Know Your Destination

When the shit hits the fan and everyone panics about completing a particular task before the deadline, I’ve observed that assumptions tend to be made. Progress is deemed more important than certainty. It’s possible that these assumptions may be correct, but very often they turn out not to be and they lead people in the wrong direction, costing even more time and creating even more panic.

Think of it this way. If you’re lost in a forest, you don’t know exactly where you are or where you need to go, running may feel good because at least you’re doing something, but you’re probably running the wrong way. It’s better to stop and figure out the right direction first.

Always have a plan. The first part of coming up with a plan is to know exactly where you are and exactly where you need to get to. Without it you’ll probably end up getting even more lost.

Fred

 

Momentum

When I start work on a new shot or any other type of project I often find myself noodling around the edges at first. Most of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it until several days or even weeks have passed. Even small tasks can seem daunting and slow me down until I actually have some tangible progress to measure towards their completion.

What tips and tricks do you use to create momentum when you start a new task or pick up the pace on one that has stalled?

Fred

 

Rules

Creativity is not an absence of rules. It does not mean that anything goes. That’s called anarchy, and anarchy has more to do with destruction than creation.

True creativity occurs in a space defined by rules, and it’s the artists job to decide which rules are applicable in every decision we make.

Fred

 

Magic

 

“Do not be a magician – be magic!” Leonard Cohen.

 

As 3D artists, it can so often feel like it’s other people who call all the shots. Hollywood execs, Ad agencies, managers, clients. But they come to us for our expertise, because we can create magic.

 

Art, whatever its form, can speak to the audience so much more powerfully if it’s not just assembled in a manufacturing plant production line, but created by passionate artists. Those who through their passion can add those subtle details that truly bring their art to life for the audience. Be that.

 

Fred

 

The Cycle of an Artist

 

Thanks to animator/writer/director and all-round nice bloke Pat Sarell for this insight.

 

Junior artists are fueled by passion for what they do, through they may not have the skills, technique and knowledge to do it well. So they train to become better.

 

Mid-level artists learn the skills to become more competent, but in doing so they also learn to follow rules, particularly those that play to their strength and help them avoid aspects of the work that they are less adept at. Their knowledge of how they should work and of their competencies constrains them, and often with those constraints the passion that once drew them to their art fades.

 

Senior artists have developed sufficient knowledge, confidence and have broken enough rules over their career to have freed themselves from the constraints that held them back as mid-level artists. They can now re-connect with the passion they first had, but with the ability to fully execute on their ideas.

 

If you’re at a place where you’ve lost the passion for what you do, don’t give up, you will find that passion again. Now’s the time to dig deep, keep learning, know that you’re on the path to becoming a senior artist and that the path may not always be a straight one.

 

Fred

 

Gaps

 

“To fill the creative, technical, communication, leadership and other skills gaps that can hold creature and character artists back from achieving their potential as artists and in building fulfilling and rewarding careers.”

 

At Dynamic Anatomy our mission statement comes in 2 parts. This is the first part, to provide education that empowers professional artists to be even better in all aspects of their work. To teach the things that most schools and employers are not even aware they’re neglecting.

 

Playtime

 

“The most creative people have this childlike facility to play.” John Cleese.

 

Kids learn at an amazing rate, mostly through playing and experimentation, because they’re not afraid of what anyone else thinks. If they screw up, no biggie. Tomorrow’s another day with a whole world of new things to learn and try.

 

It’s only when we become self aware and start wanting to “fit in” that we stop taking risks and consequently stop opening ourselves up to the opportunity to learn at such a high speed.

 

As artists we should never be afraid to take time to play.

 

Fred

 

Results vs Process

Results are what really matters, but there can be so many unknown factors on the road to achieving results that we invent processes to take some of the unknowns out of the equation and improve efficiency.

Then we get tied in to the process and eventually how we do it becomes more important than why we’re doing it. The process has become more important than the result.

Keep questioning the process. If anyone tells you it can’t be changed that’s probably a good indication that it needs to.

Fred

 

Judgement

By far the biggest challenge for me in creating and launching Dynamic Anatomy has been fear of judgement. I wholeheartedly believe that what I’m trying to do will be of huge value and will shape the future of our industry. However, I’m also very aware, perhaps too aware, that people don’t like change.

The closer I got to launch, the more I found myself procrastinating, delaying, binge watching Netflix. Anything to avoid putting my ideas out there where they could be criticized.

