The Famous Four

Published on August 25th, 2011
The Famous Four

For those of you who are interested in the world of animation, we caught up with these guys to find out more about this interesting profession…

Daniel Snaddon (DS) – lead animation director at Bugbox Animation Studios
Neill Vermaak (NV) - Head of lighting and shading at Bugbox Animation Studios
Sifiso Motaung (SM) – 2D animator
Zolna Minik (ZM) – 2D/3D animator and designer

What exactly does an animator do?
DS: Animators create the illusion of movement, one frame at a time.
NV: Animation is ‘change over time’. The change can be anything. But choosing what to change, and how, and when, that  is what makes a good animator. Character animation is also visual storytelling – striking good, appealing poses, poses that make sense.
SM: An animator is the actor of the animation, because he/she’s the one who gives life to the characters, and the movement that is needed for the show. You need to have talent in drawing as much as an actor needs talent in acting.
ZM: Animators breathe life into characters and their surroundings.

How did you get here?
DS: By drawing cartoons in science and Afrikaans!
ZM: After high school I attended an advertising school specialising in multimedia design. After that I studied at a university specialising in 3D animation … and here I am!

What subjects do you need to study animation?
SM: Art and life drawing. In terms of 3D animation I would say physics because there’s lots of maths involved.
NV: The subject of life, LOL. In school, a subject like art is always good. Maths is indispensable for almost everything in life. If you are artily inclined, life drawing is fundamental to understanding shape, motion, proportion, etc., and is critical to understanding animation. Biology might be good for anatomy understanding. Actually, all subjects are important for life and, thus, important for animation.

Are there any cartoons you used to watch when you were younger that inspired you to become an animator?
DS: Sure! The Real Ghostbusters, TMNT, classic Disney and Warner Bros cartoons, The Simpsons … there are a whole bunch I still love watching now!
NV: Well, I watched tons of cartoons and films as a child, and still do. I loved He-Man, and Freakaziod, but I’m not sure they inspired me to do what I do.
SM: Yes, I watched a lot of Dragon Ball Z and Disney cartoons.
ZM: I watched a lot of cartoons – Warner Brothers and Disney and whatever was on TV. It was when 3D movies like Toy Story came out that it slowly dawned on me that maybe I can do that.

Do animators work on movies like Avatar and Transformers or only movies like Finding Nemo and Shrek?
NV: They work on both. Basically, there are two major pathways you can follow toward a career in the animation industry. You can become an animator or you can become a technical director (TD). That’s the umbrella term for anyone doing the more technical stuff. If you’re a TD, you get to do all the other important bits of work that enable the animators to do their jobs. Examples would be: modeling, shading, lighting, rigging, rendering, compositing, simulations etc. So, to answer your question, who do you think animated the giant robots in Transformers? Not the TDs!

If you had to come up with a new animated character, what would his/her name be and what would they do?
DS: My character’s name would be Decoy Dave, and he would be a human target that runs around distracting bad guys.
ZM: Good question.

What are your favourite websites and gadgets?
NV: I love fxguide.com, cgsociety.org, fundza.com, animationsa.org. I love my Macbook Pro, my iPod, and my Wacom Tablet. Oh, and the Internet.
ZM: Some cool websites are: The 11 second club and cgsociety.org. My favourite gadget is my Wacom tablet (drawing tablet).
SM: My favourite websites would have to be Youtube and Facebook because they keep me connected and my favourite gadget is a smartphone.

Technology plays such a big role in what you do. What do you think technology will look like in the future?
DS: I think that technology needs work in ways that help artists and users achieve their goals. At the moment, we spend a lot of time learning how to use tools. I think that in the future tools are going to learn to work the way we want them to, and adapt themselves to the way we like to work.
NV: Hopefully like Blade Runner, or The Fifth Element, but I doubt it. Possibly more like I-Robot, and I don’t like that.
SM: I’d hope for more improvement on software we are using for animation.
ZM: Technology is advancing at such a rate, I’m sure it will exceed all our expectations. Lots more sterioscopic 3D.

Words of wisdom to aspiring animators?
SM: Work hard and keep the inspiration going.
DS: Animation is awesome! Do some, and if you get a kick out of spending a couple of weeks on just a couple of seconds of pure awesomeness, then you might be an animator!
ZM: Work hard, enjoy yourself and never stop learning.

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