Printed from www.digitalmediafx.com
Digital Media FX - The Power of Imagination
for Non Artists:
Non-Artist Software Knowledge for Success
Most everyone seems
to know Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Outlook these
days because business in today's world demands it. Animation is no
exception. Memos are still drafted, schedules and expense reports still
constructed, meetings are tracked on electronic calendars, and e-mail
is the preferred way to get all the above sent quickly and efficiently
to anyone involved in the production anywhere on the planet. However,
other programs are used in the animation industry -- and I'm not just
talking about CGI software used by the artists. Outside of Microsoft
Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Outlook, there exist additional
specialty software packages that I feel a non-artist should familiarize
him or herself with to be competitive.
Filemaker Pro appears at many studios, customized to the specific studio. If
you're not familiar with Filemaker Pro, it's essentially a database program
with a high degree of customization. Everywhere I've worked, plus other major
studios large and small, uses this program to track the creation of the layout,
props, and character models for the episodes. Definitely go out of your way
to learn it, and if you can learn Filemaker Pro programming and design, it
might not hurt to do so. Personally, I haven't mastered these aspects yet and
definitely think I should.
The two art-based computer programs that I believe a non-artist must become
familiar with are Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Knowing a competing
program that does the same functions is definitely helpful, but many people
may not recognize the competitor's names on your resume. At home, I own JASC
Paint Shop Pro, which performs a lot of the same things as Illustrator but
I've found cumbersome for some tasks; Since I'm not an illustrator, but needed
to work with art to mild degrees at home, this fits my needs. Adobe, as an
industry leader, shows up practically everywhere and in hindsight might have
been better to have gotten Photoshop despite my lack of artist capabilities.
However, I do have Adobe Photoshop on my resume because I've used it at Nickelodeon
and also took a course in it during my BA studies. On some productions now,
some or all of the original rough backgrounds are being sent overseas and cleaned
up there, then the cleaned-up versions scanned and sent via FTP (File Transfer
Protocol) back to the American studio for approval. The image sizes may need
to be manipulated slightly to fit on a printer page, as they will be cel-sized
cleanups, which do not match paper standards.
FTP definitely must be learned, especially with the interaction of multiple
studios in this global environment. Not only are backgrounds exchanged as above,
but on some shows I've worked on, all the computer colored models get sent
directly by FTP to the overseas studio doing the animation; no more printed
reams of glossy paper to send by international courier.
Whether you plan to write, creatively produce, or just work as part of the
production personnel, I also recommend familiarity with the screenwriting software.
Even if you don't use it yourself, you'll develop an understanding for how
the scripts are constructed on which all your efforts are based. Final Draft
still remains the one most commonly used by studios, with Movie Magic Screenwriter
in second (at least based on my experience). Another competitor, Scriptware,
I still encounter but not as frequently. If someone mentions ScriptThing to
you, that program merged with Movie Magic Screenwriter in 2000, but also had
a very loyal following and strong reputation.
Now, if you're really ambitious -- and especially if you ultimately plan to
be a line or creative producer -- Movie Magic Budgeting software may be worth
learning. There's even special templates now customized to budgeting an animation
project. However, be advised that the software is expensive to own and classes
only seem to be taught in the major metros such as Los Angeles and New York.
Unless you expect to be budgeting your own projects at some point, you're probably
best just spending the money on a one or two day primer course. I took one
at UCLA Extension taught by Bob Koster, but there may be other locations as
well. This program, however, should be a lower priority over the others packages
Bear in mind that
my emphasis on certain programs comes from either studios where I've
worked or what I know about where others work. It's very possible there
are up-and-coming programs in these areas I do not know about yet,
but I feel this gives a good groundwork for getting started. If you've
already got knowledge of these programs on your resume, and can back
it up with intimate knowledge of how the software titles work, it can
only help you get an edge in this very competitive industry.
You can email Shannon
Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
columns, including this one, that appear in Digital Media FX are not necessarily
reflective of the opinions of Digital Media FX, its partner sites, and
to "Non Artist Software Knowledge for Success" Column.
to Shannon Muir's Columns.
> Visit the Digital Media
FX Front Page.
This story and
all content are ©copyright 2001 - 2004 by Digital Media FX and may
not be reused for any purpose without expressed written consent of Digital
Media FX. All rights reserved.