So last night I posted the final movie of the BlueBird commercial that I've been yakking about for months. I reiterate, it is not epic, but I am proud. It was the first time I was given all character design and animation responsibilities on a commercial spot, and I turned it around in six weeks. I want to go over my process in this venture just in case it might help somebody, and also because I want to improve my methods.
When Artifact brought me on board for this project, it was a wish/nightmare come true. It was a few days before the live action was shot, so I spent the time designing the characters and getting feedback on them. I also animated the butterfly cycle since I knew it could just be dropped in anywhere in the comp. Once I got the live action edit, I made up a shot list and my plan for the character population in each shot. The client wanted as many characters as possible, so my attack plan included a lot of cloning, cycling, recycling, and whatever cheats other cheats I could think up. (At this point I should mention that I worked from my home studio, since working with my own equipment would be faster. Artifact is equipped with Cintiqs, but I really wanted to work on paper for this spot. I animate with more ease on paper, and my Brother scanner made it a breeze to digitize my files for inking.)
I submitted pencil tests (first keys, then full) for approval, and made rough comps in After Effects to give an idea of how the characters would fit in the scene. Once Artifact and the client both approved my animation, I scanned the scenes with my Brother scanner (have I mentioned yet how much I love it?) and sequenced the cels in After Effects. The idea was that I would leave as little guesswork as possible down the pipeline. I delivered the cels in Photoshop files for easy inking on those lovely Cintiqs, and the After Effects files had all the timing keyed out and ready to be replaced with the final colored psd files. I had also delivered at some point previously sample inks and color models for the inkers and painters...See this is why I need to write this all down- I've already forgotten the order in which I did things!
There were changes here and there, but for the most part the studio and the client were very easy to work with and never asked for anything outrageous (like changing the species of a character halfway through). I would say that my biggest mistakes were made after I was ostensibly finished with the project. I just have to say this now: no one will ever care about your work as much as you do, and no one's eye will be as trained and critical as yours. Once I delivered all the .movs, .psds, and .aeps, I gave myself a pat on the back and moved on to a different project. I didn't check in. I didn't follow up. So when I saw about a month later the client-approved movie with glaring errors (to me at least), I glumly spent that night writing a meticulous, nitpickingly-boring laundry list of things that needed to be fixed, along with some new comp visual aids. Happily, the team did address the major issues, but it would have been better for everyone if I had just stuck my nose in the door once or twice to check in. Again, I am happy with the final product, and I am armed with new knowledge about how to pull off this kind of work. I hope I get another shot at something like this soon. I think I'm ready for it.