• Casual Notes

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The Work

In a lecture I gave at Sheridan College, I said I rarely watch the shows I’ve worked on. In a comment I recently read, this is described as a sad thing and some how harmful to my creative soul. I respectfully disagree.

It is not that I don’t think the shows are good or bad. I’m proud-in the main- of what I’ve worked on. I have favourites- mostly because of the people involved- and I’ve quit shows because I didn’t like the work. I leave the judgement of attention to the audience who they are intended for rather than the animation community or the critics.  It’s just that the final product is usually too removed from my contribution.

After I get through with my part of the process, I’m done. I’ve invested as much of my knowledge and skill into that board as I can. I always try to solve the problem as it is delivered to me. The resultant show, because of the process,  is usually  taken far away from what I had planned/designed/boarded. And it should. There are too many people up and down the line who’s opinions are more to the point than my narrow focus.

Contrary to what most board guys believe, I’m not a genius. I’m not the audience for this work. My job is to take what professionals I respect give me to do a board as well as I can. I then leave the rest to the other professionals involved to do their bit to improve the piece for the intended audience.

I liken it to a poster designer. Once the poster art is done, the art is printed, pasted up where it  fades, tatters, and finally is ripped down, trod upon and trashed. The effort and the original intention is not changed but the process of display changes. The designer may not be a fan of what the poster is selling but he does his part as best he can to sell the product.

As a board artist-in the television aspect of the industry- you are provided with a script that has been vetted by numerous broadcasters, license holders, production executives, producers, story editors, et all. You are presented with a (mostly) fully recorded track. You are assigned what the characters look like. You discuss with the director how he sees the story should play out. Recently, you are told what equipment and software are required.

Then you do the board.

After that, the director corrects the board to bring it into what he needs-hopefully these are to a minimum if you’ve done your job. An animatic is created with the director and an editor. Revisions are inevitably introduced by the director, story board revisionists, producers, production executives, broadcasters, funding agencies, etc. The episode is animated -here( in-house or sub contracted) or over there. It is coloured -again here or over there-then post produced-usually here.  More revision ensues. Music and effects is added. Now, it’s colour corrected for broadcast. (Maybe that night scene you planned in blues is not reading and is switched to greys? And then switched back.) Then it is delivered to multiple broadcasters. And probably language dubbed so the lip sync off and video dubbed that degrades the image. Then it is broadcast. It is watched on 62′ plasma sets HDMI’d to digital 1080P widescreen in darkened rooms and on 13″ rabbit eared, cropped, analog  black and white on a stand to 30 Grade 2’s in a brightly lit classroom.

How do you think a board survives through this process?

All animation artists must wrestle with this truth to purpose. It is my opinion that animation is especially vulnerable to this ” process creep”  because it takes so many of us to produce the work. I don’t know it from personal experience, I suspect feature production boards are more taxing on the board artists because the stakes are higher.

You can complain, whine and fight this process or you can do the job you are hired for. If you don’t like the designs, you respectfully resign. If you don’t like the script or the track, the same. If you don’t like the director, you should really quit. Your job is to get the board done to further through the process. If you don’t like this process, you should work to change it, create your own property, or move on. Save your soul, but don’t take the money and bitch about the process.


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