Oscar Picks 2016

Oscar Picks 2016

This year, as I did in 2015, I am again compiling a list of which films I think will win during the Academy Awards.

Best Visual Effects

2015 seemed to be the Year of the Bear when it came to visual effects, but the Star Wars: The Force Awakens team at ILM created a wide range of fantastic and believable effects that are sure to win out. After snatching 4 trophies at the VES awards, there seems to be little doubt as to the outcome of this category.

Best Animated Feature Film

There is a strong showing of animated feature nominees this year, but sadly, Inside Out is the only film from the major U.S. studios to be nominated. And previous years have shown that mainstream appeal weighs heavily with Academy voters. Besides that, the film is wonderfully endearing and original and has already received accolades, including a Golden Globe and 10 Annies.

Best Sound Editing

After already having received a BAFTA, Lon Blender and Martin Hernandez are promising candidates for picking up an Oscar in this category for The Revenant. Beyond that, however, their work is excellent. The Soundworks Collection has some good interviews on The Revenant and other Oscar-nominated films for sound here.

Best Sound Mixing

The broader Academy typically lumps sound editing and sound mixing together, so I am also naming The Revenant here.

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, the Oscar-winning DP for Gravity, gets my vote for his outstanding camera work on The Revenant. I have yet to see the film, but the clips I have seen display excellent work by Mr. Lubezki.

See the full list of nominees here: http://oscar.go.com/nominees/animated-feature-film.

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2015 Oscar Picks

Once again the Academy Awards are around the corner, so here I am presenting my picks of who will win tomorrow. As listing all the categories here would make this post much too lengthy, I will restrict myself to just those areas that I am most familiar with. So to start off with, here is my pick for Best Visual Effects.
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Why Drawing Trumps 3D in Colleges

As I come to the end of my (almost) last semester in college, I have had a chance to reflect on my experience of studying animation in college. I feel like the 3D animation aspect of my major is floundering and getting weaker with every new generation of students. Most students in the program (as I see it) work primarily in traditional mediums.

Now this isn’t to criticize 3D or my college, and there are multiple reasons for this. However, I think the core reason is that a lot of students attracted to the program are already good artists. They have been drawing for years and, in many cases, have become quite good.

Now enter 3D. The technical aspects are difficult to grasp, and the learning curve is steep. After a couple of years of taking both 3D and traditional courses, many of these future animators do not have any affinity for 3D, for which there is today an enormous demand. Now more than ever (as one of my professors would say), I realize that this should surprise no one.

If I were to start learning how to draw without having any previous experience, it would not be reasonable of me to expect to be drawing great art after a year or two. I would have to work at drawing for a long time to get good at it, just as learning 3D requires.

The problem that I see is that students at my college and elsewhere don’t take enough time to learn the technical and creative aspects of 3D before deciding that they’re not good at it and better off animating in 2D. With more practice, they might decide that have more positive feelings toward the field. This could happen either through continued study or beginning to model and animate in 3D before college, similar to what is prevalent in most areas of the arts.

2013 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

With the recent Academy Awards ceremony last weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to list some of the nominations in the ‘Best Animated Short Film’ category. There were some good shorts this year and certainly deserving of the recognition given to them.

1. The first short that I feel should be mentioned, and the one that I feel most strongly about, is “Paperman” by Disney Animation. This wonderful, stylized short about a chance meeting of an office worker and a woman is a clear winner in my opinion. Not only does it have great animation, story, and charm, but it also uses new technical developments to give it its hybrid 2D/3D look. A brief history of other winners in this category will show that technology does play a part in the consideration for a film.

2. The next film in this list is “Adam and Dog.” A great short about the world’s first man and his first best friend, rendered in traditional 2D animation. The style of this film is perhaps my favorite out of all the nominees, and the story is also quite interesting. Further, I would be remiss if I did not mention the involvement of legendary Disney animator Glen Keane.

3. This past year has certainly seemed to be the year for stop-motion animation, and “Head Over Heels” is a fantastic example of the genre. It centers on an elderly couple  who are living in the same house, but separated from each other, one living on the floor and the other on the ceiling. For being a student film, I find this film to be full of quirky charm, good storytelling, and solid animation. Also, there is just something memorable about the story points, whether it’s the man giving his wife a gift or him hanging upside down from his chair.

4. Fresh Guacamole is another stop-motion film from the studio PES. This short has a really unique concept, a person preparing a bowl of food. The animation uses pixilation for the person (who we only see his or her arms) who chops up various objects, turning them into other objects, such as dice. One of the most original animations that I have seen in some time.

