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Finding Fulfilment As an Animator
Before becoming a lecturer at Raffles, Barry graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animation and worked at Lucasfilm Singapore for six years. Projects in which he was involved include: the television series “Star Wars – Clone Wars”, “Transformers”, “Rango” and “Avengers”.
When asked about his thoughts on where professional animators find fulfillment, he said, “Sometimes, it’s the projects you want to work on. As one of my biggest fulfillments was working on Avengers, even why I didn’t do much For the most part, I still managed to work a little on my dream project. When we get to a certain level, we tend to go after dream projects – things we want to work on instead of everything.”
Barry teaches “Understanding Acting” in his animation class. In his module, students learn the importance of bringing a character’s behavior to life. By understanding acting, an animator will be able to weave compelling stories and allow viewers to connect with 2D or 3D characters.
He shared with us about life as a professional animator and what you can expect as his student at Raffles Singapore:
1. As an animator, how do you search for inspiration? Do you need it?
Yes of course! It’s quite tiring creatively to do it every day. As a student, you will never think it will be boring because it is something you want to do. When I was a student, it never occurred to me that it would be difficult to find inspiration. But actually, after working every day, you will be creatively exhausted.
You have to find inspiration somewhere, so it’s good to see that inspiration comes from work and peers. Sometimes student work isn’t just inspiring, it’s a pat on the back to remind us that there will always be someone who is better. And that we must push for continuous improvement.
For me, inspiration mostly comes from the industry itself. Because movies keep breaking new ground, keep getting better, and get more beautiful too…
2. How long does it take to animate something?
It can take from one day to two months, depending on the circumstances.
3. When you work in a professional environment, do you create works alone? Or do you have a team?
The way the industry works, if it’s about animation, I’ll do the job. Obviously other parts of the job like lighting and modeling are done by someone else. So just for one scene, the pipeline can take about a month to half a year to complete due to different departments.
4. What do you think makes people interested in working in animation?
I would say it’s an art form. It brings out people’s imagination. Because so much animation is aimed at children, many of us have been bombarded with animation since we were little – especially the next generation, who will be bombarded with even more cartoons. These people tend to be inspired by them. Some continue to believe in animation and cartoons, and bring it into their adult lives and want to be in this field.
So I see that’s what gets people interested – an interest in watching movies from a young age – like Disney cartoons.
5. Is this why you chose to work in animation?
Yes! This is true. I must say it is also because of the amazing cartoons. But I think it’s also because of the making of movies? I think making movies is great because I’ve always loved movies and stories and stuff like that.
It’s very close to acting, but I would say because I can’t act, I’m afraid to be in front of a camera, so I go behind the camera and act by animating characters – same concept – just different way of approaching it.
6. After your experience as a commercial level animator, what do you like most about this field?
I think it’s the acting part. There is an element of acting in animation when you animate models like puppets. It’s best when you actually get inspired and share it with animators or students who are studying the subject.
It’s better when you see great things done by people you know. You can talk to them and say “Hey, what you did was cool!” and discuss it. They don’t become unpopular after becoming famous – they’re still friends.
7. What kind of software do the professional animators there use that students at Raffles also learn to use?
We use Maya. And it’s the most dominant software right now.
8. Is Adobe Creative Suite often used in the field of animation?
Adobe is still used, but for different kinds of things. It is not the main software used, but is used for smaller functions such as cloning or cleaning. But it’s only used in a specific area of the pipeline, like background painting, where they paint the background for a scene. So they really have to use Adobe for that, and that’s the only part.
9. What else do they teach in your class?
I mainly study acting. It is an advanced ability to understand and be aware of how people act. So we watch movies and break it down for them to understand.
Although understanding is one thing, application is another. Actors in real life have it easier – they have their own bodies and have lived in them for their entire lives. But as an animator, what they do have are software skills. Creating good animation is all about training your software skills to blend well with acting.
Acting is mostly about psychology or physical awareness, and I even have students get up and do some physical acting and exercises like actors do.
10. For the benefit of students who are interested in studying animation, can you tell us what potential animators should consider when choosing animation course ?
Good courses focus on building your work and they want you to have a good portfolio. At the end of the day, the student should be able to produce something. In addition to having software knowledge and design skills, you need to graduate with a good portfolio and demonstrate that you can reproduce that quality over and over again.
11. What are some challenges students should prepare for before enrolling in a degree in animation?
I think they should expect to work hard. Because this industry is all about personal determination, it takes a lot of work to get there, especially if you don’t have basic training.
It won’t be as easy as other university courses, it will be taxing. Be ready when you want to do it – it’s really driven by passion. Practice takes a lot of work.
12. If a student wants to get a laptop for animation classes, would you recommend a Mac or a PC? Why?
Actually, I have no preference. It’s not a major problem. There is no fixed standard in the industry itself. The good ones actually use Linux because it’s easy to customize. Both Mac and PC work well because they have the necessary kits to run the necessary jobs.
13. How do recent graduates go about looking for an animation job in Singapore – or abroad?
Students will need to know who is hiring and the positions available. Second, they need to know the skills companies are looking for so they can tailor their portfolio to suit their needs.
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