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More Straight Talk

A Couple of Question about Animation on the Internet By Stephen Schleicher
In the last fifteen months the animation industry has seen quite a few changes take place. To some, the industry has gone from phenomenal growth to decline, while others insist that everything is just fine. In one day a company may be hiring like mad, while another is laying off talent because work has left the country for parts unknown. Despite continued creation and distribution of animated and effect laden features, commercials, television programs, and Internet shorts, the actual state of the Industry is still up in the air.

A few weeks ago, I posted an in-depth interview with many animation professionals about the state of the industry. With the tremendous feedback from readers, we've decided to follow up the original with a few comments from our panel about animation on the Internet.

The Panel
It is great to know so many people working in the industry. Not only are they willing to take the time to sit down and talk about what they are doing, they are super friendly people.

Mark Sylvester, Ambassador
As a co-founder of Wavefront Technologies in 1984, Mark helped to develop The Advanced Visualizer, a 3D computer animation system first used at Universal Pictures, and co-designed Composer, a high-end compositing system that's still going strong as a tool for many feature films. With his grounding in the industry, Mark also articulates Alias|Wavefront's vision of the role of computer graphics for today and the future.

Joe Alter, Founder
Joe Alter, Inc
Prior to founding the company in 1999, Joe Alter has worked in visual effects since 1985 starting at industry pioneer Robert Abel/Assoc. Over the years Alter has done work for George Lucas's ILM, Steven Spielberg's DreamworksSKG, Roland Emerich's CentropolisFX, Warner Bros, Boss Film, Metrolight Studios, and Phil Tippet Studios.

His most notable feature production (key shot) work includes, "The Prince of Egypt", "Godzilla", "The Mask", "Star Trek:Generations", and "Cliffhanger". Currently Joe is programming Shave and a Haircut: Extreme for the LightWave and 3dsmax communities.

Dave Campbell, Strategic/Product Marketing Manager - 3D
With an extensive history in animation production, Dave Campbell's in-depth knowledge of Discreet's 3D Solutions provides him with a solid understanding of the needs of today's ever-changing animation market. Currently, his focus is on driving the vision and direction of Discreet's animation marketing activities. Before joining Discreet, Campbell served as an animator/compositor at one of the pioneering studios behind today's burgeoning PC-based production arena - Blur Studio in Venice Beach, California.

Gregg Lukomski, Motion Picture VFX Artist
As a freelance 3D camera tracker and match mover, Gregg has worked on many projects. Some of his most notable feature work includes, Gone in 60 Seconds, Disney's Dinosaur, Zooander, and Don't Say a Word. Currently Gregg is the Animation Technical Director for Disney's Treasure Planet integrating traditional 2D animation with 3D virtual sets.

Daryl Bartley, CGI Animator
Daryl has been working with Saban Entertainment since 1999 creating effects for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, as well as work on Xyber 9, NASCAR Racers, Los Luchadores, and numerous television movies.

Rowsby, CGI Animator
Currently Freelance
Rowsby has worked for Foundation Imaging where he completed work on Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, Max Steel, and most recently Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. His freelance client list includes corporations from Alcoa to Zippo.

Digital Media Online: So let's talk about animation on the Internet, where is that at today?

Gregg: I'm just happy that most Flash animations have a 'skip' button. I've found that most of it is just noise.

Rowsby: I think with things like Flash being so efficient and pervasive, it's a great way for people to show off their work, and get it out to the public.

The problem is of course, the content seems to be a bit seedy or "low brow".

Dave: I think that the Internet is still evolving. There are currently great technologies for delivering 3d assets to the web (Macromedia's Shockwave 3D, Wild Tangent, Pulse, etc) - and these all have a place in the business or education worlds. But as for actual "animation" on the Web for mass consumption, I think that until higher-bandwidth is available to a much broader audience that the demand for web-based animations will remain small. That's going to change, I have no doubt - but right now I think that the Internet's current potential is available to a significantly small part of the population.

Daryl: The internet isn't looking as hot as it used to, I think a lot of people trying to do episodic animation on it are finding it's too difficult to recoup costs because there are so many other sites internet is great for shorts though, or indie film level stuff, the killer bean type thing.

Joe: It's a great publicity vehicle if you can follow it up with something to actually sell. But more than that, it provides a great means to get things done. Like this interview, for instance, I sound like a blathering moron when people do live interviews with me because I have to drop what I'm doing and shift gears. But sending me some questions via e-mail lets me get to it after a couple coffees and put some thought into my answers (not that I still don't sound like a blathering moron, just less so).

Mark: With so many of the indie film sites going under this year I am not sure how to answer. I think that the idea of being able to produce a short story, using animation to tell it, is a viable way to find your voice - your talent - and show others. Think of these projects as animated business cards. They show the viewers, and potential employers and clients, what you have in your head - and how skilled you are at getting it out of the grey cells, and onto a screen.

Animation on the Internet is still a powerful way to tell a story - and I think we will begin to see it used much more, as soon as 3D chips become more ubiquitous, and downloading players and various bits of software becomes more transparent. This is an ideal way to show a new product, teach a sales force how to sell it, and finally, an animated service guide for the repair of complex assemblies.

DMO: If you were to do an animated episodic series (or even a one shot deal) what would you do to get it noticed and make money off of it? Or is that even possible? Are animated shorts on the Internet nothing more than demo reels?

Dave: The driving force behind the creation of an animated series (or even a one-off) shouldn't be to make money - it should be about the story and the end result. If I made something, I would just let people watch it - and if any money ever came that'd be great - but when talking about art I don't even like trying to equate it to earning cash. But, for sure the trailer would be on the Web, and all of my friends in the industry would be asked to check it out and pass on the link if they thought it was cool.

Joe: I would say they are more valuable as publicity vehicles than anything else. But if you can produce a series of them, or even a feature then the potential for making money off them is unmistakable. Take something like Veggie Tales, for instance, Phil Vischer took a gamble and produced his own series and it played off in the eight-digit range.

Don't make trailers. If you want to make a feature, make a feature. If you want to make a short, make a short.

Rowsby: I don't think you can make money with animation online, unless you're selling a product that is shipped to your door, directly. Online companies like Stan Lee's have proven that it's just an excuse to waste an investor's dollars.

Mark: If I was doing something for the net, my approach would be different - I would spend 99% of the time on writing a great, funny, clever story - then get a world class artist to do some storyboards - then take it to the local community college to get a team of students to produce it. This experience would be good for them - great for me, as a director - and we would enter it in animation contest that are
sponsored for students.

Daryl: The key is definitely the writing, it's what made Shrek so huge in spite of the bad animation and what made 405 so big, even though it was definitely just a demo reel.if something really gets people, it'll become huge, simply because it'll get passed around, word of mouth you'll hear "you have to see that, it was hilarious" more than "you have to see that, it looked awesome"

DMO: Again, thanks for the time.

If you would like to read the first article in this series, check it out here.

Page: 1

Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
Related Keywords:Animation, Internet, streaming, Mark Sylvester, Joe Alter, streaming, flash, Rowsby

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