Saturday, January 23, 2010

Animation Portfolio Tips

I saw this article yesterday.  "Animation Portfolio Tips".

I won't go into the specifics of the article -there aren't many, anyway.  But will put forward my thoughts on the matter.

As a preamble, know who you're targeting.  Don't waste anyone's time by going to a medical animation company with your stop motion feature.  Sure, there's always a chance they'll need you but there's a greater chance that someone who does stop motion will be hiring.  Resources are limited, spend your energy where it has the best chance of reward.

Personally, I've never had to put together a portfolio, it's not really in line with the work I do.  I have made plenty of sample reels. 

More importantly, I've seen a lot of portfolios and I know what I like.  That's one thing to always keep in mind: everyone you meet will have different preferences.  There's no cookie cutter method for building a portfolio, what you can do is cater yours to showcase your strengths as an artist.

I'm mostly interested in work from 2D/drawn animators, I'm a little out of my element discussing CG work, although people send me their reels all the time.  We'll ignore traditional 3D and focus on the drawn portfolio.

Drawing from live model is the most important element of an animator's portfolio. 

I like to see a few pages of 5 minute drawings, a page or two of 10 minute poses and a few pages of 1 minute drawings.  Each shows a different skill.  The quick drawings are about gesture -seeing where the weight lands.  The 5 minutes start to show draughting skill and expression.  Longer drawings demonstrate dimension, light and shadow and illustrative detail.

A animator's portfolio without life drawing is worthless.

Example: We have a box of portfolios.  I just flipped through a few.  Most were comprised solely of the artist's own designs.  Some were very good.  But the odds of anyone hiring you to animate your own designs are astronomically low.  No one wants you to draw like you -an animation artist needs to draw like somebody else.

That's why it's a good idea -and I never ever see this -to do poses of known characters.  Or better yet, Chas. Addams drawings or Roz Chast or Steven Appleby.  Demonstrate that you can make any style move.

After saying, "don't fill the book with your own designs" I'll say "have a few pages of your own design work".  Not a lot, a few.  This will showcase not only your drawing skill, but who you are as a person.

Now here comes the tricky part of a portfolio: showing animation.

I've had people show me a stack of drawings.  That's a waste -I can't see that in a pencil test. Showing your drawings as an animator is interesting and important.  I would recommend exhibiting them in the manner they were created and no more than 10.  Take a walk for example.  Put your keys in first, followed by the breakdowns, followed by the inbetweens.  Then the clean ups.

If you're a novice -and I've never seen this, although I would love it -take someone else's keys (properly attributed) and show how you inbetweened them.  That would be great.

Things often included that I [generally] don't care about: storyboards, pitch bibles, logo designs, childrens' book samples, photoshop collages.

I don't care about storyboards because there are three dozen artists who I trust to do boards.  You're not getting hired for it.

Things that are tangential that are of interest: paintings, screen grabs from AfterEffects, exposure sheets, letters of reference, list of course work.

I could go on for another few pages, but will stop short here.  In the future, we'll post about sample reel presentation and then maybe another about giving an interview.


Michael Sporn said...

Your comments are sure on the money. I find a bit more value in cg work than you. I watch the timing (although cg timing is very different than 2d). You can't get a lot more out of it, though - at least as far as hiring for 2D.

I have seen, in the past, people draw Mickey Mouse and Scooby Doo. In both cases the people couldn't draw, so I'm not sure how valuable it was.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. A lot of timely tips.

Ian Merch! said...

At a freelance gig I had recently, the boss had become worried about my draftsmanship, and told me that I should attempt to inbetween some of the segments in the end of Preston Blair's animation book. I actually got through blocking out the alligator dance (I think it looks a little floaty ALL on ones, honestly) and it definitely helped me get better. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you're having a hard time thinking of what to animate.

Doug Vitarelli said...

I can't believe I've never heard the suggestion that you should draw other artist's work for your portfolio. It's so obvious and makes such complete sense.

I guess my head's been under a rock for a while now.

roconnor said...

Michael: I see your point on CG work. If someone shows it, I'll get what I can out of it. Typically with student work, the program is controlling the animator. In other words, the artist doesn't have mastery of their tools, many things can be evident though.

Ian: There's nothing wrong with imperfect work, even in your portfolio. Sure, you want everything to look like Milt Kahl but that's going to take time.

Good on you to keep studying.

Doug: I've never seen anybody do it -except when it's been work for hire ("I had to draw the licensing bible for these characters..."). I always see people with pose sheets of their own characters though.

LampshadeMan said...

Great points. Thanks for taking the time to talk about such an important topic. One question though, I was always under the impression that it was a really bad idea to include well known characters in your portfolio. Is this not the case? Do studios mean by this not to draw their characters, but other characters are fair game(properly credited of course) Or do you mean characters that haven't been done before in animation, to show you can make it animatable?

roconnor said...

Everybody's going to be looking for something different.

I've heard "recruiters" talk about what they look for, it's a checklist. For the most part, these folks are more "human resource" types.

From my experience in New York, versatility is the most important trait in an animator. There's no better way to show it than to show what you can do with a character we already know.

The problem comes, like in Michael's example, when your work falls short.