Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Long Does It Take To Finish A Clean Up? #1

An anonymous comment was posted to my blog entry: "1st Pass Roughs, Semi-Roughs & Clean-ups: Hank the Spider Monkey & Batman." The person asked the question: "How long does it take to finish the clean up? For example that Batman. How long did the clean up artist (take) to finish the inking, painting and shading for every 1 frame?"

The answer to that question is not a simple one. It's not just a combination of how talented and fast the clean up artist is, how much pencil mileage (complication) there is to the design, and how much work the animator left for the clean up artist to correct/adjust. This question also suggests that the clean up, inking, painting and shading, etc of that drawing is going to be handled by the same person. Given what computer animation programs can do today, I know that painting a cleaned up drawing is very fast, but I am not on the production line and don't know how long a complicated color scheme (several different colored lines, multiple colors for costume, hair, etc.) takes to paint. The fastest I can paint one of our studio's Avenging Apes characters (using a bucket dump tool) in about five minutes. But I wouldn't want to be painting at that rate all day long.

Regarding cleaning up a rough drawing, again it depends on how much work the animator left for the clean up artist to correct/adjust. I spend 30 minutes to draw a semi-clean pose like the Batman drawings in question. It would take me another 30 minutes to clean it up on a new sheet of paper. This includes some rest time for my hand as these drawings need very tight pencil control. At other times, like drawing a fast action, I don't have to be as precise and can finish a clean-up in ten minutes.

Then comes the shading, which I consider to be a special effect, which needs to be done by an artist who understands how to handle that. It may be done by the same animator who animated the action, but that stage needs time to think out and accomplish.

This brings up (what is to me) an injustice. I consider the dumping of several stages of production onto the shoulders of one artist, but not scheduling the time to do it properly, to be unfair. Animation programs that can combine layout, key posing, and even create animatics into the storyboard stage, may seem to be wonderful to The Suits and Bean Counters, but it's a prime cause of burnout for the artist.

It's not just about the physical time it takes to do a particular stage of production, it is also about the reasonable amount of thinking/analysis time these stages need before a line is drawn. Someone who has the talent to visualize a script onto a storyboard doesn't necessarily have the makings of a layout person, who can block out the on-model poses for the animators, create solid backgrounds, etc. Nor should that storyboard artist also be expected to time the scenes as they are to appear in the story reel.

What infuriates me about today's animation industry is the race to the bottom regarding cost of production. I, myself, am a Suit and I know it has always been "Faster! Faster! Cheaper! Cheaper!" But at what cost? If the final product (however economically produced) does not interest its potential audience, than The Suits are to blame...not the medium itself for the lack of viewership.

As I said in one of my first posts on this blog: "As long as animation is treated purely as a manufactured product, the art of animation will never develop past what it has been in the past."

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