Insights for Non Artists:
Interview with Jason Stiff
When I first decided
to launch the "Animated Insights for
Non-Artists" columns, one area I wanted to delve into was
the art of post-production in animation. However, for various
reasons, nothing ever came together. Finally, things lined up
so that I could get in touch with Jason Stiff, who is Director
of Post-Production for Nickelodeon Animation studios and animated
programs for The National Network as of this writing. Previous
credits for Jason include Post Production Supervisor on INVADER
ZIM, CHARLOTTE'S WEB II, JIMMY NEUTRON BOY GENIUS, and the FATHERHOOD
pilot for Nickelodeon Animation; STRIPERELLA and GARY THE RAT
for TNN; ROBBIE THE REINDEER for CBS; and KING OF THE HILL for
off, I asked him to define post-production. "Well," Jason responded, "literally
it means the work that happens after pre-production and production of the project
is finished. In the animation world, it is what happens after the initial work
is finished. Some call it the 'fix factory' but anyone that works in post would
resent that characterization." He continued by describing the process. "After
the script, storyboard, character design, backgrounds, color design, and timing
of the show it is sent to Korea (in most cases) to be animated. We then get
it back (in digital format) we edit it together and make any changes necessary.
Music and sound effects are added and the show is completed. Obviously that's
an amazing simplification, but it hits the bullet points."
asked how he got his start in animation: "I did some
freelance animatic stuff with a friend when I first moved here,
but my first real job was as a post
production assistant for KING OF THE HILL at Film Roman. As for how I got it...well,
I got it the old fashioned way...a friend of a friend of course! Yes, it's
true, nepotism is still alive and well in Hollywood! Seriously
though, a friend referred
me to Film Roman and I was EXTREMELY persistent to hear my previous boss tell
the story. Eventually it worked and I was given a chance."
As to how he moved
from that position to Post Production Coordinator, and later
Supervisor: "The setup on the show was that there
was a Post Production Supervisor, a Post Production Coordinator
and then myself. Basically I just kept taking on more and more
of the Coordinator's responsibilities and when the opportunity
to advance came, I was given the job. I worked my way up from
the initial PA job, through Coordinator and then finally to Post
Production Supervisor for King of the Hill. I enjoyed 4 years
and 5 seasons on that show. It was an amazing experience working
on such a challenging show. I learned more there than I would
have ever imagined. KING OF THE HILL (and THE SIMPSONS) are still
done traditionally (cel based ) and since it was a prime time
show on a major network the emphasis on perfection was something
that I really enjoyed.
my supervisor and mentor, Loren Smith, (the person who hired me
business) taught me things that I don't
know that I would have learned elsewhere.
Her attention to detail, her no nonsense way of taking on situations, and her
way of teaching the process and ideas of post production were amazing. She
showed me how to do things not only technically but enhanced
my ability to deal with
people and multi task in an environment that is not forgiving when it comes
long before this interview took place, Jason received a promotion
of Post Production for both Nickelodeon
Animation Studios and the
animated programs for The National Network such as STRIPERELLA and GARY THE
RAT. "I'm really looking forward to getting further into it. I think
it's a great opportunity to bring a singular structure to the productions
as furthering the ability of the Studio to compete in a broad market. We
are looking to take the studio in an even more digital direction than it
including DVD authoring and digital transfers of materials from overseas
asked what he enjoyed most about the post-production field, Jason
it's the German in me, but I love the structure. I really enjoy getting things
in order and finding new ways to solve problems. The animation that is done
these days is getting more and more complex utilizing 2D/3D/Flash and other
mediums. This allows for some amazing work in the end...and finding a good
and creative way to get there is fun for me." In regards to challenges,
he commented, "[a]s with anything, we are limited by time and money.
Given an unlimited amount of each, we could do some great things. Otherwise,
all about problem solving. That's a challenge, but a fun one. It's almost
impossible to keep up with the technology, but luckily the outside vendors
can do that
for us at times. Although, Nickelodeon is a real force in house as well utilizing
both talent and equipment to make really high quality shows."
resist inquiring if there was any particular memorable story Jason
Stiff wanted to share about how the art of post-production
improved or rescued
a particular show he was working on. "Oh my, I can think of a hundred.
Really," came the response. "It's such an important part of the
process that without it, you wouldn't want to watch what we first get. The
composers and sound designers do so much to enhance and 'save' every single
show. I can't praise the work that is done by these people enough."
Another thing I was
curious about was crucial he believes formal education was
to your advancement versus on-the-job training.
Jason's response: Personally I know that it helps me in life,
but I can't give it too much credit in my work. Sure, it helps
me to communicate with people and I suppose it showed me how
to be organized to some degree, but I wouldn't say I needed it
to do what I do. A lot of the people who do what I do have not
had degrees. It is such a specific science at times it can be
learned. However, the people that bring a creativity to the work
(in the art as well as the thought process of how to get things
done) are really the ones that make it in the long run."
I asked Jason if there was any other advice that he would like
to share that
had not come out as a result of any
of the other questions. "No,
other than to say that I really enjoy doing what I'm doing. I think that
is important to getting the job done. If you can't enjoy it or
you stop having
a good time with it, you really should try to do something else. This makes
me happy and I hope to be able to continue doing it for a long time. Thanks
for the opportunity to talk with you."
for sharing your time, Jason.
here to discuss this column in the dFX
is known in the animation industry for her work as a production
coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as
a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production
Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished
writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker
at conventions like Comic Con International. Muir moved to Los
Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately 8,000),
knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business. Since
then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality,
whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles
about the industry.
You can email
Shannon Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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