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Don't Be Scared to Critique More Experienced Animators

by | Aug 31, 2017

Ice Age Squirrels

We get it! It can be tough giving feedback to animators who are more advanced than you. You worry about saying the wrong thing or that your opinions aren’t as valuable as someone else’s. But when you really think about it, the primary audience of art isn’t other artists, it’s the wide world of non-animators out there! Offering feedback at any stage, especially as a newbie, provides tremendous value for your peers and even for more experienced animators—and it’s great real-life practice for when you’re working in the industry.

But don’t take our word for it!

Martyna Marek

Animation Mentor Grad, Winter 2015

A crucial thing I learned at Animation Mentor is that everyone can give feedback. At the very beginning there were times I could see something was not working in someone else’s shot but I couldn’t specify what exactly or why. But when giving feedback, even a simple note saying that there is something “weird” going on between frames 120–140 can help a great deal. I often ask my animator friends for feedback—if they can spot any pops, if the timing is right, acting believable, etc. But I also ask people who have no connection to animation whatsoever. I ask them, for example, if they understand the idea of the shot, the emotions behind the character acting, the setting, etc. Even movies have test screenings to see audience’s reactions.

Of course sometimes the notes you give/get can collide with notes someone else wrote. The animator or director will make the final decision about which notes to apply. In a professional environment you’ll probably be asked to give feedback so it is a good thing to practice beforehand, while you’re in school. You help someone and you train your animation eye at the same time. It’s a win-win situation!

Just remember to start feedback with a few positive notes so the animator also knows what’s working in the shot.

Awesome shot by Martyna Marek using our Overlord and Enforcer Character Rigs

Check out more of Martyna’s work here!

Ben Boyle

Animation Mentor Grad, Spring 2016

Feedback is always useful, everyone notices different things. Comments from my peers have opened my eyes to all kinds of new ideas, and things that have been happening in my shot that I’ve been completely blind to. I remember browsing the upper classes when I started at AM and it was super inspiring seeing the work of students just a couple of classes ahead of me. It was awesome to see their progress and how they improved and really helped me be ok with making mistakes when I got there too, seeing the sweat and tears of the weekly assignments, not just the final polish.

For giving feedback—you don’t have to be a professional animator. You have to be a professional viewer. You’ve been watching movies and TV and playing games your whole life right? You know more than you think what looks right, feels good, has appeal, tells a great story. Start putting it into words and practice. In a shot, did something amaze you? Say so! (We all love positive feedback). Did something confuse you? Say so. If this was your shot, what’s the number 1 thing you would work on next? Say it! Did it just feel a bit off but you don’t know why? Say so. Maybe the animator isn’t sure and your comment will help them decide what to direction to take. Feedback doesn’t always have to be technical about weight and arcs and spacing, it could be about the idea, the story, the props, the staging. Then watch the mentor critique and see if you were close to the mark.

The best way to get comfortable giving feedback is just to dive right in. Just imagine you’re their coworker. You work together and you’ve wandered over to their desk to say hi and ooh, I love what you’re doing on this shot. Wait, what just happened there, what did he do with his arm? Ohhh… I see, he grabbed a sword from somewhere. I was watching her and totally missed it the first time… maybe you can draw attention to that so we see the cool action! It’s a crazy remote virtual world, but remember, the person on the other side of the screen is just like you. Wouldn’t you like feedback to? People will often return the favour, the fastest way to get feedback is to go comment on people’s shots!

Ben Boyle’s Contribution to our“Circus Jam” short animated film

Check out more of Ben’s work here!

Nick Kondo

Animation Mentor Grad, Spring 2017

One of the most important things I learned during my time at Animation Mentor is that animation is a collaborative art form.

Especially early on in the animation process feedback from other students at the school was extremely important and helpful for me. Regardless of what class or skill level of the animator that the feedback was coming from, the extra brains and sets of eyes was absolutely necessary for me to get my animations to the level they ended up at!

In this piece, above, you can see that it evolved quite a bit over time, many of the significant changes came from me taking feedback and incorporating ideas from students in lower classes! Good ideas are good ideas!

Please don’t hesitate to give your input, I’m relying on it! 😀

Check out more of Nick’s work here!

Tony D’Aurio

Animation Mentor Grad, Spring 2017

I find this issue to be completely normal. I thought about that all the time during my time at Animation Mentor. I think the best thing to do is to think about what could be gained by giving feedback to upper class students. Once you leave a comment on their work space, you’re making a connection. The more comments you leave the more connections you’ll make, which will definitely come in handy in the future. Chances are, they would give you some input too.

To me, it feels really good to get feedback because I know that people are liking my shot and I know they only want to help make it better. Not only does it encourage me to to be a better animator but it also motivates me to look at their work space and leave feedback for them. The important thing is, it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, we’re all learning to become better animators. We are a community and everyone is here to help. So, If you have any constructive criticism, offer it! You can even just let them know how like you like their shot. They would truly appreciate that!

Check out more of Tony’s work here!

Want more inspiration? Here are some related posts:
I’ll never be as good an animator as so-and-so…
How I Got My Dream Job: Q&A with Alumnus and Framestore Animator Usman Olomu
Yair Gutierrez: From Animation Mentor Student to Captain America Civil War Animator

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