Thursday, December 4, 2008

so, uh, you do cycles and stuff...(the return of 'pimp' gingy)

I quote one of my former students who asked me this question the first day of class, when I mentioned I work in games.

So, yeah, I do cycles and stuff, but I wanted to take a moment and show some of the work I've done for a couple of projects. Now, for starters, neither of these scenes have made it onto my demo reel - I didn't have the time to polish these shots to a professional level and after the fact, well, who really wants to see a cookie pee on a demo reel.

This is one of those tricky things in games - usually on an 18 month project, there's about 3 months of cinematic work. This is a good and bad thing. Good because, well, it's acting, performance, and all those things that animators love. Bad in that the timeframe to do these shots is rough.

In the top shot, I had about 4 days to do it(split between myself and another animator), and also had to rig the gnome character as well as do some of the layout. Looking at it, I still cringe. It's also captured from a ps2, so the curves are dampened down a bit..the moving holds flattened out to the point of being static, but really, it just needs more. At the same time, I really struggled to make really clear blocking choices so that the humor could come out even if there wasn't time to polish (like the garden gnome...the animation on that still makes me shudder)

The bottom shot was done in 4 days as well, including redoing the layout, as the intial layout had all 6 characters in view at all times. Needless to say, 30 seconds of animating a realistic character, a dragon, 2 spellcasters, and 2 giants in 4 days is impossible. But my company was happy enough with this level of quality. This is kinda crazy, when I look back on it..there just isn't enough time to even get the pops out, or get the weight to read, let alone refine any elements in the scene, but one doesn't get to make these calls.

I think I had a point somewhere...I guess when I see a lot of student work that's overambitious, it kills me a little, because at times, I have to just bang out work at a first pass/refined blocking state due to the demands of the project...this is sometimes a necessary evil unless you're lucky enough to work for a place that will commit to scaling the scope of a project to allow for really quality work, but in games, cinematics are really subordinate to the gameplay (where even the deciding on a pose for the main character can be redone countless times, as it's scrutinized by the player for sometimes 40 hours...think on that...someone analysing your pose for 40 hours.)

So take on what you can successfully handle, and push your work as far as you can.

As far as the theme of demo reels goes, it's really important to be in the mindset of making every shot count as much as possible. I'm showing these shots as much an example of what NOT to put in your reel as much as they are indicative of the sort of work that exists in game companies. Game cinematics and realtime IGCs do require you bring your A game, both in laying out the camera, and managing scope in order to achieve the best work you can.

You never know what you might have to animate in your career, and therein lies some of the fun and challenge. There is a great post on Flip on how to get a job in games, and I suppose I'd just throw in an addendum that good acting can help your chances, though it isn't the main priority, as most acting is outsourced these days.

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