It is fascinating seeing so many different workflows in animation production. There’s so many ways to do the same thing. Some better than others, but when you really get down to it many have very good reasons for being different.
I’ve worked in a lot of different studio environments, and created a lot of films myself. So I’ve got a pretty decent perspective on what works. But each time I work somewhere new I try to keep an open mind about what I might be able to learn there. These days, more often that not, I find I already know ways to do things that are better… sometimes I’ve regretted not stating my case. Sometimes I have been around long enough to incorporate my ideas, but there are some things that there is so much resistance to changing that even years later I’ve not succeeded in getting them changed.
The last film I directed, Devils Angels & Dating, ended up establishing a fantastic workflow that a good number of artists carried on using in other studios. I even found myself working at studios and seeing my tricks in action… whether I came up with them or not, it was validating to see that we’d developed the same optimum solutions.
For The Wrong Rock I am using Artella which has some differences to my past workflow. Some of these changes are techniques I’ve seen in some of the largest and most successful studios in the world, so I kept an open mind. I’ve built on top of this with similar techniques. But you have to always question things, and I can already see some things that aren’t optimal. We can change some of them… but getting a team to work in one workflow can be hard enough without changing the workflow half way through.
The other side of the workflow issue is the way that the artists work. I want to honor their workflows… but it can be hard. You have to find a way for everyone to work together efficiently, so I do make a lot of recommendations and I make tutorial videos in the hope that they’ll use techniques I’ve found effective. Some people are very receptive and want to learn how an ‘industry professional’ does it. Some just want to do it their own way. Here’s where my own challenge lies, in giving them the room to surprise me or hang themselves. You can’t always tell which way it’s going to go. I hate it when I see myself imposing my way on someone and pushing too hard… It can be hard to judge someone’s reaction to that pressure online and I am never really surprised if someone gets tired of that and leaves the project. So I also try to see those moments when the differences are not important enough to make that artist uncomfortable, when it’s better to be supportive and let them stay passionate about what they’re doing. Maintaining their passion is far more important in most cases. Of course this can lead to me having to bend over backwards to all kinds of different workflows that stress me out. It can also be a problem when you ultimately have to hand the shot off to someone else further down the pipeline (more on that in another blog post).
So workflow can be a tricky issue, do a good job communicating early on and you might save a lot of issues but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in favor of maintaining momentum.