One of the highlights at last week’s CTN-X conference in Burbank was listening to a conversation about surviving the animation studio environment given by Bobby Beck of Animation Mentor and DreamWorks character animator Mike Stern. In fact, Stern admitted that he’s gained a new perspective between How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
“Living in a Studio World: The Survivor’s Guide” began with a discussion about shot casting: Experience, skill set, personal style, speed, and momentum are just as important as trust.
What makes a good shot? Big story beats, good acting, and a funny moment. However, it’s not always apparent in the storyboard or reel. The iconic shot of Puss in Boots with his sad eyes is a perfect example.
Speed, of course, is important, so show your work early and often and get feedback. Speaking of feedback, adjust your expectations and workflow based on the project and director. Not every director gives freedom to animators, but it’s wise to watch and listen and get a feel for the approval process. Also, address the notes provided and own your shots. What’s the essence of the shot? And don’t get too attached.
Finally, navigate the politics: avoid schmoozer conflicts and stay true to yourself; focus energy at your own pace; and share you knowledge and make friends that will be invaluable to you later on.