Improve the quality of your animation by actively seeking critique.
I remember the excitement of some of the first pieces of animation that I created. Simply seeing those characters move for the first time was amazing.
There really is something intoxicating about seeing your animation coming to life which often hides it’s many flaws.
One of the key skills that you need to develop as an animator is the ability to self critique your work. To some extent, this will only come with experience but, through practice, it is possible to develop a good eye for what is working and what isn’t.
I’ve mentioned before the importance of looking at your work with a fresh set of eyes.
When we look at our work with those fresh eyes and spot the flaws, it’s relatively easy to accept the mistakes and make the necessary changes.
When the critique comes from someone else however, regardless of whether that critique was invited or not, it can be far harder to take.
We naturally tend to get defensive, especially when we’ve poured so much effort into our work. We either start to justify our choices or simply dismiss the criticism entirely.
This is a serious mistake.
In a studio environment, when changes are requested, like it or not, making the changes is part of the job.
There are times when the requested changes are due to issues with our work, but they may equally be the result of a difference of taste. The director may simply prefer a different approach. Sometimes, changes can even be for reasons which are not immediately apparent, for example, a performance choice you’ve made may impact surrounding shots you are not working on.
Regardless of the reasons for the feedback, it’s important not to take it personally.
I’ve known many animators over the years who react very badly when asked to change anything. If you are working in a studio, however, you need to remember that your job is to bring the director’s vision to life rather than your own. You certainly contribute to the process with your own ideas but, if they ask for a change, it’s your job to not only address the note but also to bring your best efforts to making this new version as strong as it can be.
Sometimes the best feedback comes from an untrained eye. Someone with no experience of animation who is viewing our work for the first time. If something about the work feels wrong to them, then there’s clearly something which needs to be fixed.
Whilst it’s easy in that situation to say that they don’t know what they’re talking about, the truth is, they are likely to be just the audience we are making the work for.
We may be able to explain our justification for a particular decision to the person offering feedback, even defending our choices well enough that they change their mind, but I don’t think that’s ever a good idea.
Since we can’t pause the animation and explain our decisions to every audience member, if something isn’t clear, or is distracting the audience, it needs to be changed.
The crucial thing which I always try to remind myself is, if there wasn’t a problem with the shot then it wouldn’t have been mentioned.
Self critique is a valuable skill which will help to keep you improving but actively seeking critique from others is essential.
The hardest part is coming to terms with accepting the criticism as valid and acting upon it.
Once you stop resisting critique and instead start to appreciate it for the benefits that it brings, you’ll rapidly improve the quality of your work.
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