuals or members of a team (etc animators, modellers) or even the entire group, which also notified each member with an email if they received a message. It was hard to miss a Slack notification.

Shotgun was the most impressive site, in my opinion. It was slick and very easy to use. We mostly utilised it for finding out what shots we had to work on, and not only that, but you could see what shots everyone was working on at the same time, so you never lost track of what scenes needed to be animated/lit/rendered.

 

Overall, it was a fascinating experience, and I am glad I got the chance to work there.

Day 5

16th August 2016

Shot ts01_0160, which I had been working on for the last 12 days, had been sent off to the compositors for a rough render,and I had been assigned my second shot: ts01_0130.I was to provide clean-up animation.

This was a shorter shot and needed only a few minor tweaks with very little acting. The feedback notes for the shot as it was were that there was a jittery piece of animation near the beginning of the shot, and a strange sliding motion that seemed to be pulling the character to the right hand side of the screen, away from the character’s body.

The jitter was easily fixed, but the sliding action required a little more work. I had never used animation layers before, and was hesitant to use them in case I ruined some of the pre-existing animation. I looked up some tutorials and eased my nerves about using animation layers, and managed to fix the sliding effect.

Sent in for review.

Day 3 and 4

9th August 2016

Taking into account the feedback from the previous day, I removed the head tilt and fixed the eyeline.

 

11th August 2016

Feedback from the previous day:

  • Fix the eyes so there is more expression

Tex should be more sinister and suspicious at first,then as his gaze shifts to the dead robot his expression changes to that of curiosity and hope. The dead robot might have something he needs (a battery).

Animating the character’s eyes was a tricky endeavour, as the character’s eyes are fairly limited in the expression they can portray (being square in shape). It was tricky, and required a lot of jotting down frame numbers, but I completed the task and sent in a playblast of the scene for review.

Day 2

7th August 2016

I continued to work on fixing the head and the chest animations. When I was satisfied with what I had, I sent an email with a playblast of what I had completed to Eric, the VFX director. He then showed me the correct way to share a playblast with him, and the rest of the company, which is through the Shotgun website.

Feedback:

  • Chest and head fixes are good
  • Remove head tilt
  • Tweak eye-line and eye animation to make it more obvious where the character is looking

 

Animation Student and Notorius dragon enthusiast