Well, it’s been a minute since we last talked, huh? How are the kids? Cool. Have you seen any good movies lately?
Here’s my update. Last July I left full time employment at Valve after 9 years there. It was a fantastic run, I enjoyed it, I made great friends and have no complaints. I was just ready for something different. Due to family medical challenges we had to move to the dry side of Washington state. Eventually the 4 hour drive to Seattle and spending a few nights in a hotel each week for work was wearing me down. So here we are on a new adventure.
I’ve been doing some freelance animation work (Note: I am available, hire me!), as well as developing some personal film projects, which I’ll be posting more about soon. I’ve also been busy helping my wife get her fruit orchard and cut flower business up and growing. Yep - we have a farm. Thirty acres in Eastern Washington. It’s kinda cool, actually (the picture at the top of this post offers a good look at it). I have spent as much time on a tractor and planting things as I have behind a computer screen this last year- it’s been a great change of pace. But I realize that I am not really a farmer at heart. It’s a great way to grow as a person and learn new things and stay active (or more accurately, stay dead tired and sore from a lot of physical labor). I love to help out around the farm, but i also know it’s not what I’m best at.
Teaching animation is something I seem to be really good at doing. However outside of the occasional workshop here or there, I haven’t done it much for the last 9 years. I think maybe I should fix that.
I have toyed with the idea of getting back into some kind of online animation teaching again, but I wanted to do it in such a way that offers something different and works with my schedule better than when I did things 14 years ago. When I started offering the VTS videos in 2005 there really wasn’t much available for online training for animation. Mostly just me and Animation Mentor. Since then a lot of folks have gotten into the market and the choices for animation training are quite good. So I haven’t felt a strong need to get back into it unless I could find a way to offer something unique. Another course on how to make good poses or fix arcs seem kinda redundant.
However there has always been a steady string of folks who have told me they’d love to have me back in the training game. So after some market research and some thought I’ve settled on a thing- I’m calling it Animation Pro Training.
So what is this new Animation Pro Training?
It’ll be a series of webinars that focus on workflows, as well as quality animation. I chose webinars because, well, pirates take videos. Hah. Well, that and one of the main reasons I stopped doing online teaching is I hated the isolation of it. I was never dealing with a person or group of people in real time- I was making videos alone. I’ve kept teaching in person over the years and I have always enjoyed the heck out of the live interaction. As webinar tech and reliability has matured I think we’re at a point where we can do something that is event based instead of download based.
However webinars have always had a weakness- scheduling. Most webinars happen once and they are scheduled to accommodate the convenience of the teacher, not the student. Which is fine. Folks have jobs and lives, etc. But it puts students in a tough spot. If you’re on the other side of the world you have to either skip work to watch the webinar during the day or get up in the middle of the night to watch it. Which kinda stinks. Since I have a very flexible schedule I figured I can do something different. So for each class or topic I will do the webinar twice, each about 12 hours apart. That way folks can choose which session best fits their schedule. That and I will do them on the weekends. This way nobody has to skip work and they don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to participate (unless they want to, of course). It’s not a perfect solution, but by accommodating the convenience of the student instead of that of the teacher I hope I am making things a little better.
As for the workflow side of it, that’s my distinctive. I have always been a process kind of person- I want to find a better way to do things. Always. The most popular workshops I have taught have been about how to animate, not just what to animate. What’s the difference between the what and the how? The What is what we all are familiar with- showing people what good animation is. The teacher reviews the work, gives the student notes to make what they have animated better. Teacher and mentors explain what makes good poses, good arcs, good silhouettes, good line of action, good acting, good detail. All the things that we teach when we teach animation are what I call The What of Animation. But I want to focus on teaching The How. How do you make that performance? How do you work with video reference? How do you work with motion capture? How to do structure your scenes? How do you manage your time? How do you get reliable results? How do you handle notes? How do you manage your revisions? How do you speed up your workflow? How do you avoid injury? Certainly people have taught The How along the way- of course they have. But it’s always been kind of incidental. Which is fine. And some programs actively discourage teachers from doing it so that students can remain “workflow agnostic”. Which is also fine.
But I have been around long enough to know what works and I don’t mind saying that it does.
They have to deliver 3 seconds by the end of the week, you probably have to deliver it by lunch.
I know how you can do that.
What that doesn’t mean, though, is that I force everything I do into a single workflow. 20 years ago I thought I could do that. I kept trying to find the Single Unifying Workflow That Did All The Things Always. I learned the hard way that this is a fantasy. It doesn’t exist. Like dragons and zombies- it makes for great content, but it’s not real. Over the years I have learned many different ways of doing a scene. It all depends on the scene, or even the specific action that I am working on. Each workflow is a tool. I just choose the tool that works best for the job. And I feel like that’s info that could be really helpful to people out there. If you’re doing TV animation in Europe or India, learning The How of animation from someone who works at a big film studio with low footage quotas is great as far as it goes. But it maybe isn’t as helpful as it could be. That’s not their fault- it’s the world they work in. And it’s great! But they have to deliver 3 seconds by the end of the week, you probably have to deliver it by lunch. I know how you can do that..
So I’m gonna teach about it.
Hopefully it’ll be something you can use and we can start having fun together again. Check back soon- I’m really gonna try being more active around here.