Saturday, February 16, 2008

Production Maw Compression

Last week I got to talking with a long-time teevee animation vet about how the production pipeline tends to compress everything toward "the middle."

I noticed this years ago when I worked in game. I notice it now.

Like, if you have a script that's way worse than the normal half-hour in the 39 episode order, by the time the script is boarded, designed, sent overseas and returned in color to post, the finished product is closer to the average.

That's because everybody along the way (assuming they're hard-working professionals who care, and for our purposes we do) is striving to the utmost to create a silk purse no matter what the condition of the piggy's ear.

Board artists work hard to make the incoherent have a beginning, middle and end. To punch up gags. To restructure where necessary (and where they're allowed to).

Designers do their usual professional jobs. As will b.g. artists, checkers, everybody else.

And film editors will struggle to the max pulling the whole enterprise together. Like always.

In the other direction, a script that's better than the usual specimen will get the board artist saying: "Heey. This one works! I don't have to spend an extra twenty hours beating my head against a wall!"

And (s)he will spend less time and effort reworking and polishing because there will be less need to. So the resulting board will be as good ... but likely no better ... than the original script.

And the designers, b.g. artist, checkers and editors will do their usual sterling work. The animation crew overseas will put the characters through their paces in the regular way. (Another day, another Yuan.)

So the final result will be that the "good" script gets closer to the average because nobody is forced to work extra hard to make it shine, and the "bad" script will rise to the mean because it will be improved by each set of hands through which it passes.

Am I neglecting anything?


Anonymous said...

In studios where schedules and budgets are ultra-tight, which today describes nearly all TV animation production, this theory holds water.

hoopcooper said...


There's one thing I'd add...I've been on shows where everyone was doing their utmost, and in the end, the lack of a CLEAR SINGLE ARTISTIC VISION meant the show ended up being a confused muddle of gags, chatter, music and noise.

Whether it's an artist, a writer or even a studio head, there needs to be a conductor making sure this symphony sounds as good as it can sound. Like Walt Disney, he doesn't even have to be a guy who can draw, just a guy who can see what's supposed to be on the screen and hear how it's supposed to sound.

Back on my first show, we had some of the best directors in the world (literally) and the best board artists and bg guys, the best music director and voice director. But we had no clear vision, so everyone did his very best work, with no concern for the show itself.

There are moments when the best gag is no gag. The best music is no music. The best dialog is no dialog.

Steve Hulett said...

Yup. Musicians are requisite, but so is a conductor.

hoopcooper said...

and in the "best case" scenario it's not a 25 year old development exec.

Anonymous said...

let the filmmaker, director or creator create and draw and lead and let the chips fall where they may, notes, re-writes, and ratings be damned. there's no such thing as middle - just uniqueness and originality, and depth and impact of the work.

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