Friday 9 September 2011

Edwin Schaap Interview

Rural life
Hello guys and girls,
Between the time Eric Scheur placed down his pen and then I took the reigns, there have been many beautiful entries. I decided it would be a nice idea to revisit those winning entries and ask some thoughts and advice from the animators who created the work.

Up first is Edwin Schaap. Edwin won January's competition, presenting a natural flow of conversation between two men from the wild west. I wish to thank him for his time in sharing some words. Hope you all enjoy the read!

To begin the interview I'm wondering, other than animation, what hobbies do you have? 
That’s a good one, I don’t have much other hobbies, spending time with my girlfriend, family, going to the cinema, most of my time I spend on my hobby: Animation.

Being in your young twenties, having already produced several beautiful animation shorts, what are your hopes and plans for the future?
I hope to make many more shorts, but I also hope to work as a professional animator in one of the big studios. I think the biggest dream is to make my own feature film… But that’s so far ahead, first I need to get my skills better and better.

Your film 'First Date' looks similar to the work of Tim Burton. Its dark, creepy and sad, yet tells a beautiful love story. I think what makes Burton's work different to others is his belief in taking risks and being different. How important do you believe this is in your practice?
First Dates
Yeah ''First Date'' was very inspired by Tim Burton in that time, I started at it in 2008, I woke up with that idea, wrote it down on the train, made some sketches, and modeled and rigged it all in too fast time.. I was not critical enough of myself in that time, so I drew that ugly chin of the grandpa, and was actually very proud of it. Then it had a break for 2 years or so, and finished it in 2010. But to answer your question, I think it’s very important, but I don’t do it very often. I am trying to think of original Idea’s, like living trees etc, but I always think what the audience wants to see, I want to make as much as people interested in my animation. So I never do stuff that’s too far out of the box I guess…

Where do you take your inspiration from?
The Escalator
A lot of my inspiration comes from watching Pixar/Disney. I love good stories, and the way mood shifts, and the way you can play with your audiences emotions. I think I also get my inspiration outside. When you’re waiting on the train, or sitting in a tram, you see people doing the most interesting stuff. I live close to a park, and I guess Rooted was inspired a little by that. And like an animation I made “the escalator” is really based on the escalators of the train station I travel through a lot. You see annoyed people waiting because older people try to get up those creepy moving stairs.

Between 2001 and 2007 you attended the drama club, Onderlinge Vriendschap. How influential do you believe these years were on preparing you for a career as a 3d animator?
Well, the drama club really kept me loving acting, telling stories by acting and an important thing you learn, is that you have to exaggerate for the audience in the back. Also you never may show your back to the audience when you’re talking. Those little audience related things I keep in mind when I’m animating.

Looking at your reel, I personally love your piece about a little boy who plays at being Buzz Lightyear. There are so many things to enjoy. To start with your girlfriend did a great job of voicing the character. The animation itself is playful, with beautiful melody of arcs and lines of action. What did you enjoy most about producing the clip.
To infinity and beyond!
I love how kids act in their imagination. I wanted to try to animate a little kid to improve my skills, so I recorded my girlfriend who did an awesome job. It’s funny how voices of girls are great for boy characters. What I really enjoyed was to think of the poses, and how he would put his suit on. I enjoyed to make him out of balance and let him fall in the box. Like the 11secondclub, it’s always nice to put a lot of time in a small sequence.

(To watch the clip please click here )

Shortly after your victory, there was a debate about the appeal of Morpheus and other character rigs. I have noticed you have used a variety of the few character rigs. Which factors are considered when choosing which rig you will use in your shots?
It really depends on what it is about, but for now I want to always use the Morpheus rig, I really love it, so much possibilities But when it’s more cartoony I feel like to use the moom rig, which is also a great rig! I think the rig has to be believable in the scene.

