Need A Spot?

Original Author: Tim Borrelli

“The way this day typically goes is that if one of us sets a personal record (PR), the other one has to set a PR to keep pace.”

I wrote that in a training log a few months back, and it got me to thinking.

This kind of training applies not just to setting PRs, but to our overall philosophy of pushing each other to continually train and improve. The same kind of mentality should always be present in an animation team (or any team) setting- if we all work to improve and push each other to improve, our overall output will be more efficient and of higher quality.

Some days, we’re in the gym and one of us just isn’t feeling it. It would be easy to just quit, walk upstairs and eat some ice cream. It would be easy to just say “it wasn’t happening today” and have that be that. But we’re a team. Teammates are there to pick each other up when they need it, and to work with each other to figure out what will work that day in the gym. We don’t want to let each other down. We know that if one of us gave up, the other may not have a successful training session or worse- neither of us will make any progress towards our current training goals.

There are also times where even though we are confident in the lift we are about to do, we need someone to make sure we don’t injure ourselves- it’s called “spotting” someone. Having a spotter also allows a lifter to go higher in weight during a session- not only due to being safer from injury, but by giving a confidence boost to the lifter that they can lift the weight.

Animation is the same way. There are plenty of days when I or another member of the team just cannot figure out a pose, a motion, timing, etc. An animator will plan it all out, it’ll sound great in their mind, and when they go to execute, they just can’t get it. When this happens, the team looks at it together (i.e, we “spot” each other). We throw out ideas- some good, some bad, some that will work better for another motion. Some are just so over-the-top hilarious that we know we can’t use them, but have fun talking about them. The goal is to come away from that interaction with a fresh perspective on the motion and try it again. I know that for me, sometimes just that interaction with the members of my team is enough to get me over the hump.

This same interaction needs to occur when motions are completed and just aren’t working from either a style, gameplay or quality perspective- while I am the lead and do the initial approvals, I try to encourage the team to give feedback on everyone’s motions, mine included. This pushes each of us to continually put out high quality work that fits within the vision of not just the animation direction, but of the game.

For various reasons, however, not everyone is part of a team. This may be due to working better alone, being at a small studio, or being a student or jobless and trying to break in. Aside from those who prefer to work alone (who wouldn’t be on my team anyways), I encourage the rest of you to go find yourselves some teammates! Get on Twitter, post on deviantart or polycount or wherever. Meet people via online networking, learn from them, teach them, let them help you improve while you yourself encourage others to improve. Get a spotter, as it were.

Use these powerful forms of social media the right way and you’ll find yourself open to a world of people who are trying to do the same as you: improve their craft and become a meaningful part of a team.