5. The final film in this list is Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare.” I can’t say that I have ever been a Simpsons fan and do not appreciate the crude humor in the show. However, I was rather pleased with this short overall.

The film is about toddler Maggie Simpson who is dropped off at a miserable-looking daycare center and has to avoid a bully intent on crushing the one beautiful thing in the daycare, a blue butterfly. The pacing is good and has solid story points. “The Longest Daycare” is well-done and a fine animation.

http://www.3dworldmag.com/2013/02/12/fab-five-nominations-for-oscar-shorts/

Resources for CG and Animation Jobs

Here are some websites that I’ve found to have good job listings for animators.

CG Studio Map – This is a site that I feel is a very good, if basic, resource. It provides a comprehensive list of studios ranging from animation and visual effects to post production and contact details for the studios. The site is laid out on a world map that allows one to see all of the studios in a particular region at a glance. The best part of the site is that even studios not actively advertising open positions are visible. http://www.cgstudiomap.com/

CG Society Jobs – CG Society is one of the best community sites and their job site is an equally good resource with many different types of jobs listed. One thing that you aren’t likely to find is any freelance jobs, but for professional-looking studio listings it is good. http://jobs.cgsociety.org/

VFX Jobs – This is another good one. It has postings from major studios and smaller ones. It also allows profiles from individual artists and specific projects. http://vfxjobs.com/

Motionographer Jobs – This is my most frequented site. Has several new job postings every day and allows artists to apply directly. Has jobs for any kind of motion graphics, visual effects, and 3D. I subscribe to their Twitter @MoGraphJobs, which makes job searching convenient. http://motionographer.com/jobs/

You Animator – You Animator isn’t a true job site; rather, it focuses on animation reel reviews by industry pros. This really makes it stand out to me and is recommended even if you plan on searching for studios yourself. http://www.youanimator.com/

Creative Heads – Well laid-out and easy to navigate site. I spotted jobs from Blur, Warner Bros, and SCAD, and it does seem to have plenty of good opportunities. Allows applying from within the site. http://www.creativeheads.net/

Gamasutra – It’s primarily a gaming news site, but also has a job board. It isn’t specifically for artists and animators, but it will probably be your best resource if you’re a game designer. http://gamasutra.com/jobs/

Mandy – I’m including this one because oftentimes it seems that other job sites just repost jobs from Mandy. It’s “all roads lead to Mandy.com,” so to speak. If you’re a filmmaker, animator, or mograph artist looking for work, I really recommend watching this site. http://mandy.com/1/filmtvjobs.cfm

Craigslist – Not something you might ordinarily think of, but there is some respectable job listings for animators and vfx artists. If you use Google Alerts, you can use the “site:” prefix with craigslist.org and your search terms. This will send a compilation of Craigslist ads to your inbox. Presto!

Freelancer – A good freelance website that allows you to bid on projects and contests. Has a very active community and solid reputation. One of the nice things about the site is the ‘Public Clarification Board’ that allows freelancers to ask questions about the job posting. http://www.freelancer.com

Elance – Very similar to Freelancer. Allows clients to ask specific questions of freelancers, rather than just a basic proposal. It also allows e-mail and RSS subscriptions http://www.elance.com

Odesk – This is another freelance site. A little smaller, but still has quite a few job postings. After you login, it displays an aggregated view of all your saved searches. Pretty nice. However, it does not have a portfolio feature. It allows a video link on users’ profiles, but nothing more. http://www.odesk.com

PeopleperhourPeopleperhour is a more recent entry into the online freelance world. In addition to the ability to bid on job postings, the site’s main focus is the Hourly. Hourlies are specific services offered by freelancers on a hourly basis. It also allows freelancers to include specific portfolio items in proposals.

Creative District – A place for filmmakers to post their film projects and hire crew. This isn’t a very active site, but it can be useful. http://www.creativedistrict.com

Nerdeo – At the time of this writing, the site is still in beta, but it promises to connect “…freelancers and top students with directors and producers, anywhere in the world, providing them with an online facility for more efficient remote collaboration.” So it allows creatives to find projects that they want to work on and contact the clients directly. It seems promising, but it does leave some room to be desired currently. http://signup.nerdeo.net

49 Hour Film Competition

Last weekend the Digital Media Arts Animation department at Huntington University participated in the 49 Hour Film Competition hosted by the MG Collective in Indianapolis. The goal of the competition was to make a short animated film in only 49 hours from concept to final submission. Five teams and about two dozen students took part. While I was not directly involved in any of the groups, I did have the pleasure of helping to document the event.

Steve Leeper

Prof. Steve Leeper talking during a production meeting to kick off the competition.

Production meeting

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