Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blue Sky wrap-up

Well, now that I have a bit of time, I thought I'd post about Blue Sky! I've moved into my new apartment, with 3 of my fellow Blue Sky temps! It's an animator bachelor pad. Eric (one of my roomates) and I were joking that we could start our own business of animators for hire, and be like the Ghostbusters in New York ;) Except instead of paranormal investigation and elimination, we animate. Of course we'd have our own logo, theme song, and cool old car to drive around in too! Annie Potts would be our secretary, you get the picture.

Anyway that's beside the point, I wanted to post about my experience at Blue Sky.

(some of the temps, L to R: Nathan Engelhardt, Lance Fite, Andrew Coats,
Kyle Mohr, Jeff Kim, Adam Green, Eric Luhta, Becki Tower)

It had to have been the single most challenging job, but as they say, nothing good comes easy...or that... It's no secret that production on Horton was very crunched, and the group of 10 people who I started with (in July) found that out right away, heh. The first couple of days we watched videos that showed us how to use some of the tools, how to get around Linux, etc, but on Wednesday we got our first BG cycle assignments. Talk about trial by fire! The rigs are so much more complex than anything I'd ever used before, and I didn't even really know how to playblast the Blue Sky way! But we dove in head first, and I'd say it was about week 5 before I realized I could sit down and animate without thinking about how to reference in a character, playblast, etc. Don't get me wrong, I was getting work done before that, but I think it took me 5 weeks to get comfortable. By that time, another group of temps had started to come in, and at one point we had about 30 temps there, I think that's almost the same amount as full time staff animators.

One thing we noticed at our first sweatbox was how insanely good all the animators there are. We hadn't seen any animation from Horton when I started, the first teaser hadn't been out yet. So when we saw shots in sweatbox, it was pretty daunting to see how the characters were just being stretched and pulled in all sorts of ways. There were those times when I'd go back to my desk and think, "I have to animate like that? By when?"

It's amazing how just watching animation like that day in and day out really sharpens your eye. A lot of us temps went to sweatbox even when we weren't showing shots, just to see what the other animators were doing. Though later on when I was freaking out about getting shots done, I just kept working unless I had something to show, heh. Anyway, we all noticed that after just a short while we could see smaller details than we could before.

Make no mistake, these guys at Blue Sky work hard. They sweat every detail, and every frame, under stressful deadlines. They are talented for sure, but even the best animators get notes on their shots, or don't always hit the shot the way the director envisions it, etc. Their shots aren't good just because they're talented....they're good because the animators work hard, they re-do animation and polish the details, and work long hours to get it done.

Most of us temps worked 60-70 hour weeks for about 4 months straight, (some are still going now)--it took us a while to speed up, and even so it seemed like I just couldn't animate as fast as the more experienced animators. There's a lot of pressure to perform, and perform quickly. There really wasn't any time for training, even though they would have liked to have the time to train us. When you get pulled in at the crunch of a production, there just isn't time, and you hit the ground running. You constantly question if you're good enough, especially when you get that shot that just isn't going right. But you do learn a lot, and not just about animation, but the whole process in general.

That reminds me of a quote I read once from Bobby Beck:
The industry is both tough and fun. When you nail a shot it feels like the greatest thing, when you struggle you question your ability, always.
I can't really sum up 5 months in one blog post, I'm not sure why I tried, heh. What can I say that really does justice? I of course learned so much while I was there, about what it takes to put a movie together, and got to meet great people. Here come 30 temps that are dropped into production, and everyone was still willing to help us out with our shots, even though they themselves had shots to get done for the next day.

There are still a lot of people at Blue Sky workin hard, but I think there was a bit of a morale boost last week when the second trailer came out. Thanks to everyone who sent a message to their friends at Blue Sky with their compliments, it was great to get some positive feedback after putting in such hard work.

I however, am back in the city! I am really looking forward to getting back to the freelance world, and working with my friends down here again. I'm really glad that I had already gotten a little established in New York before working at Blue Sky, it's made the transition to and from there so much easier.

...I think that's all I've got for now!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah!

(At the Blue Sky Christmas/20th Anniversary party:
Kyle Mohr, Ken Music--aka "Hobo Ken")

Becki Tower and Eric Luhta, showing his best Seussy "Who" expression

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Kyle Mohr, Pete Paquette--the man in charge of whipping
us temp animators into shape during our first two weeks!


Jon said...

It was good having you up here @ BS. Glad you learned a lot. Sounds like you are walking away with a new confidence that will bear larger fruits in the future!

Happy Who-lidays!

Ken Music said...

Kyle, I had a blast working with you and having our usual ping pong matches. Hope to work with you again in the future... maybe at Framestore NY?

Lawrence Lam said...

wow...what a story! They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...and it certainly looks like that's what's happened to you - gotten stronger, that is. haha. Anyway, keep it up with the blogging and the animating...always great to read about!

Chris Myers said...

A job well done! I really enjoyed the second trailer too. I was one of the people who had to pick their jaw off the floor and ran to get my pad and pencil to start studying the scenes.