Deadlines For Production Animators
The dreaded “D” word…just the word deadline can sound really daunting if you’ve never worked with them – as in, if you don’t cross the finish line in time, your dead – or fired!
Well not exactly.
As a series animator working in production, I suppose that would be true if you were consistently delivering your scenes/shots late and at a poor quality.
When a studio hires you as an animator, especially if your a junior (new animator in the industry), the supervisor (or whoever is splitting up the scenes/shots into animator assignments) will usually do some juggling and allow some extra time to complete your first assignment.
People usually need time to get used to the character rigs or setups and studio operations, especially the production management tool(s), studio environment, and of course where to grab a coffee :)
Deadlines Can Help You!
The biggest change in your animation skills comes as soon as you start doing it professionally. You’re suddenly given a set amount of frames that has to be done in a set amount of time, and…it has to be production quality. No pressure.
This big change in your animation skills is your speed. Deadlines teach you to animate quickly and concisely. You have no choice but to find a solution to each shot, quickly and at a reasonably high level of quality. You can’t submit crap to your Lead or Supervisor – they’ll just send it right back and you risk not being around for the next project.
It doesn’t usually take long for most people,(after spending some late nights at the beginning). Animators who can animate quickly and at a high quality are a valuable asset to any studio.
Pacing and Quality
Deadlines and learning to build up your speed for production while maintaining a high level of quality will be your first and biggest learning curve. Some echoing advise of many fine animators is to “panic early”. This just means that you can’t procrastinate in animation production.
A big part of managing your deadlines is pacing your work. I like to divide the number of frames I’ve been given by the number of days I have to do it. That number gives me the amount of frames I need to complete each day, and that’s a great way to manage yourself. For example, if your assignment adds up to 3500 frames and you have 5 weeks to do it you will have to complete 140 frames per day.
3500 frames divided by 25 working days = 140 per day
Oh, and you thought you wouldn’t have to deal with math? Well, there’s some.
This way you can plan out your own daily assignment, knowing how many frames you need to complete per day will help you to stay on track with your deadline and maintain a higher level of quality in your work because your not rushing through.
Deadlines almost force you into learning to become a pace animator – a production animator.
The result is that you learn other skills such as gaining the ability to plan a scene quickly and stay organized. Deadlines will teach you to develop personal workflow techniques that will allow you to finish assignments on time.