July 27, 2019

Storyboards vs Animation

There's been a lot of talk on animation twitter lately about storyboarders putting in extra work to create cool animated sequences. It hasn't directly affected me, but I have friends on other shows who have dealt with this pressure so here are my thoughts (the short version is that it's a systemic problem rather than the individual boarder's fault).

Without getting into specific examples because I don't mean to negate anybody's hard work --It’s frustrating how TV cartoon pipelines treat the actual animation as an afterthought, rather than using it as an additional creative stage. Outsourcing & budget ‘streamlining' have removed creative freedom from the animation process, reducing it to ‘filling in the blanks’ of storyboards which then include the roles of writing, boarding, layout & rough animation. This either leads to boarders overworking or bad animation. Animation itself is often seen as one of the least creative parts of making a cartoon. That's unfortunate because good animation will always make a funny scene funnier, a scary scene scarier etc! It's a powerful expressive tool that's rarely used to its full potential.

Many animators I know in Canada who work on outsourced service work are totally capable of creating great performances and high-quality animation that tells the story properly, while following simple boards. But they don't get the chance, because from the US studio's perspective it's easier to just do something yourself than to communicate with the outsourcing studio. And to be fair it can be  difficult to communicate with an overseas studio that doesn't speak the same language... So that creative part of the animation is just dumped onto the storyboarders' shoulders. They don't have the time or bandwidth to do it, and it's taking a vital part of animating away from the actual animators, who become glorified in-betweeners.

That creative input could come from the outsourcing studio if they have the ability, or if they're considered not to, then from an in-house anim supervisor adding extra poses to the boards for shipping-- it really shouldn't be the boarder's job (but as things are now, it often IS).

It shouldn't have to be up to individual storyboarders, like "if you want this scene to have good animation you better do it yourself in the boards." But that's what the industry has mostly evolved to. I don’t want to single out any shows here or blame any individuals for wanting to do the best work possible within the system.. My frustration is with the system itself! 

Sonic designs

While animating this morning, I got distracted drawing various Sonic designs from memory.