How many times have you had to re-work something that you thought clicked really well?
I’m going to assume it’s been at least once. Probably far more times than you care to really think about! In this last week alone I’ve had to change and tweak things on a project at least three times; I’ve a feeling we can all relate to that. The next few Practical Tips are going to focus on areas of planning that can help minimize repeat tasks, starting with taking time of day and season into account. You may not really think about these and still create some amazing pieces, however this series is about polishing things and making it even better. Besides, on the off chance it does become important, wouldn’t you like to know how to start?
This tip will show you how to add context to your scenes and animations by using the time and date.
It’s good, but…
There’s a city scene in your animation; one that you’re particularly proud of actually. You’ve got your lighting set up beautifully, you have wonderfully animated people in the background, your sound effects are realistic, and your camera fly-through is nothing short of an art form. Your textures even manage to work well together and approximate realism – but better!
When your project manager (or audience/client/whoever) sees it they start asking questions. Why are there people in party clothes first thing in the morning? Why are the lights on all the cars on in full sunlight? Shouldn’t the children be heading to school instead of skipping around in the middle of the park next to the old people on the benches? Didn’t the brief say ‘Monday morning’?
Your scene is beautiful; but it’s logic is so flawed that you’ll have to go and redesign parts of it. Think of the waste!
Avoiding the ‘but’
How much easier would it be if there had been a way to plan this sort of thing before doing all that work? Instead of redesigning parts and tweaking for a few hours, you could have been doing something more fun, or even getting a jump-start on your next task! Your scenes would mesh together logically, you wouldn’t have avid fans (or, worse, your boss) wondering why certain things were there, and best of all your viewers would be able to appreciate your work without getting distracted.
Also, you could be secure in the knowledge that each item or piece of your scene was there for a reason; this means you could justify it if you needed to further down the line.
Prevention is better than a cure
1. Read your brief twice. If there are any mentions of time or date on it you may not notice until the second pass; if there aren’t you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find your information. Go to the source and ask your boss or clients. Read the context of the scene too if it’s part of a larger project, sometimes this will give you more information as well.
2. Research. I can hear the groans now… Look at it this way – an hour (or less) doing research now can save you 2+ hours later. Check the background of the location, local weather, what people do at a specific time of day or season. Find out enough so you have a basic grounding in your chosen place.
3. Find ways to work it in! This is the fun part; use your research and the information you got from your brief, and come up with the most creative way to incorporate your new ideas. It doesn’t have to be anything big or particularly thorough, just show you’ve thought about it and avoid the obvious errors. (Note: don’t obsess over this. If you start to take longer making sure things are accurate than you do working on the project there’s something wrong.)
It’s worth running through these steps whenever you’re working on a big project, or you feel time might play a factor. While you might not want to use it every time it’ll lift your work when you do, and keeping it in the back of your mind will help you add an extra layer of polish.
And if things do go wrong and you have to re-do a part? You now have some idea of where to start.