Saturday, May 31, 2008

Animated people - Ben Crowe

Hello world!

Well, as promised, this is finally, the Rebirth of RVG Animation blog!! I've tried to make the comeback as best as possible...and what better than having with me a top notch animator to give us some info!

I'm pleased to introduce you all to Ben Crowe, australian senior animator I've worked with for the past 6 months at Red Vision Ltd., and lead in our project. Ben's career spans over 10 years of experience in the CG industry, he has worked at many places around the world and in many fields within 3d animation (TV, games, commercials, you name it). Some of his work can be seen on his reel ( Places he has worked at include Nexus, Realtime Worlds and Ambience Entertainment. Most importantly, he is a very funny guy and a brilliant actor (specially when he does Arnie's impression). So, here we go, "Animated People - Ben Crowe"...

- Hello Ben! Thank you for your time. Feel free to be yourself :P
G'day Ravi. I'm honoured. And flattered. Honatttered?

- Tell us a bit about you, how did you get into animation, your first steps climbing up the ladder, etc...?
Well... I started before 3D really took off. I was obsessed with 3D animation from the mid-80's for some reason. I used to gaze in wonder at a vase changing texture or a dodgy flying logo. Then when I finished my science degree and took a year off to work out how I could escape from my honours year and I somehow got into a course. I was the only one without an art portfolio, but luckily I can sketch ok and this was enough. That and creating good enough little animations with 3D Studio Max after a quick tutorial. It was 1996 and it'd just been released. Later that year you couldn't wipe the smile off my face in the cinema watching Toy Story. I knew I'd fallen on my feet and one of them was rammed firmly in the door.

- How would you define "animation" in one sentence, what you personally think it is.
The act of bringing life and often personality to an otherwise inanimate object by creating many images of it and thowing them at our eyes fast enough to fool them.

- What have been for you the key differences when working in animation across different mediums? TV, games, commercials...

Well, games are unique because you're using technology as it's being created, and usually having to allow for your animation to be viewed from all sides, and as a result you're having to tone down your poses to the lowest common denominator. On the plus side, games are more likely to be permanent and allow you to live outside of big cities like London. Commercials are a flurry of highest quality activity over a short time, film a long time. TV is usually belting large volumes of lower quality stuff out over a long time. There's less money in TV from what I can tell. Almost none in music videos. All the above is generalisations:)

- What's your favourite type of animation? Why?
I like 3D and I'm not really sure why. Something clicked in my brain when I was about 10 years old. I think it's something to do with how it looks so real. Having said that, now I can't stand uncanny valley style attempts at photorealism (eg polar express) and motion capture leaves me cold as a performance tool.

- What has been the character/scene you've ever had most fun with when animating? Why?
The GTA Coke Ad doing the main guy (Ray) in the last scene. I had some dance reference and in one version I animated he did a clap and a spin which got taken out because it was too camp heh heh. Great, talented people, great script, great place to work. I even liked the tune --- which was a good thing having different versions of it running through my ears for 2 months!

- To be a lead of a team of do you get to that stage? Time? Experience? Good eye? What do you consider the most important qualities to be a successful animator like yourself?
I think, in fairness, being a lead is about being organised a lot of the time. You're often required to be responsible for your team and you can't be forgetting deadlines or lipsynch checks. A couple of times it's been only about quality and helping people and those are the bits of the job I most enjoy. You also need good communication skills which doesn't come naturally to a lot of .

- What's the most common mistake you see in younger animators?
In 3D people are tempted to think they can just move a head or an arm and nothing else. This looks robotic. You can't take shortcuts with poses. That and tilting the hips the wrong way --- hips function as a spring to take strain off the knees and spine.

- Has traditional arts/performance been a big part of your learning process? what are your influences?
I've done improve theatre (Theatresports) back in Canberra which was a lot of fun. Stage acting is close to animation because you have to exaggerate to get your point across to the cheap seats;) I love watching films as well. The flight back to Oz is excellent because I just sit there catching up on it all.

- 3 favourite cartoons?
Toy Story, Lisse and the Wild Emperor (can ANYONE find me a DVD with english subtitles of this?), Akira

- Do you like Brown sauce?
Yeah I love it. We call it BBQ sauce in Oz (only for BBQ's!) and I think people use it too often here. Sometimes you just gots to trust the chef!

- Thanks a bunch for the time Ben, best wishes from here. How do you say goodbye in Australia?
No worries Ravi. Seeya later! Hooroo! ('cultural cringe')

This is it for now folks. Hope you all enjoyed the reading as much as I have enjoyed being part of the questionaire. Happy animating!!


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