I'm really protective over animation and the reputation that it receives and the kinds of bruises that it gets too. There's a lot of ignorance associated with it, or people who try to use it, I should say. It's taken its knocks, and it doesn't roll back sometimes as well as you like it to.
—J.J. Sedelmaier

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Q&A JULY 25 , 2001
The Ambiguously Mac Studio

[Page 3 of 5]

Sedelmaier: We have After Effects. We're going to get more and more into After Effects. Actually, I got turned on to the wonder of After Effects from Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter from Cartoon Network. They use After Effects for like everything, it seems. We're not as well acquainted with After Effects yet. I mean, for the first 10 years that we have been around, we've been primarily a classic animation studio that has not really found a need … to incorporate this into our production processes. Now what's happening is so many people know it, it's almost like we hopped over the learning process because now people are coming in already knowing this stuff, and that's why we're incorporating it in.

CM: And then for your modeling of your characters, you're doing that in Illustrator?

Sedelmaier: Well, it's not so much the modeling and rendering. I'm talking about actually working out all of the stuff that we used to do, whether it was opaque or marker or pencil or whatever it was, we're just doing with Macs.

CM: So you'd just call that conceptualizing or character development?

Sedelmaier: Yeah, preproduction, model sheets and guides.

CM: Photoshop as well?

Sedelmaier: Yeah.

CM: What are you using Photoshop for?

Sedelmaier: We do print stuff as well, so we use Photoshop for that. We seem to shuffle around a lot between Photoshop, Premiere and Illustrator because, see, a lot of the times when we're working in commercials, we're working with cartoonists, illustrators, designers—whatever—[who] have nothing to do with animation, aren't acquainted with animation at all. And a lot of times their work will come to us in a Photoshop file.

It is interesting though, between After Effects, Flash and all of this other stuff, the one thing that I'm noticing is that there are people who are now delving into animation who are very talented conceptually, and maybe talented graphically, but, when it comes to having the experience of working in animation, that hasn't been seasoned yet. And there's a lack of knowledge on the part of advertising agencies and clients who might read an article or two or they might see something they like in Flash, but they think that's the answer to everything.

They'll see that job that was perfectly designed for Flash—it's got that graphic look, and it moves in a way that is good for not only working in Flash, but working in that particular design, which is a very important combination to work with. And suddenly they think, well we can just do anything in Flash. And there are plenty of people out there who won't say, "Well, this isn't really right." They'll just go, "Uh, O.K."

CM: Well is it that Flash is all about tweening, where you have a character in one position at frame one and another at frame 60, and then Flash handles everything in between?

Sedelmaier: Yeah, well it's also good for very clean, simple, graphic imagery. It's not a program or an approach that you can take to something that is more complicated. And it doesn't mean that it doesn't have a place or won't develop into something more. But right now, it's important to keep things in perspective. And that's not just to keep old ways alive.

I'm really protective over animation and the reputation that it receives and the kinds of bruises that it gets too. There's a lot of ignorance associated with it, or people who try to use it, I should say. It's taken its knocks, and it doesn't roll back sometimes as well as you like it to. It's very pigeonholed. It's just now in the past five, six, seven years that it's started to bust out of the kiddy realm. It's a shame when something comes up that doesn't allow animation to go as far as it can go. There's some marvelous stuff being done in Flash, and there's some really … you know, you go, "Ugh, I know what happened here."

CM: Well, do you think with Flash being so accessible to everybody that it will mean a big proliferation in animation and that this has to be good for animation?

Sedelmaier: A lot of people interested in doing animation usually isn't good for animation. What's good for animation is people looking at something that's been done well and getting their wheels to turn, and going, "Wow, I never realized that this aspect of filmmaking could do this, and that maybe I could do this. It's best when it acts as a catalyst to get thought and creativity going in another direction.

CM: Well what do you think about 3D, which is also becoming much more accessible?

Sedelmaier: Oh, again, I think it's terrific. It's interesting. I don't know of any other process other than film itself in the very, very beginning where you could over the course of five years see something go from its infancy to whatever it's going to become now. It's like every CG film is an R&D project. It's like Disney with its Silly Symphonies. It just keeps growing and growing.

And as long as the story's good, the deficiencies that are in the imagery don't matter. Except for some of us, who are, you know, time-to-get-a-life, anal-retentive, digital people. I look at Shrek, and I'm entertained, but I still get "oodgy" when I look at the Cameron Diaz character trying desperately to be a human character. The closer you get to looking like a human character, the [more] it needs to behave like a human character, but it's never going to be that.

CM: You're not using 3D for anything, are you?

Sedelmaier: No. Well, we've used it for effects in a couple of spots. And we've done conventional animation for CG places like Blue Sky in the past who've used our animation to map and render.

CM: But if you look at shows like Futurama and South Park, do you see using it as backgrounds, for example?

Sedelmaier: Oh, well I can see using it wherever it applies. Our reel consists of everything, not only visual styles in terms of drawings, but stop motion as well because I only look at animation as something that's a means of moving imagery around. It doesn't have to be drawn.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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