The Art and Science of Animation

Posted by on Oct 24, 2008 in Feature Articles | No Comments
Executive Director of Center for Communications, Michael Travers, Production Manager, Blue Sky Studios

From L to R: Peter Voci: Moderator and Department Chair, NYIT Department of Fine Arts, Dominie Mahl, Curator of Art and Design, Curious Pictures, Michael Feder, Partner, Hornet, Inc., Goran Ognjanovic, Lead Animator, Rhino FX, Catherine Williams: Executive Director of Center for Communications, Michael Travers, Production Manager, Blue Sky Studios

The Art and Science of Animation

Presented by the Center for Communication
Hosted by NYIT; New York Institute of Technology

Article by Andrew D Nicoletta

For those who don’t know, the Center for Communication is an independent media forum. Who have been presenting various career seminars throughout New York City for all fields of the media industry from film to television to radio to advertising and many other forums of media. They help provide a way for students and professors to meet with outstanding speakers and get informed with latest news in the industry.

The Art and Science of Animation hosted at NYIT on October 16, 2008, was a career seminar primarily focused on a discussion about the latest developments going on in our industry. The night started out with a small reception just outside the meeting room as students, teachers, and the panelists themselves gathered for the event. Our moderator Peter Voci, Department Chair of NYIT’s Fine Arts, started the event by having each of the panelist introduce themselves.

On the panel for the night’s event was Dominie Mahl, Curator of Art and Design at Curios Pictures, Goran Ognjanovic, Lead Animator at Rhino Fx, Michael Feder, Partner at Hornet Inc., and lastly Michael Travers, Production Manager at Blue Sky Studios. We watched and listened as each panelist presented themselves, briefly spoke about the studios that they work at and showed presentations of the studio’s work.

First on our panel was Dominie Mahl who show as various of projects and work that Curious Pictures has worked on. Over the years Curious Pictures has worked on a multitude of work using mostly every kind of animation media and with different styles and designs. Dominie went on to talk about how the studio has grown over the years starting out with just stop-motion animation and venturing onward to cel-animation, to 3D, to green-screen, live-action, motion-capture, and now to game development. They’ve done all kinds of work such as commercials, TV, film, and even toy design. Dominie also talked about how Curious Pictures looks for artist who do more then just animation as they incorporate a lot of different methods, styles, and designs in their work.

Next on the Panel Goran Ognjanovic showed us the different commercial work that Rhino FX has done. Primarily in 3D and visual effects, the reel demonstrated various commercial work in their different levels of production. The reel even pulled apart a few of the commercials to show how they went about adding their visual effects, or animation. Aside from their commercial work, Rhino FX has done visual effects for major feature films like Perfect Stranger, Nanny Diaries, and newly filmed Ghost Town.

Third on the panel was Michael Feder who demonstrated various work from Hornet Inc. which consisted of mostly short films that were done for different clients in commercials, music videos, and gaming. Like Curious Pictures, Hornet Inc. does a multitude of work ranging from live action to animation using many methods and styles from stop-motion to 3D. Michael went to talk about how the Hornet Inc. was more a director driven studio, with each director adding his/her design to their projects.

Our final panelist for the night was Michael Travers who briefly mentioned his own background before moving on to Blue Sky Studios. Interestedly enough Michael Travers started his career as a mechanical engineer working at a nuclear power plant. After a career change Michael went on to doing visual effects for feature films like Godzilla, Star Troops, and Stewart Little. Michael went on to giving advice to job seekers, explaining the different kinds of jobs and job levels that can be found at the Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky Studios even has entry level jobs in different areas of animation called TA positions in which someone with not a lot of experience can apply for. He also explained some of the does and don’ts of demo reels.

The night went on with the panel discussing the various topics and questions that both the moderator and the audience had. With each question given the panelist each gave good advice on the topics that were at hand.

One of the topics that came up was what advice the panelist had for students still in school and for those who have graduated looking for work. While they all insisted that getting involved in internships while still in school was important they each had something different to add. Dominie insisted that aside with internships, getting involved in the animation community is a good way to network and meet new people. Goran mentioned that aside with a making a good reel, it would be a good idea to gather together with friends and start your own independent projects. Michael Feder added along those lines that just making your films is just as great. A studio like Hornet Inc. they would rather see your own work and films opposed to a reel filled with a montage of clips of work done for others. Michael Travers explained how you should always try your best, find your speciality in animation and branch out from there. Also to be prepared to go anywhere, you may have to move in order to get your job.

Another topic that came up during the event was with 3D animation taking up most of the industry, what trends do the panelist think would come up in the future. Most of the panel agreed that doing just 3D animation flat out as it is now is starting to wear out. Michael Feder and Dominie Mahl both insisted that mix-media was something that would be more appealing for the current future. Even to mix up 3D animation with other forms such as stop-motion, 2D, live-action, or any other kind of animation would make the art form more interesting. 3D, or CGI itself is changing. As Michael Travers explained, as they continue to grow they will explore new styles and new methods to work with the 3D medium.

There were lots of other topics discussed at the seminar. Like the kinds of software that the studios are using, which a lot of them seem to be using After Effects for compositing and other 2D animation related work. There was also a topic on what the studios look for in people when hiring. Dominie stated that a studio like Curious Pictures would look for artists who are more well rounded. As they can use people who are able to help out in more then one area. While on the other hand Michael Travers from Blue Sky Studios mentioned that they prefer artist who can specialize in certain areas. Like a storyboard artist that just does storyboards, animators who do just animation, etc. But that doesn’t mean if you chose a certain area like animation, or rigging your stuck for life. There have been artists who started out in one area and had moved on to working in other areas. For example a modeler moving on to doing animation, or rigging. The bigger studios need people who specialize in certain areas so that each department has to worry about their own area of work.

Overall the evening turned out to be very informative. The panelist each did a great job of putting their presentations together and having a great discussion with the topics of the night.

Center for Communication plans on doing more seminars throughout New York City keeping students and professors informed of what’s going not just in animation, but also in the other areas of the media industry.