Delving into your shot, I must first ask, what did the old man discover?
Haha, it seemed not clear for the people, but for me it was always clear: The left guy is teaching the other how to drive a horse. I didn’t want to spend much time on “the discovery” so I just wanted to let them talk and have fun. If you look at the beginning, you see the guy watching his reins in his hands and says “It really works”.
The idea developed from watching my girlfriend play a game called Red Dead Redemption, a western game. So when I was trying to make up a story for the January audio, I constantly heard western music. It automatically put me in that theme. And with that in mind I heard the reigns moving and I wanted to use the peace of the countryside. I didn’t want a funny joke at the end, just a nice chat with two old guys.

Talk a bit about your animation process.
Well, I acted it out and recorded it. You can see it here

I did it several times, for twenty mins or so, then I went searching for nice poses, or little details I liked. And just started to animate. The main important thing I did in that month, was that I looked out for every unconscious thought of “hmm, an error” and try to fix it. So I polished until I really didn’t see anything annoying. Mostly I did animations (and still do) for very fast deadlines, and then got moments you think “okay, it’s fine, next!” And this time I wanted to complete it as much as possible for me. I can’t remember if I blocked it out first, I usually went very fast to splining. Now I rather do more blocking, to let ME do the work, and not the computer. Still got a lot to learn about it.

I loved your animation on the wagon itself. Can you talk a bit about how you achieved this.
Well when I was almost finished with animating the characters, I started to give the wagon some humps. I tried to make it subtle, but just enough to feel they were moving on the road. The characters were parented on the wagon, so all I had to do after that was to give the bodies some overlap.

To not distract from the characters, I chose parts of the audio where it was calm enough to bring the humps into the shot. I used both big and small humps, as I was looking for a natural look and try to avoid it looking like a looping movement.

I have heard the hands are the second place people look for personality in a character after the eyes and face. You use a variety of gestures which act beautifully natural. Please talk a bit about this in your animation.
I guess a lot of it came from my reference footage, but I also wanted to bring the audiences eye to the talking person. Therefore when one character was quiet, he’s mostly listening and not asking for much attention. Around frame 130 you see the left guy is really listening and leaning towards the other guy as if he’s a little deaf. I wanted to bring a little bit character in the mouth as well, and tried to do the best lip sync I could get. I’m satisfied with the line “Well, you must understand that is an ancient technique” how the S-tones sound with seeing his teeth. I liked to bring in little details, that are not necessary for the story but just when you watch it over again. Like the little snif of the left guy on frame 20.

Talk about one or two parts of the eCritique that enhanced expanded on the ideas you had originally set out to animate.
Jason Taylor eCritique
First of all, I want to thank Jason Taylor for his great ECritique, I appreciate it. And also the 11secondclub for giving the chance! Great!

The main things I still keep in mind, is the way they watch at each other. So the way the eyes aim, and how they hold the heads. As an example Jason gave, the left guy is leaning to much to the back, which is very hard to do for an old man. Also the many movements of the right guy were more for younger guys, so if the guy would look younger it already give it a more realistic feel to it. Like I said, I tried to get rid of all the errors I see, but it’s great to hear a lot of great great tips which I didn’t see yet. It really pushes you to a new level.

Have you yet returned to the piece to incorporate the suggestions made in the eCritique?
I really wanted to do, but because I was very busy with my study (making Rooted) I didn’t had time left to improve it, and a few months later I still haven’t which I regret. But I really am glad to had the Ecritique and hope to find the time to improve the shot.

(To watch Rooted and read a fab interview by YouAnimator, please click here)

As well as entering the monthly competition, you are pretty active on the forums. What advice would you offer to someone joining the 11 Second Club?
Post the work on the forums, there are a lot of great people who wants to help, and for me, by reading and trying to help you also learn a lot. As for the competition itself, I would like to advice people to print out the 12principles, and stick it to your screen or hang it on the wall as a reminder. I don't have only the principles, I have also this list printed out: variation, line of action, story, lipsync, mass, balance, contrast, heart, texture, age, C/S curves etcetera. When I animate I use this as a checklist. Try to find your weaknesses and put those on a list! Most important “have fun!”

Interview by Steven Hawthorne