Mark Mayerson has his usual measured approach to his analysis of one animator’s success on YouTube. He’s right on the money when it comes to merchandising too, but I disagree that YouTube is the level playing ground it once was. The rise of professional channels makes them gatekeepers by another name. Why make your own animation when you can try and pitch it to one of them?
It wasn’t that long ago when we were lucky to get one animated movie from a big Hollywood studio a year; once, it was as much an event to go to a Disney movie as it is to see the next superhero blockbuster. Now, you can’t go two months without a studio-released animated movie, making each of these movies a little less special. Epic has impressive enough animation—and the 3D isn’t terrible, though a climactic action sequence set in a darkened landscape is fairly diluted through the format conversion—but it feels like the umpteenth version of the same Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey, and done in a way that’s forgettable instead of fun.
The Blender Institute is currently on a bit of a mission to push the limits of what the software is capable of and is using the open source nature of the software as a model for these test films.
The latest release is the 12-minute short, Tears of Steel which seamlessly blends live-action with Blender-animated VFX. The notion that VFX and animation are relatives is not a new one, but Tears of Steel only blurs the line between them even further.
There has been some talk over recent years as to whether visual effects artists are really animators by another name. They certainly share a lot of common skills and traits, but there remains a gulf between the two professions.
For starters, visual effects has traditionally been concerned with adding bits and pieces to traditional, live-action films, whereas animation has always been about creating everything from scratch. These classifications were fine until a few years ago, when the likes of Robert Zemeckis’ The Arctic Express began to really blur the lines at which VFX ended and animation began.
Fast forward to this year, and you had Richard winnning an Academy Award for best visual effects. There is nothing really notable here until you realise that Richie actually trained as an animtor in Dublin!
There are still many differences that, at least in my opinion, mean that although there will continue to be a convergance of professions in the areas of technology, looks and skills, there will remain a few fundamental differences.
Animators and VFX artists should realise that they can work together in harmony, complementing each other. It would be a shame to see the two camps descend into petty rivalry, especially around awards season, when the issue is most likely to crop up.
Apologies for the short post. The topic merits more discussion, which by all means can be done in the comments below.