Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Animation: An Industry Going Digital

EDITOR'S NOTE: Congratulations go out today to Pierre who has been promoted at the animation studio he works at. Way to go Pierre! I think the studio made a great decision as people with the passion and knowledge of animation you exemplify on this blog are hard to find! Today's post is a great example!- Jim

Animation: An Industry Going Digital
If you are an aspiring artist hoping to break into comics or animation or pretty much any other art field... I have the most important advice you will ever be given.
Are you ready??
Learn to draw using a graphic tablet.
That was it.
Simple isn't it??

What??? But... but... How can this be?? There are hundreds of artists that still draw on paper.

Well.... I will give it to you.
If you are Alex Ross... odds are that you will still be drawing on paper for quite some time. Although technically... he probably does not draw on paper, but on some sort of illustration board... but you know what I mean. ;)
Sure... there are some established artists that will keep drawing on paper... at least for a while. But unless you are a big name hotshot... you should prepare to be able to work using some more modern tools like a graphic tablet and various programs like Photoshop/Illustrator/etc.

Heck even some of the more established artists are learning to work using some more modern tools (Bolland, Gibbons, Byrne and others I fail to mention).

We are reaching the point where a studio will prefer to use a lesser artist that can use the latest tools and programs, then to use a better artist that can only work the old fasion way.


For starter, there are various financial advantages that comes from using new technologies. There are various tax breaks/subventions that can be had thanks to the use of new technologies.

But also, when using new technologies, there are some expenses that are no longer required. No more need to use Fed-ex to ship your artwork for example. The expenses for supplies (ex; pencil, pen and paper) is cut down dramatically, if not completely.

But also... it is important on a production to have a standard working method for everyone in the production. Otherwise... it can make the job harder for the people who work later in the production.

For example... when making storyboards... working with Sketchbook Pro allows an artist to have various layers for a single drawing making everyone's job easier later in the production. So you can have the BG (background) on one layer, the characters on a second layer, and your Field Guides with notes on a third layer for example. That way... if someone wants to tweak/change one of the characters, he can easily do so without messing up the entire drawing.

Essentially, even if it saves no time to the person actually doing the drawing, it can save some time for everyone else that needs to work on that drawing later on.

So if later... there are 5 people that need to work on that drawing for some reason. If each can save... lets say... 2 minutes of their time by having everything on separate layers....

5 people X 2 minutes = 10 minutes

Multiply that by the amount of such drawings that might need to be tweaked somehow... it can add up very quickly. And in the end.... if traditionally you needed 5 people to do a specific job... you might be able to cut that down to 4... maybe even just 3 people doing the very same job that way. So you essentially need less manpower to do the same job. Or you can shorten the schedule and need those people for less time. Either way... the studio can end up paying less money in manpower for the same job.

So no matter how good someone drawing on paper may be.... we are close to the point where working on paper will no longer be an option - at least, not on a production level. Sure there might be people that will keep on working on paper in their basement... but in general.... drawing on paper is on its way to becoming obsolete.
Original Sketch from Heavy MetalThere is one terrible side effect to this if you ask me...No more original artwork.

I came to realize this as we saw some original artwork from some previous seasons of the Arthur TV show.

Arthur like most TV show at the time had the BG`s done on paper, in the case of Arthur, on some thicker aquarelle paper. And the characters were done on animation cells... essentially... some transparent acetate.

But at some point... cell painting did become a thing of the past.... and the characters were scanned and colored in the computer.

For the Backgrounds (BGs), it took a while longer. It is only for the past two seasons that we found a way to color the BGs digitally on Arthur and keep them looking the same as when the BGs were colored on aquarelle paper.
So for the past 2 seasons of Arthur.... no more original artwork on Arthur.

Sad... but that is how it is.

Yes... this is mostly concerning the animation industry... but the same is happening in comics slowly but surely. Already comics have been colored digitally since the early 90s... and we are seeing more and more comics inked digitally. And heck... some comic artist draw everything digitally now.

In the case of Byrne, he does 3D models of various technical things to draw (car, planes, etc), or various special effects with the computer. And Brian Bolland has been drawing entirely in Photoshop for quite some time. A week after the introduction of the iPad, Jim Lee made a big splash by demoing some original artwork he drew directly on the iPad...

At some point.... original comic artwork will be a thing of the past too.

Although you will be able to get high quality prints, or recreations like what Mike Zeck or Bob Layton have been doing for quite some time.

I guess we will have to wait and see.


Caine said...

Congrats man!

Pierre Villeneuve said...

Thanks Caine.

GACN said...

Pierre, I just realized that I have no idea which animated features you've worked on. Congrats though! :-)


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