Friday, February 18, 2011

Q and A with Joseph Gilland - come meet him Saturday Feb 19th

Joseph Gilland is an animator and the author behind the terrific book ELEMENTAL MAGIC. Joe will be in our shop to meet folks on Saturday Feb 19th 3-5 pm. If you have a copy of his book, feel free to bring it with you to get signed.

Here is a short Q&A we did with Joe earlier in the week.

D. So how did you get started doing special effects?

J. I started out in animation doing a little bit of everything, as an assistant at the National Film Board in Montreal in the late seventies. Every time there was some animation like water, or smoke, or fire, I was attracted to the idea, and would offer to do it.

Turned out I had a real knack for it. In 1980-81, on the movie 'Heavy Metal' I apprenticed under FX guru Wayne Kimbell,and by the early eighties it was my main gig, and it's been that way ever since.

D. If you had to pick, what is your favourite kind of special effect to do, and is there an instance you can recall where you pulled this effect off and felt especially good about the results.

J. My favourite thing to animate is water, and some of the water in the surfing scenes of 'Lilo & Stitch' were my favorite scenes.

D. Would you say water is the trickiest type of effect to do?

J. Water is definitely the trickiest effect to animate, but it's always been my favorite thing,
and for some mysterious reason, it has always come quite naturally to me. I've always had an affinity for water.

But it's hard to animate, there's no question, and it's hard to teach as well. It takes a real affinity with fluids. You have to feel it.

The reason it's so hard? Well, watch a simple water surface for a few minutes and you have the answer.

It is so fluid and complex in its movement, and it has a staggering amount of detail, even in the most simple splash.

Keeping track of that much detail, and moving it in the correct fluid way at all times, is pretty daunting.

D.Not sure if you ever got to review demo reels, but assuming you have, what is the biggest mistake you have seen and would like to tell young animators to try and avoid.

J. I was on the review board at Walt Disney Feature Animation for several years actually, and was often called upon to review demos in many other studios as well, so I have seen
literally thousands of portfolios and demo reels.

The things to avoid are: Including older, weaker work because it has sentimental value to you.
Get rid of it! Only include your very best work. Less is more. Keep it short, under three minutes or even less,

Even 30 seconds is plenty, if it's kick ass stuff. Always start with the best, and end with the best you have.

That is what a reviewer will remember most.

D. Most animated films these days are done on computer, and a lot of the traditional methods seem like they could be forgotten. What insight might a person doing digital effects learn from the traditional methods.

J. An animator who is working in CGI and expects to create quality animation, absolutely has to have a really good grip on the classical principles of animation. If not, it shows. Without understanding how to employ extreme exaggeration, anticipation, follow through, overlapping action, a solid understanding of weight, intention, and real physics, a computer animator simply does not have the tools to create the best possible animation performance. The more a computer animator allows the computer to do the work, the weaker the animation. Traditional animation methods also teach us the real value of every single frame.

The difference of a frame or two here and there can make an enormous difference to an animated performance. Many computer animators,not well trained in traditional techniques, who are used to simply setting a key frame here and there and allowing the computer to be their inbetweener, are unaware of how much better their animation could be if they added double the number of well placed key frames.

D.what question do you feel I should have asked, but didn't?

J. When is 'Elemental Magic' Volume 2 going to hit the bookstores? answer: Spring or early summer of 2011.

D. Thanks Joe. See you Saturday!