I want my work to be clever and simple.
Well it has been a while since I updated my blog, and I thought I'd just do an update on what has actually been keeping me busy.
With the exception of getting married and the obligatory honeymoon, I have had my nose firmly to the grind since my last post in November.
I should do this more often! I didn't feel like I'd been up to much but when I went back through my calendar I reminded myself how much I fit into my time.
I've been mainly spreading myself between these agencies:
- Urban Circus
- Fizz Farm
- Dirty Puppet
And I've been working on:
- A visual identity for video work on the upcoming Western distributor infrastructure project. (also a little UI design for this project)
- Previz for fly-over graphics on a property development promo.
- An animated explainer video for Citylink featuring lots of illustrative animation of cars, people, machinery, etc.
- I have designed and executed a chalk mural at La Trobe University's Bundora campus, which was a little left of center for me, but quite fun!
- I've contributed a number of illustrations to a video pitch for La Trobe University, celebrating their 50 year anniversary.
- I've worked on animated explainer videos for NAB on how to set up their new VISA cards.
- I have done 2 conference openers for GSK.
- I am just finishing a very fun piece for BHP Billiton, which involves a lot of bright abstract geometry and expressive movement.
I've also been working of some personal projects when I've had time. I completed 'Game of Telephone' a little short I came up with to try out some character rigging techniques. I've also been practising hand drawn animation in After Effects with the Paint & Stick' plug in. And I've been playing with the Stardust plug-in, which is a node based particle generator in After Effects.
I am in talks with Deloitte Digital to take a long contract (6 months) and work as essentially a staff animator, which should be a nice sea change. I look forward to being a little more involved in projects and hopefully being able to invest a little more of my self in the work, Which I found in my past work for them.
Also, my friend Matthew Kelly and I have challenged each other to learn Blender before we see each other in London in July. We have pledged each other a 'portfolio-worthy piece' by then or forfeit £100. So hopefully I'll be getting into the world of open-source 3D very soon!
The first Node Fest was a roaring success! I have been counting down to this event and I was not disappointed. As founder and self appointed 'Headmaster', James Cowen said, this will be the highlight of the Melbourne motion design calendar.
What drew me to node was the fact that it was one concentrated day specifically for and by motion designers. I have found other events (Pause) to be too general and too spread out, with confusing programs and ticketing. Node was one simple, solid Friday where everything was relevant, lunch and dnibbles were laid on and there was free beer from Adobe at the after party, all at one venue!
The speakers were a perfect range of masters, overseers, philanthropists and wildcards, who all make big contributions to Australian animation and motion design and influence the Melbourne industry.
From Tim Clapham's philosophical comparison of the handcrafted vs the procedural, to Superstar title designer Raoul Marks' cocky casual couch conversation as the closing segment, Node was inspiring, fun, informative and a really good way to meet new people who I didn't know were around, doing really amazing and varied work.
I think my favourite part was Dom Bartolo's presentation of the process work from his company, Flutter. Their advertisement for Libra is a beautiful piece of motion design, and the style frames that he presented were works of art in themselves.
Thanks so much to James, Kim and everyone who made Node possible.
This week I added another first to my life experiences: public speaking. (well if you don't count hosting my primary school leaving assembly and a very blurry memory of a best man's speech) And I think I liked it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my good friend Rachel Service of Happiness Concierge asked me to join her to co-host a workshop on Communicating with clients as a freelancer. This was done through Freelance Australia, which is a great NGO which helps freelancers connect with all the people and info they need. We have both been freelancing in our respective fields for over 5 years, and have industry experience going back far longer than that. Rachel comes from a PR background and I am obviously an animator, so our experiences gelled really well to give two perspectives and offer a broad spectrum of freelancing info and feedback for the group.
I was so pleased by how keen everyone was to weigh in with their own experience and ask more about the topics we covered. Fortunately we had prepared for most of the topics that came up, and I surprised myself at how much I was able to draw on my own experience to help people out with prickly issues they were having in their freelance lives.
Some of the key take aways that people wanted to hear more about included;
• Itemising invoices: It's not necessary when you are a one-person business providing a small skill set.
• Describing what You do when your skill set is multi-specialised: Simplify your description to the main skill you want to sell, or the skill they most require, then you can pull out your other talents later as awesome value adds.
• Setting rates as a freelancer: There is no hard and fast rule, but you must be confident to demand a lot more as a freelancer because you are the expert that they needed to bring in to get the job done. You are also a business with overheads and taxes and nobody is paying you leave, sick days or super, so all these should factor into your rate.
