The Thesis...& Sticking with it

Spoiler Alert--I finished and graduated in December! But when I went back to re-read some blog drafts I thought this was still a good collection of thoughts on what my thesis experience was like.  I am working on a blog series about working on a large project/film and what I learned from it and how I'd do it differently for the next film (and there will be a next one)

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At the moment all parts of my thesis feel like animation triage.  I'm fighting the urge to abandon the entire project and start something new everyday but unfortunately (or fortunately) they wont let me stay in this program forever.  So I have to find a way to fight, fix and struggle through all of my mistakes from previous semesters.  I hate it!!  But it got me thinking of what we learn when we stick with something even when it's frustrating and choose to finish a hard, imperfect task rather than start over from scratch. 

I want so badly to take everything I know from THIS film and start a new, fresh film with no mistakes.  I feel like I have learned everything I could have learned from this project and now I need to take those skills and try again (and also bury the current film in my pile of unfinished projects).  But that's exactly why I shouldn't stop--the longer I work on this film the more I realize that when I want to stop working on it and 'move on' before its finished its more from fear of making something bad than it is from wanting a new challenge.  In reality every time I think that I have learned everything I could possibly learn from this film, it shows me otherwise and I gain a new understanding of the material and animation as a craft. 

Redoing the scenes no longer feels like spinning my wheels but rather significant changes that drastically improve the film.  But now I'm fighting against my lack of planning--lets be honest. I avoided my planning because it was hard and scary and I really thought I couldn't finish the film.  When I started, I couldn't even imagine the steps I needed to take, it was like someone handed me a child or a house plant (basically the same thing right?) and I had no idea what to do with it, if what I was doing was right, or if it was even worth the effort.  I should have dove right in and failed, over and over and over again (not that I didn't inevitably fail anyway) but I should have failed in my work, rather than the failure to execute it.  If I am ashamed of any portion of this thesis project, it wold be that I failed to take the risk, I took the safe road, I hesitated and waited for approval.  I waited for someone else to tell me that I was an animator, rather than simply animating and letting my volume of work speak for itself.

But that’s exactly why I shouldn’t stop—the longer I work on this film the more I realize that when I want to stop working on it and ‘move on’ before its finished its more from fear of making something bad than it is from wanting a new challenge.
— Me

So I wont quit.  I wont give in to temptation to start over and not have anything to show for years of work.  I'll stick it out and salvage the film from what I have and learn better to avoid those mistakes because I had to spend the time righting them myself.

Here's some things I've learned from sticking it out on this film:

  • I have so much more to learn about authentic acting and overlapping action
  • Breakdowns aren't crazy drawings to make the action 'more interesting' (read: Complicated)--they simply connect an action--SIMPLE!!
  • In my next film I'll do all of the keys for all the scenes before I start inbetweening (and string it back together in After Effects to make sure they link up)
  • I don't like watching my own work--even when I think its okay--timing out my animatic feels like torture
  • pay attention to camera angles and how scenes cut together
  • SLOW DOWN & PLAN--it will actually make things go faster
  • I love the process of animating and I find in-betweening somewhat meditative (even if its not supposed to be like that)
  • I am now starting to see what good action really looks like--and how to get character to start looking like their alive and not just moving

If I had moved on a year ago to a new project, I would have been stuck with stiff and lifeless animation, I think that going back and analyzing the scenes and the animation over and over again forced me to address issues I would have otherwise never addressed.  Being told it 'still doesn't feel right' was what I needed to hear--and taking it back to zero each time, was probably what I needed to do, as frustrating as it is!  I had to analyze my own mistakes and try new approaches to the same work to stop making the same mistakes.

So maybe the next time you think about abandoning a project because you've learned everything you can learn you'll stick it out and see what else is left.

July Recap

I just got back from a wild and crazy moving day with a few friends.  These friends have literally moved me from every apartment I've ever lived in and let me sleep on their couch in the in between times so I returned the favor this time.  It was one of days that reminds me why these are my people--moving was not exactly smooth, some plants and a bookcase didn't make it out alive but it was more fun than it was stress...but mostly it was just hot....and they bought me food and cake afterwards which could have also improved my mood.

My July has felt less productive than I would have liked.  I feel like this one scene is taking me forever (because it is!) but I should be able to finish it before I leave on a mini-vacation at least start the tie down on a second scene--that leaves me about one and a half scenes behind.  However, looking back through my journal notes from the last year I think what tends to happen is my summer months move a little slower in progress (but maybe with more consistent results?) as I am processing my critiques and gearing up mentally and physically for the next semester and then I dive into the semester like a crazy person and try to come out a live!

Here's a recap of July progress on this thesis film -thing...

The good:

  • One scene cleaned up
  • 2nd largest scene tied down with issues addressed
  • all scenes in rough (except the intro that was corrupted on an old HD)
  • One background color corrections completed

The Less good:

  • Scenes are taking longer than I anticipate to tie down (especially when there is a horse)
  • Did not meet pre-vacation goals
  • still trying to shake post-semester burn out
  • A little worried I'm moving through my tie down too fast 
  • Worried about maintaining exercise & a normal-ish bedtime for next semester ....or if I even care...?

I think that my August will go better and I'll actually come back feeling refreshed from my vacation and ready to pour all of my efforts into finishing my thesis and come out at the end one tired but happy heap of an animator and then FINALLY be able to focus on updating and maintaining my website/blog/etc.

 

Inktober 1

Inktober 01 I've decided to participate in Inktober this year, or at least attempt to anyway.  My plan is to make some kind of quick sketch each evening in October and focus on character and storytelling.  For tonight's sketch--I follow several Victorian and Edwardian image blogs on Tumblr and the people often look so solemn but a few photographs showed glimpses of real people and so I tried to capture a 'behind the scenes' version of Victorian photography subjects--no one can be that serious all the time!--I think I could explore this idea more and want to see where it ends up at the end of the month!

For tonight I'm just breaking into it after much animation on the same scenes so I think the idea could use some improvement--but for tonight--this is my Inktober #1 -- enjoy :)

You can find my reference photo here.  (Can we still dress like this?!!??)