Sunday, 24 August 2014

Animation Apprentice Student Becomes Freelance Animator at Nano Films

Pete Nicholson is a student at Animation Apprentice who has been working on live briefs for commercial clients, doing short films under the banner of our mini film co-operative Nano Films. Last year he worked on Rocketseed, a short film for a global email marketing company, and is now working on The Float Folks, an intro/teaser for a brand new TV series for children. We asked Pete to talk about what it was like starting off as a freelance animator.

Rocketseed Email Media
AA: What has been your experience of working on live projects at Animation Apprentice?

Pete: Good fun and hard work.  It's helped me become more confident as an animator.  I think everyone gets nervous when they're first showing their work to other people and it's important to get over any insecurities you might have. The feedback is essential.

AA: What have you learned along the way?
Pete: That animation takes longer than you think.  As a newbie, I still am surprised that I can work hard on my laptop for several hours and literally only have a few seconds of animation to show for it.
Also, you need to work hard.  Deadlines tend to sneak up on you so it's best to aim to be done well before the deadline, or you'll end up do what I did: staying up until 3am just to get your work finished.

Pete's first project at Nano Films

AA: What have been the biggest challenges? 

Pete: I was working five days a week in my day job in the beginning, so a big challenge was finding the energy after 9 hours at work to animate.  Now I'm a part-timer at work so it's much easier.
Also, you can find yourself at war with the animation software.  It seems to do what you ask in a very pedantic way, and you have to persist with it until the shot looks exactly the way you want.

Adobe Flash

AA: How hard was it to learn Flash, and how different is it to working in Maya?

Pete: It wasn't too difficult to learn Flash. If you're new to the program, get your head round the drawing tools and timeline first, then move onto symbols, filters, masks and motion Tweens.

Flash is very different from Maya. Key frames work differently and you have to do most of the in-betweens yourself: the program doesn't do it for you. In Maya you can pose a character out, spline the curves and go from there.

Because Flash uses 2D artwork, you can't draw a character in one pose on frame 1, and in another pose on frame 10 and expect the software to work out what to do on frames 2-9. So, technically speaking it's very different.

However, the skills you learn animating in Maya are highly transferable. A solid example would be animating a walk. After learning all about walks in Maya, and learning how Flash worked, animating a walk in Flash was simple.

The best thing to do if you're unsure is download a free trial and get stuck in.

Facebook - our virtual studio
AA: Is there anything we can do to make the process work better?

Pete: To be honest, everything runs very smoothly.  Using Facebook and DropBox makes things pretty seamless.  However, I often feel like I don't know who the client is exactly, and I still feel a bit clueless when it comes to other aspects of production - like actually finding the clients, pitching a project or designing characters.  I know as an animator I would ideally not have to worry about these things, but as someone who is starting out as a freelancer, those are areas I feel like I severely lack knowledge of.

To sign up for our September classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link. For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. Also see our post about freelancers and taxes 

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