Thursday, June 05, 2008

Family Fox

Today was my Fox Animation day, visiting the FA studios on Wilshire.

A couple of things leaped out at me as soon as I walked in. The first was, lots of people now have cintiqs. Board artists started getting them a couple of weeks ago, and the transition from paper is well underway. A board artist told me wistfully:

"I've spent years learning how to use a pencil real well, and now all that goes away and I start on the computer. Nothing wrong with the computer, and I'm sure there's lots of things about it I'll like when I've gotten used to it, but a screen and stylus just isn't the same ...

The second thing is, most everybody's back from their long hiatuses (hiati?). A pair of staffers on American Dad said:

"We were off for like, six months. A lot longer than usual and we were getting ... ah ... uptight."

The writers' strike took its toll. Artists were off four, five, even seven months. A fortunate few didn't have any downtime at all.

"We lucked out. We got the last script written before the writing staff went out the door. With the schedule we had, that carried us right on through ..."

Guess what one of the topics of conversation is now?

"So. What do you hear about the actors' negotiations?"

I said to the people who asked me that I know exactly zip, but I'm hopeful there will be no strike.

Of course, I've got opinions. SAG has less leverage now that AFTRA and the other guilds have made their deals, and currently thrashes around trying to get some leverage back:

The Screen Actors Guild will hold a special session of its executive committee Friday, at which president Alan Rosenberg and national executive director Doug Allen will seek to persuade dual cardholders to oppose ratification of the prime-time TV deal recently agreed to by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the studios and networks.

I'm wagering this ploy won't work, but since I'm not privvy to the inner workings of SAG and AFTRA, what the hell do I know? Enough AFTRA members turn the pact down, we could be in for a royal fustercluck

And if the worst were to happen, the Fox Animation artists (along with everybody else in the movie business) could find themselves on a long stretch of enforced leisure.


Anonymous said...

They're much better off with Cintiqs. Fox TV shows require the artists to be strictly on model at all times, and these will ease the pain of re-drawing some of the more re-used poses, as well as all that separating the American Dad guys do.

The computer has several benefits too. First of all, instead of drawing in a tiny square and aching your wrist, you can blow up the panels and draw in a much larger frame. This will allow the artists to nail the details better and draw with their arms, not with their wrists. Also, if they want to try other methods of staging, they're free to move the characters around the panel until they find a good spot, instead of slapping a post-it on and tracing and re-locating. Things like height relations can be adjusted as well.

However, even with all these perks, the computer doesn't substitute for good drawing ability, strong poses and acting.

Larry Levine said...

What is Fox doing with the old discs? Chromacolour charges almost $500 for a new 12 field disc!!!

Anonymous said...

If anyone doesn't want his Cintiq, he can send it to me.

Larry Levine said...

Anonymous #2, if someone sends you their Cintiq, can I have your disc?

Because the prices for traditional art/animation supplies have become so expensive I did consider switching to a Cintiq until Eric Goldberg advised me to continue drawing/inking my work by hand.

Anonymous said...

I prefer pencil and paper. There's no original pieces of work anymore. It's like you're not actually making anything tangible anymore.

I don't want to stare into a lit screen for 8 hours a day.

I'll hold on on paper boards til the bitter end.

Karen K. said...

I dunno, there are pros and cons to the use of digital media for storyboards and traditional pen and pencil.

Boarding with pencil, I think you think a bit longer about your shots. With digital media, you don't have to be so disciplined about shots because you have that subconscious thought that things can be re-arranged if you don't like them.

I think boarding can be done with a happy half-way point. I tend to work my thumbnails and roughs in pencil or ink on paper, then I scan them in and tighten up digitally. It means that I already know where I want my characters and perspective to be placed, but it allows me the freedom to go ahead and play if I feel it's not working.

It's just a different thought process for each.

Anonymous said...

A Cintiq and Sketchbook Pro is hard to beat. Free flipping between files/"pages", total control over everything from editing to color. Add to that almost instant digital delivery of work anywhere in the country if needed and I think that a board artist is at a competitive disadvantage if he or she isn't digitally capable. Being able to board competently in the first place is another thing altogether regardless of media.

Karen K. said...

I've heard of the wonders of Sketchbook Pro, I've yet to try it out.

I've been drawing with my Intuos for years.

I don't think it would be a difficult switchover for any board artist to go from traditional to digital. Like you said, as long as they're competent, medium shouldn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Sketchbook Pro is fine, but for actual production boarding I'd recommend something like Mirage or Toonboom Storyboard Pro. Does the Union still have classes in digital storyboarding using Mirage ? (I know Rusty Mills was teaching those a few years ago). The Mirage app is specifically built for animating and outputs to .avi or .mov files (as well as outputting still images in a variety of file formats) and you can work with sound . Actually, the name has changed, it's not available as Mirage anymore. Now it's called TVPaint , but it's the exact same thing.

Larry Levine said...

All this Cintiq & software talk has me again thinking about ditching my pencil & paper. At the moment the Photoshop Elements 2.0 freebie that came with my computer is the extent of my crossover to digital technology.

My main concern with going fully digital is maintaining the inked brush line of my current art.

Karen K. said...

Larry, I understand your questioning about brush inking. There are ways. You can do it through vectors and Illustrator or Painter. There are methods for Photoshop as well, and nibs available to replace the standard nib in a Wacom Stylus, so there's hope. But nothing, nothing replaces the freedom of an inked or pencilled line on paper.

Larry Levine said...

"But nothing, nothing replaces the freedom of an inked or pencilled line on paper."

Karen, I agree with you 100 percent--the most frustrating thing is the realization that even if digital is creatively 2nd choice, competitive practicality will ultimatly make it the sole option.

That said--if Fox no longer has use for their old discs, please Frisbee one my way!

Anonymous said...

If you take a look at old animation cels, not promotional art made for movie posters but actual cels, you'll see how ordinary the inking and painting was then. Simple lines of uniform thickness were pretty much the rule. There's no reason you couldn't get the same result with a Cintiq.

Eric Goldberg is a master of pencial and paper. I'm sure he spent years acheiving that and I hope he continues with it for a long time. But how much of his professional output did he ink and paint himself? It's a little cavalier to recommend you stick to hand inking when probably hasn't bothered with that for two decades. If indeed he actually said that.

If he had to do it all himself he might take another look at tools that facilitate that. And if he put the same years into mastering the new tool as he had the old one I'm sure he'd still be doing masterful work.

Anonymous said...

Even with my extensive knowledge of digital software, I ink my comic books with a brush. I just like the gritty feel of the brush and ink on bristol board.

Fox is just using the cintiqs for pre-production stuff like storyboarding, so it's not in the final product. However, we might as well talk about how there's no more painted cel cartoons. I'm sure many artists were griping about how digital coloring wasn't the same as good ol fashioned painting by hand.

Larry Levine said...

Eric Goldberg was referring to my comic strip art which is a 'one artist does all' job (unless you're Jim Davis) when he recommended me to continue hand inking, it wasn't in reference to animation. Several strips are now drawn digitally (e.g. Blondie) & I was strongly considering going the direction. I am very grateful that Eric took the time to review & thoughtfully discuss my work, it meant a great deal to me.

That day I also had the honor of watching Eric draw (with 4B graphite) and he is without question a master of pencil & paper, which is why I followed his advice.

Steve Hulett said...

Does the Union still have classes in digital storyboarding using Mirage ? (I know Rusty Mills was teaching those a few years ago).

The classes have been cut back due to declining enrollment. Check with Lyn Manta at the Guild office for the status of future classes, (818) 766-7151.

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