Well this is one the section which I was thinking since quiet sometime, but didn't really get to make it happen for some reason or another. Well all that is past and its finally happened !
Just to give a brief about it, here I will be showcasing Short Films from my schoolmates at Animation Mentor(AM) and then follow it up with a very interesting conversation on their Short Films, Animation or just life in general !
It feels so good to start this section with a very dear friend of mine Prashanth Cavale, whom I met at AM. He was one batch senior to me but that was hardly a deterrent for starting a long lasting friendship as the only thing that matters is the passion we share about Animation.
So without much further ado, lets get this thing started.
Wrong Answer!! from Prashanth Cavale on Vimeo.
Anirudh Bhalotia (@b) - Hello Prashanth, thanks for your time and getting this conversation started. Tell us a bit of yourself, like how do get into animation, how did you hear about Animation Mentor and what you been doing/working on currently?
Prashanth Cavale (PC) - Hey Anirudh!..My pleasure man!
I come from an Engineering background and I found my way rather late. The final year project while pursuing Mechanical Engineering got me interested onto Computer Graphics and my mind was drawn more towards animation. The interest got stronger on watching animated movies like Lion King, Ice Age, Shrek, Toy Story and it compelled me to take up animation seriously.
During 2007, I was on the lookout of joining a school/Uni to study animation when I came across the show reel of AnimationMentor.com and my search ended there. The very next batch/term I enrolled for the program and the 18 months I spent during the program were the most memorable and satisfying learning experience I’ve had so far!
Having graduated out of AM last December, I got to animate on the Ice Age 3 game which will be released along with the movie later this year. I’m now in the process of supervising the animation of a CG short film at my current workplace and it’s a lot of fun!
@b - Congrats for your short film – Wrong Answer. It has come out very nicely. How much time did it take for you to get this done right from getting the story and to the stage shown above?
PC - Thanks! I had loads of fun working on it! The film was done as a part of the curriculum at AM so it took me around 3 months to conceptualize, plan and come up with an animatic.and a little more than 3 months to animate and reach the stage I have at the moment.
@b - As someone who is into the process of making his own short, I had quite a tough time brainstorming ideas and then finally get onto some idea which can be used for story telling in an interesting way. What was your process for getting the basic story outline nailed down? Or rather from where did you get this idea from, was it your own experience or remembering someone else’s or something like that? What advice in this context would you like to give to aspiring animators who would like to get started with their own short films at some point of time?
PC - I had a tough time too as it was my first attempt at making a short film. The original idea was inspired by a real life incident that happened (not to me!!: P) while I was in high school. But when I pitched it to my mentor (Mike Gasaway), he felt that a lot about it could be simplified into a more generally consumable form. It was about taking that special moment from the original idea, trying to centralize things around it and adding value to it through animation.
Once I got a hang of his insights, I went ahead and changed/modified bits of my short film and tried to make the plot more entertaining which I couldn't have if I had blindly followed my original idea. These were some of the things I took care of while finalizing the story. And I guess these insights would be of some help to animators who want to create their own short film.
@b - What was the biggest challenge you came across during making this short film and how did you overcome it? Were there some problems which kept cropping up time and again during the pursuit of getting your short done?
PC - The biggest challenge to me was timing the storyline and adding a rhythm to it. I learnt that it’s important to get a texture in your story structure so that there are a few "not so funny" moments that actually contribute to magnifying the funny moments in your short. These were hard to plan and I watched out for these ingredients in movies and cartoons and even in comics on how the story is paced and how to have different beats and have it flow. I’m not sure how successful I was at implementing them, but they helped me to a great extent.
Apart from this, there were lots of hurdles during the animation process. My short had around 24 shots and initially it looked like an impossible task...so obviously getting things done without delays was a big challenge but I’m a kind of guy who believes that unless your mind is in a challenged state there is no motivation. So it ended up being one fun filled ride for me and my mentor loved it equally.
@b - How important was the pre-production process on getting your short done and looking back what is that one thing which you wished you had done more of ?
PC - To me, preproduction is very crucial stage as you would be defining the path your short would be taking. It’s the phase where you ensure the workability factor before getting into 3D. In putting my ideas on paper I parallel had to think about the camera framing, character placements and hook-ups. In my case I had 3 characters of which 2 students were facing the teacher so I had to be that much more careful about the camera angles and establishing the placements of characters. I found that working out these things on paper was a lot helpful which otherwise would have been time consuming had I tried it out in 3D.
Looking back, I wish I had spent more time detailing out the character traits that would have helped me to push the performance even more.
@b - Different animators have their own ways of reference and planning. Some prefer doing a lot of thumbnailing, some just can’t get by without doing video reference or some do a bit of both. What’s your way of reference, something to keep you in check and avoid taking a detour from the main essence of the shot/scene you working on?
PC - I do a bit of both but it ideally depends on the shot you are working on. Filming a reference of yourself enacting the shot out is a starting point usually; I would do a few different takes of the shot just to explore the acting choices. Then it’s about deciding what to take and what to leave. I explore these during the thumbnailing where I try to exaggerate the interesting bits and poses in my video reference and and finalize on a sequence of poses that serve the shot best. I keep putting these thumbnails on the timeline to ensure that the shot I’m working on plays well with respect to the whole short
@b - For any beginner in animation, there is always the temptation of making an epic right from your first independent short. What’s the ideal duration a first time should strive for so that he doesn’t eat more than he can chew and also enjoy the entire process of actually seeing the short from story to screen?
PC - Yeah I can totally relate to that temptation but I feel that as a beginner one needs to try out simpler and shorter ideas to get a hold of the process and analyze the area one needs to improve. Its preferred that we work on our weak points before attempting things on a bigger scale...So, for a beginner, I would recommend keeping the short film anywhere under a minute.
@b - What keeps you inspired as an artist as I am sure there would be times when no matter what you do or how work you hard, things just don’t go your way. What keeps you inspired and motivated and are there any other creative endeavors you pursue to keep your creative juices flowing and keep things in perspective? As I understand it’s very important to take a break often rather than struggling with something for extended period of time and not getting anywhere. Your thoughts on this?
PC - True. I have faced such situations. I remember while animating on Wrong Answer, there was a particular shot that had a very simple hand gesture that I struggled with. It was a very simple move to animate, but I worked for over 3 hours and was still not happy with the way it was...I took a break from it and made a conscious attempt not to think of the shot and that helped me fix it when I sat on it next. But there are times when I zipped through challenging portions in my short and I kept wondering how it happened. It’s funny sometimes!!
I think it’s very necessary to take frequent breaks while animating and unwind so that you have a fresh pair of eyes every time you get back. I also feel that it is important to have a parallel creative activity which you can fall back upon when stressed up. I usually play the keyboard while I’m on a break.
@b - What’s the best advice you ever got and something which you want to pass on to your fellow animators?
PC - Most of our mentors say: "Don’t get too obsessed with your shot or a portion of your shot as you sometimes might have to fore go that bit to facilitate the other bits falling into place to solve the jigsaw puzzle." That I think is a golden piece of advice to any animator.
@b - On a concluding note, any words to students who are waiting to get their first job in the industry?
PC - I think we need to focus on making strong original reels that display proper weight, timing and acting choices.
Working in the industry may or may not be as rosy as we might have thought but one needs to be open and ready to adapt to the situation. Keep working hard and most importantly.. have fun! :)