How to give awesome Critiques!
So Giving feedback will not only help out the person you’re giving feedback to, It will help you learn also. This seems obvious, but when you break down somebody’s animation and really look at it on a micro-analytical level(yes i think i made that word up… and I like it) Your forcing yourself to think about every action and you end up rationalizing every move. for example, You learn why the weight is off, or how the animator got the weight just right. You can see clearly why the animator made certain decisions, maybe to make an idea read clearly, or even to confuse the audience. By doing these things your animation vocabulary will grow. Not talking about words and definitions, but methods, and or tricks that can take your animation to a higher level. So in my opinion, giving really solid feedback involves breaking down the animation and thinking about why the artist made decisions, and how did the artist accomplish ideas. This applies to all animation, Highly polished feature level, or somebody that is just starting out. You’re going to learn from both and I think it’s Vidal if you want to improve. So if somebody needs feedback on their shot I think it is important to consider a few things in order to give the best, and most beneficial advise to help the animator improve upon their shot.
1. How far along in the workflow is the animator.
- Obviously if something isn’t working. It isn’t working. BUT if somebody is in spline, you don’t want to give them feedback that would derail their shot if at all possible. Try and figure out possible solutions to the problem with the least about of backtracking possible. It may be easy to say “instead of having the character land on both feet.. maybe have him land on his hands, do a front flip, and then stand up on his feet” OBVIOUSLY I’m exaggerating. but you get the point. This comes into play big time in the studio. You will have tight deadlines, and no time (usually) to reanimate a shot. By finding a way to fix a problem without having to take 6 steps backwards is a good approach when giving feedback. Of course there will be times where the animator may have to reanimate a section, weather its because the animation just isn’t working and that’s the best solution, or if the director makes changes and needs you to take your shot in a different direction. Both will happen, but problem solving is a huge part of animation, and getting good at problem solving will make you a faster, better animator.
2. Will my ideas Plus the shot or just change it.
- Being artists, we all have great ideas, and approach challenges differently. This a good thing, it keeps out animation unique and keeps animation entertaining. But when giving somebody feedback try an avoid challenging the animators choices purely for sake of change. Really think before you suggest a possible idea that may be different from the one in the shot. Think about what all would need to be adjusted in the shot for this to work. Would the animator need to reanimate only a few frames, or would this cause a train wreck through out the shot. Think “will this idea plus the animation, and make the idea more clear?”, “is this change going to help make this animation more appealing?” Make sure you have solid reasoning for suggesting ideas. Keep in mind that this also plays a great deal in how far along in the workflow the animator is in. Obviously you can suggest as many ideas as you want, when the animator is brainstorming. That’s a fantastic thing to do! I know its helped my animation. Most of my ideas come from other animators adding better ideas upon my original idea. BUT when the animator is splining his shot, you don’t want to change anything unless its vital, or will make a drastic change for the better.
3. Performance VS Preference
- I think this is a big one. When looking at somebody’s work, No matter where they are in the pipeline, be careful not to give feedback one something just because you personally would do it a different way. This sort of feedback is good for brainstorming, early blocking stages, where maybe suggesting ideas is easier because the animator can tackle changes faster and easier. But remember that animation is art, and it is personal. Telling somebody that the idea, or joke isn’t funny just because it isnt what you would do is not helping anybody. Try and see the animators “vision” for the shot. Sure we all have different personalities, but trying to relate your ideas to the ideas of the animator is the best way to ensure a positive and helpful critique. Otherwise it just causes frustration and can confuse the animator.
4. “Just because” feedback is a waste of time.
- Giving feedback just to get your name on a person’s workspace is a waste of time, for yourself and for the person who needed feedback. Alot of times I see feedback on a persons workspace that says “looks good.” when maybe the animation is not at a level that it needs to be. THIS IS NOT HELPING THE ANIMATOR LEARN. Pointing out flaws and mistakes in animation doesn’t make a you a bad person. You will not be unliked if you give somebody feedback that will make a difference in the quality of animation. (a higher quality) I think some people are shy and are afraid of offending people., Well If you check out #’s 1, 2, 3, I can almost guarantee that you will not offend anybody, and they will appreciate the time you put in to critiquing their shot. Try and be personable when giving feedback. For example if somebody you have never met or have never seen work from, just leaves comments like this ” F58-90 fix arm, 25-25 fix weight, f 50 needs better pose, F 70 hand not reading”, that person can come across as arrogant and rude. If it is your first time giving feedback to an animator, Introduce yourself. Point out things that ARE working as well as things that could be more clear. and Follow the ideas I mentioned above. This Way your not going to offend anybody. Imagine if your in a studio, and its your first day.. and somebody comes up that you don’t know and gives you all sorts of notes and just leaves. They don’t introduce themselves, or say anything positive about the work. That would make most people feel pretty bad about themselves. So remember to be personable when critiquing somebody’s animation for the first time. Also Its important to respect higher level animators such as senior animators etc etc ( applies more in a studio environment more than AM) Try to avoid giving notes to somebody that has been working or animating far longer than you, unless they have a shot up for crit, or ask you. You dont want to be that guy that comes in and things he owns the place. This can make you seem aragent , even if your just trying to help.
5. ANIMATION IS FUN
-This is for bother the person giving and receiving feedback. Remember that when its all said and done… your make a cartoon. This is a fun job and should always be enjoyed. Even though there will be times where you hate animating (most likely this will occur on your 75′th hour of your week, when your trying to get a shot INTO spline that is due the next day, or when your going for final notes for your shot, and get reblocking notes) BUT in the end most changes are for the better, and when you see your shot after is gos through lighting and is projected on a 50 foot screen you’ll forget all the late nights of agony and defeat. haha .
So these are a few pointers I find helpful when giving feedback. I think if you think about these ideas, your critiques will be far more helpful to the animator and will be appreciated alot more. Also you will think more about why and how to solve problems, bring it full circle, and learning from the animation your critiquing. Of course animation is a hard thing to give feedback because so much is relative and most things can be done in many many different ways. Most questions i hear asked about animation is usually followed by “Well, It depends on the shot”… and this is very true. So think of this is a guide and not a rule book. thanks for checking this out!
I hope it helps!
Thanks for such a great post Malcon and best wishes at Disney!!