Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How Many Retakes?

Framestore's Andrew Schlussel, Oz Gani and Ross Burgess
How many re-takes does it take to make a shot perfect? Or, put another way, how many times might an animator have to re-do a shot until it gets approved?

The answer depends on what kind of project you are working on.

The bigger the budget, the higher quality the animation, and the more the studio will tend to expect perfection - or near-perfection - from the animation team.

The problem with TV
On a fast-paced TV show, such as the kind of work that Jellyfish animation or Blue Zoo specialise in, animators might have to produce 25-30 seconds of animation per week. At this level of speed you don't really get re-takes at all; there just isn't the budget. The shot has to look good first time around, and then it's on to the next one.

Feature films
Framestore - lots of re-takes
But at a studio like Framestore, which specialises in animation and visual effects for blockbuster movies that have to be even more impressive than last week's blockbuster movie, there is huge pressure to make every shot perfect.

Reviewing student work at Escape Studios a few days ago, Framestore Head of Animation Ross Burgess explained that on a feature film, an animator might have to do "70 to 100 iterations of the same shot".

70-100 iterations of a shot is a lot. And this can be a real shock to junior animators, and also quite demoralising. It's very easy, even natural, for a junior animator to think "If I have to do the shot this many times, I must be no good at my job".  But it's important not to fall into this trap.  Having to do re-takes doesn't mean you're not a good animator; it's just the nature of the business.

So, if you're lucky enough to land a position as a junior animator at Framestore, or MPC, or DreamWorks, or Disney, or any other studio that animates at a very high level, don't be surprised by the number of times you might have to tweak a shot. Equally, try not to be discouraged. It's all just part of the process.

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