We also got into the pros and cons of Project Fees vs. Day Rates and we talked about balancing freelance work with other paid work or business ventures. It was also great see multiple breakthroughs where people were able to recognise that their cumulative experience adds up to more than what they gave themselves credit for.
We got a great turnout, and the workshop is definitely something we will be bringing back to Melbourne and Sydney in the coming months (Let us know if you want this in a town near you!) We have already started building these and many more new topics into the next workshop and I can't wait to take to the stage again soon!
To learn more about this and other workshops, check out http://www.happinessconcierge.com.au/
It feels good when your work gets published. That's what got me into this whole gig in the first place. When something you worked on gets published on a public platform that loads of people will see, it gives you a real rush, and when Premiere Daniel Andrews himself shares it on his Facebook, that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
I worked on this video for Urban Circus in Melbourne. It describes the work and resources needed for Melbourne Metros' upcoming Public Private Partnership on the new tunnel which will run from north to south through the greater Melbourne CBD to offer more rail links for the fast-growing city. I have to admit of course it's not all my work. The team in Urban Circus Brisbane cut the initial edit for us, and gave me sections where I had to use supplied maps and a 3D model of the Tunnel Boring Machine to whip together the 2D and 3D animated graphics. My favourite part was the 2D animated Tunnel Borer and Road Header icons. Also; due props to Tony Tran for putting the final touches on when I was needed elsewhere. A great collaborative effort!
Why does it cost so much? How does it take so long? Why can't I just do it myself?
Today I had a great meeting with Rachel from Happiness Concierge, who is talking to freelancers about negotiating their worth and working with clients who don't understand what they do.
It was very enlightening and we may be teaming up soon to put our findings into a talk. In the meantime here are some topics we hit on:
A lot of what it comes down to is early communication. Unlike most other workplaces, there is very rarely a CV or background check involved in entering into a new job, so its down to the freelancer to communicate anything important. It pays to establish a few things in the first email or phone-call before it's too late and you end up working on the clients terms.
Depending on the vibe you get from a new client, it may be up to you to educate them on a few things, such as the detail involved, length of a job, why your skills cost what they cost, and maybe even why they can't do it themselves.
Its important to know that the rate you are offering is well considered. Knowing your best rate should be based on a combination of your experience, your portfolio and the demand for your skills. Talk to peers regularly to get an idea of the industry standard rate and think about reviewing it every 2 years or so because of a) inflation, and b) your skills and experience are always improving.
While you may have been contacted for one key skill i.e. storyboarding, the client may not know that you are also a great illustrator, or prefer to edit or animate. Be gracious in letting them know what other skills you can bring to the table. For the client, this might be a welcome bonus, or a skill they didn't know how to ask for.
It also pays to establish your preferred way of working from early on. For me, I prefer to be hired for a single job from start to finish, rather than blocking out my time, and being spread across a number of duties. The time to let the client know your preference is at the beginning. Being able to explain the benefits of why you prefer to work in a particular way will help you in establishing a positive relationship. For the client, the benefit might come down to a more efficient use of freelance labour. While for you, it might mean working on projects that you really want to work on, and not getting caught up in the day-to-day of the office. Be prepared to compromise a little, but you will probably have a better time on the job if you bring this up early on.
Of course, it's always important to stay positive and be patient with all of your clients, customers and agencies. Remember at the end of the day, you are providing a service that they need, and will ultimately be paying you for.
I'm really excited to be working on a new project with Happiness Concierge, and will update on this soon. Watch this space.
There's nothing worse than turning up to a job and finding you're missing a crucial piece of kit.
A lot of agencies require freelancers to bring their own laptop to jobs. Sometimes they don't have enough licenses or Machines of their own at the time, and sometimes it's a PC-based team and I just know I'm quicker and better (and better value) on a Mac.
Whatever the reason, supplying your own laptop means supplying everything else needed to be able to quickly set up and work autonomously, without having to nag others at the site for cables, etc. Making a good first impression is a lot harder when you forgot your power cable.
Today I decided to save myself the trouble of doing this again in future by making myself a checklist of everything I need for a smooth-running mobile studio.
- Bag - This is the 3rd or 4th backpack I have used and it is a real winner. It's light and compact, looks rad, and fits ALL the following gear. I got it at Officeworks for a pretty good price.
