Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Great Circle of Television Development

Here's the way t.v. animation development happens*:

1) Scripts for a cartoon series are written and handed off to in-house board artists.

2) Boards come back. New animation exec says: "These things are too costly. ... I know! Let's freelance them out!"

3) Boards are freelanced out. Come back. General reaction is "These things look like shit!" (Of course they do. The freelancers are doing the boards quick and dirty so they can make enough money to maintain their "going rates.")

4) An exec says: "Let's hire some in-house board revisionists to clean up these shitty boards." So revisionists are brought on staff to improve the shitty boards.

5) Another exec suggests bringing board artists in the studio "to improve quality." Management agrees this is a fine idea and so hires in-house board artists.

6) The consensus soon is: "Heey. The production boards are improved!" A little time goes by and a new executive says: ""These things cost too much!" ...

Rinse and repeat.

* With the spread of the ubiquitous Cintiq, this pattern is changing. Now in-house production board artists are starting to build and time their own digital animatic story reels (along with partially animating them.)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually what really often happens is that the A+ storyboard artists are usually already working (since there is so much work in TV right now) and the artists that are available to bring on staff are further down the talent scale - usually way down. So to get some of the A and B artists it's better to freelance the boards so that you stand a chance of not having the directors completely rework the boards themselves with the help of revisionists (who, despite your implication, tend not to be able to currently board all on their own without the help of a director).
Is this the best way to work or a perfect system? No, but what is? You still find many of the A boarders aren't what they're cracked up to be even though they work in-house somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you forgot the first, most important step where the script is chucked.

Cracked up 2 B said...

I feel so sorry for poster # 1, plagued by the mediocrity around him, constantly disappointed by inferior board artists who aren't what they're "cracked up to be." Then there is the "revelation" that revisionists work with directors. Well, duh, that's the job description.

Perhaps, some day, I will have the privilege of working for this discriminating master craftsman and he will deign to pay me a compliment and make my year.

Back to topic: "Too expensive." I perceive in the industry a general sense of entitlement among the producers. They seem to consider the economy and high unemployment figures as kind of missed opportunity to take advantage of desperate workers and score labor "bargains." And, it doesn't seem to matter how successful their films or shows are. It's almost as if it were a matter of principle.

They are "stuck" with union minimums so they try to compensate by cutting staff, production schedules and job categories. Because they are deliberately short staffed, they are forced to free lance work that would be done in house if they were fully staffed.

Steve Hulett said...

Actually what really often happens is ...

Conditions vary from studio to studio, but watching this for a few decades now, this is the routine I've watched again and again.

But, like I say, Cintiqs add a whole new element to the long-standing mix. Technology drives the biz (like it so often does.)

Anonymous said...

But Steve, doesn't that cut both ways? If it has to be done on a Cintiq,it has to be done in house. How many freelancers have Cintiqs at home? It's simple: If a studio is sending something out, then, by definition, they are understaffed.

Bob Harper said...

You'd be surprised how many guys have cintiqs now,or tablet PCs with preseure pens, but you don't need a cintiq to do digital boards. Wacom tablets work fine and are way cheaper.

Anonymous said...

As soon as management and the union sit down to quantify exactly what 'funny' is and the rate that need be applied, then all will be hunky-dory in tv land. Until then, the usual workload chaos reigns.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I think you took the point a little bit too literally.

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