If you also suffer from fear of judgement, know that it is a good thing. It’s a defense mechanism which is there to protect you, and it keeps your standards high. It can also cripple you if you let it.

If you’re reading this then you know I pushed through that discomfort, and I know you can too.

Fred

 

Spaceships, Robots and Unrealistically-Proportioned Women.

 

I was a student around the time that 3D World magazine launched. As they still do today, they invited 3D artists to submit their artwork. There were 3 common themes to the pieces they printed, all so cliched that the idealist in me swore that I would never be involved in creating any of those 3 subjects. Spaceships, robots and unrealistically-proportioned women.

 

Of course, my first job after graduating involved creating and animating spaceships for a theme park motion ride. My first film job was on Tomb Raider II, in which I had to create and animate an unrealistically proportioned digi-double of Angelina Jolie. And one of the toughest challenges of my career was creating the animation rig for Chappie, a robot with so many moving parts and mechanical restrictions, but which had to behave and interact just like a simple human rig.

 

Sometimes artists need to compromise on their ideals to pay the rent. Sometimes artists need to compromise on their ideals in order to get a break that leads them on to better options in the future. And sometimes tastes change, especially when an idealist wakes up and realises that some things are popular for good reason. When done well, spaceships and robots are awesome!

 

Models of unrealistically-proportioned women though? Still not cool.

 

Fred

 

Peril

If the hero in our story has super human powers and can pull off crazy stunts without a single scratch or bruise, then where’s the sense of peril? Without danger, if our hero doesn’t have skin in the game and serious consequences at stake then there’s no incentive for the audience to be emotionally invested in the action.

The best stories take us on emotional roller-coasters, experiencing our protagonist’s highs and lows, fear and joy. Over the top action set-pieces may seem cool, but push it too far and you’ll deny the audience the full roller-coasters experience because there can be no fear when there’s no possibility of loss. So many Hollywood blockbusters are full of incredible action sequences that took hundreds of talented artists many thousands of hours, but leave the audience feeling… “meh”.

Fred

 

The Herd

 

“Almost everything important is at first opposed by stakeholders in the status quo.” Steve Blank.

 

Human beings are tribal. We may have cars and iPhones, but evolutionarily we’re barely evolved from cavemen. We’re herd animals. We like to fit in and know our place, it gives us a feeling of security and safety.

 

We also have a strong sense of individuality. Especially for those with strong creative instincts. That creates quite an internal contradiction.

 

Doing things differently can appeal to our creativity but also trigger fear and insecurity. Innovation comes from leaving the herd, feeling that fear, and pushing ahead anyway. If you’re on your own, that’s individuality. If the herd likes what you’re doing and chooses to follow you, that’s leadership.

 

There will always be critics and trolls, who shout whenever they see any violation of accepted norms. Because they fear change, they fear being left behind if the herd moves on without them.

 

Dynamic Anatomy is here to be different. To challenge artificial boundaries that hold artists back from achieving their true potential, and to encourage those brave enough to do the same. That doesn’t happen by staying with the herd.

 

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage.

 

Fred

 

Destruction

 

Shiva is a Hindu God associated with destruction and is represented as dancing so fast he creates a circle of flame around him that can destroy the world. He is one of the most widely revered and most powerful of all the Hindu gods.

 

Why worship destruction? Because it’s a natural part of the cycle of creation just as death is an inevitable part of life.

 

Sometimes destruction as part of the creative process is helpful. Sometimes it is entirely necessary. Sometimes it’s only by letting go of the things we’ve achieved in the past that we can achieve even more in the future.

 

Fred

 

CGI

I hate the term “CGI”. Computer Generated Imagery. I believe it’s one of the reasons why the artistry in our industry is undervalued, because the hard work, vision, and years of skill development required to do what we do gets credited to mindless machines.

Nobody would call a Picasso piece a “Brush Generated Image”. It’s a painting. A brush may have been used but we don’t credit that brush with creating the art. Photography literally means “drawing with light”. That’s a subtle but important difference from calling it a “light generated drawing”. If we credit the light with making the creative and technical decisions involved, then who would value the photographer?

When we dehumanize an action or a person it becomes a commodity, and commodities by their nature are replaceable and can easily be dismissed or destroyed without consequence. Semantics are important. If the language we use doesn’t reflect the human work involved then it is unlikely that employers, clients and consumers will.

Fred