- Mouse & Batteries - You don't want to be stuck using a trackpad all day (well I don't.). The Magic Mouse works for me, but sometimes I bring a wired mouse if I'm worried about batteries.
- Mousepad - You never know what kind of surface your desk will have. It pays to be prepared with a mousepad instead of trying to find a manila folder to use as a mousing surface. Also I like the feel of the gel bump.
- HDMI Cable - This is one of the most common things I find myself lacking. There may be a monitor for you, but you often have to wait for Terry to go through the shoebox of cables in Janet's desk to get an HDMI to connect the thing. Ain't nobody gots time for that.
- Mac Keyboard - The laptop keyboard is not enough for me. I need that numeric keypad. And no I can't use the Dell one you so kindly supplied me with.
- Phone Cable - Not crucial, but you may as well have your phone connected and charging, right? Mine is blue so I know if Janet stole it.
- Note book - It's surprising how often I need to jot, sketch, storyboard etc, and there is nothing to write on.
- Laptop power - Obvious really. No one wants to lend you their power cable.
- External Drive - For all my plug-ins, vector libraries, scripts and other shit I can pretend I made on the day. (shhhh.)
- Earphones - So you don't have to listen to Janet. Also you might need to do some editing.
- Stylus - "Cool, I'll do that on my Wacom. Oh crap, where is my stylus?"
- Tablet Cable - "Cool, I'll do that on my Wacom. Oh crap, where is my cable?"
- Glasses - For when I wear my sunglasses on the train then go to change into my Clark Kent specks to no avail and I'm stuck with sore eyes all day.
- USB Hub - Get a good one, the cheapies are so unreliable.
- Ethernet adapter - Crucial for me. Macbook pros haven't had an ethernet plug for a while now. If you don't want to rely on WIFI, bring an adapter.
- Laptop - So far I haven't managed to forget this item.
- Pens, Pencils - Another thing you don't want to have to ask Janet for.
- Tablet - I don't always need to sketch or paint on my tablet, but when I do, its on day 1 of a job, and it looks pretty bad if I haven't got my tablet.
I recently finished a large animation project with many moving parts, which spanned about 3 months (approx. thrice the original schedule) and had the all-too-common problem of having too many chefs at the client's end. This is nothing out of the norm, but what was odd was that on the final day of animation, I was still being asked to provide updated storyboards.
This makes me ask; What is a storyboard?, How do clients perceive a storyboard?, how many different kinds of storyboard are there?, and How should it fit into my workflow?
In my experience, storyboards come in many different shapes and sizes, and are sometimes not even requested or expected, but I think they are always necessary.
Depending on the scale of the job and the level of trust/control from the client, the storyboard can just be a few sketches on whatever paper I can find, or a fully plotted-out pdf from InDesign, with images at finished quality. The images can just be fragments/highlights of the narrative, or it may need to be the full script, with space for mark-ups.
The ideal situation is when style frames are used. These show a handful of fully-designed stills as an indication of what the finished product will look like. A storyboard with supplementary style frames can be done in a looser style and created faster, so as to get the client signed off sooner, and move on to the all important animation stage!
In a nutshell, there is no one definition of what a storyboard is, but they are a crucial part of the process that help communicate to everyone from animators, illustrators, producers and directors, to the all-important client, what the plan is and what needs to happen to get it done.
Queen's Birthday Weekend. As my partner and the dog enjoyed plenty of cozy couch time on a cold and rainy public holiday, I took the time to get my teeth into a project I have been working on for a couple of months now.
Myself and my writer/producer teammate are creating a pilot for a cartoon show aimed at pre-school aged kids.
I really love replacing my usual corporate straight-laced style and palette for a kid-friendly cute and colourful world on my screen. -Makes me wonder if the boardrooms and offices need a little more love and colour in their presentations!
I can't reveal much about this project while it's in development, but I can say that I'm having fun with some very involved 2D character rigs. It's cool having time to experiment with different tricks and setups and get my head around some handy 3rd party scripts like Rubber Hose, Duik, Connect Layers, Joystick n' Sliders, and a whole heap of others.
It's a fun concept and I'm confident that with a lot of love and attention we can make it go far!
This will be my clumsily composed, ill-conspired first blog post.
I've started this section to show what is going on in my corner of the motion world outside of the content I post in my portfolio.
To supplement the content I am able to upload, I'll be posting here about my personal projects, contract work, tips & tricks I pick up along the way, and events related to my animation pursuits.