Sunday 23 October 2011

Veerapatra Jinanavin Interview

Hello guys and gals,
Keko's February Entry
This interview was a unique opportunity. Veerapatra Jinanavin, (also known as Keko), won the 11 Second Club competition in February. Alongside, he has tutored 11 Second Club winners Arthurnal and Pairatch Lertkajoinwong.

Here, he has kindly granted us his time to share some thoughts and advice. Many warm thanks to Keko. I hope you all enjoy the read!

When did you decide that you wanted to be an animator?
Since childhood, I was exposed to many comics and animations from Japan and Disney. I remembered wanting to create my own animation ever since. Entering Thailand’s university 15 years ago was my first turning point in life. There were no animation classes at that time so I chose fine art major. It taught me how to draw and paint.

After I completed my degree, I took couple extra 3D application tutorial courses. Those courses made me really interested in the world of 3D animation. There were still no animation classes in any universities here in Thailand so I decided to enroll at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. It was during that time that I had a chance to become part of the industry and made my final decision to become an animator.

In 2011, there have been three different animators from the Monk Studio, Thailand, who have landed first place in our monthly competition. They are yourself, Arthurnal, and Pairatch Lertkajornwong. How would you explain this?
Today the 3 of us no longer work there. I left the Monk Studio in 2007 to start my own animation school. Arthurnal and Pairatch both participated in my very first Keko Animation Workshop. Most of my students were recruited into the Monk Studio. From time to time I hold activities to improve our animation skill and I always invite my former students to participate.

During his 11 Second Club interview, Arthurnal wrote:  
He (Keko) hopes to drive the animation industry of Thailand to step up to international level, so he shares everything he knows with people who are interested.  
Please talk a bit about Thailand's history in animation and where you hope its future will lead.
Before I went to San Francisco the industry was very tiny. We didn’t have any system to help with our collaborative workflow nor did we have any distinct department. Each artist had to do many different things from modeling all the way to compositing. We had no chance to improve our skills on any specific task. All we could rely on were our instinct and experience. We even lacked the knowledge that is taken for grant in today’s industry such as the 12 principles of animation. We couldn’t even give constructive feedback to each other’s work because we didn’t know what to look for or how to explain.

Since I came back in 2009 I have met many animators both at work and at my own workshop. I realized there were many talented animators in Thailand with lots of potential. Unfortunately most of them neither had the opportunity to go study abroad nor were allowed to take their time to work on their animations. Most jobs had very unrealistic deadline and they had to give up a lot of quality to get the job done in time.

So I started my Keko Animation Workshop in hopes of standardizing the industry.

Please talk a bit about the role you hope your online school can have on this.
I want everyone to have the same foundations, share the same workflow, and most important to speak the same language when it comes to animation. The result so far has been great. Animators in our country are starting to connect and communicate like never before and they are very enthusiastic to give feedback and comments on each other’s works. I had taught over 240 students of my own and was invited to lecture at many studios and universities.

On One Animation School
Today what started as an animation only workshop has grown into On One Animation School that covers many more subjects. It is my dream to give Thai animators the opportunity to learn from world class professionals. Andrew Gordon, Scott Clark, Michal Makareicz, Clay Kaytis. Jean-denis Hass.These are among the animators I hope would come and lecture at my school someday.

In addition to the school, I also started an animation studio called RiFF. The main goal of my studio is to bring in animation projects from over sea to give Thai animators opportunities to work on international level projects and receive professional level feedbacks from the industry.

Character Design
What are some of the common missteps you find your students making, and how do you work to help them overcome those obstacles?
There are plenty. For example, Most Thai animators are not familiar with receiving detailed, critical feedback. They also have strong beliefs that animation should be made based only on instinct and experience alone. And that rules or principles will limit their freedom or creativity. Thus it can be very difficult to start sending our messages across that rules and principles are merely guidelines. That they exists as tools to help speed up their workflow, improve their animations and pinpoint their errors.

Workflow is another obstacle. Most Thai studios don’t plan their shots. Instead they would jump right into production. I try my best to show them the benefits of having a planned workflow: how it can help make their job easier and faster. I tried to show how they should present their works, prioritize their tasks or breakdown their shots. I also emphasized how their poses should be physically accurate and not too complicating. And lastly, demonstrated how they should check their timing arc before moving on to polishing stage.

So far Thai studios are slowly improving in the right direction. My students are taking the idea they learned from my workshop and slowly applying these knowledge in their work place.

You have worked upon feature film Horton Hears A Who and also Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs. Can you talk a bit about your role in these productions, and your experience making the films?
Feature work on ''Horton Hears a Who''
My role was purely animator in both productions. It gave me chance to meet many great artists and receive very valuable comments from skilled leaders and supervisors. I was forced to keep learning and improving all the time. Having firsthand experience how their animation system worked had been very beneficial.

The best part about working on feature film was that I was given much more time and feedback on each shot compare to working on television series. It taught me to pay even more attention to details and improved my polishing skills. Every pose must be able to transfer to 2D. The very strict amount of frames made me think really hard about my acting choices and plan my timing and spacing accordingly. There was so much I learned from them.

(To view Keko's demoreel, please click here)

In your clip, the alien shares common doubts with Megamind, Dreamwork's 'master of all villainy'? Is this where the story idea came from?
I love the character design of Megamind, it was definitely my inspiration. Sci-fi genre has always been my personal interests and I always want my work to be in that direction.

Megamind comparison

Tell us about your animation process.
Not too different from everyone else I suppose.
  • Collect ideas and references from images and movie clips.
  • Draw thumbnails. Try out different beats for the shot.
  • Blocking. I spend considerable amount of time in this stage to come up with poses that are clear and easy to read.
  • Blocking plus. Start breaking down the shot, add anticipation, arcs, overshoot, slow-in slow-out, etc. 
  • Spline. Define all in-betweens.
  • Polishing


(Keko's animation process)

I love how your scientist maintains a youthful feminine charm throughout the clip. Many people find it difficult animating somebody of the opposite sex. Can you share any advice?
Personally I believe that the essence of your characters can be defined by all the little details in your facial pose. Especially for a female character, you have to limit how far her features should be able to move. I paid extra attention to how each of her facial features appears in my shots – how wide her mouth was, the shape of her lips, the curve of her eyes for example. All her poses have to remain feminine. Looking at beautiful character designs helped me a great deal at this stage. For her body, I gave extra attention to her body arcs and line of actions because she had a lot of movements.

In conclusion – keep your pose feminine. Draw thumbnails. Look at reference. And limit how far your character should pose or move.

Each character appears to have their own rhythm. The subtle movements of the alien balances beautifully against the vibrancy of the girl. Please talk a bit about this.
I think that was due to the clear dialogue you provided for February contest. That’s exactly what I did: followed the dialogue. After that I tried to come up with acting choices that can relate the 2 characters and figure out their timing and order of their actions. And emphasize on the staging.

Your feature work, your 11 Second Club entry and also Arthurnal's winning entry for which you mentored, all squash and stretch through many beautiful arcs and poses. Please share some thoughts on planning for this style of animation.
Arthurnal's ''Toilet, Please''
Arthunal’s entry reminded me so much of Looney Toons. I think my advise were mainly about stretching, squashing, posing and breakdown. I reminded him that even if he was going for a snappy style, he should still be aware of physical animation in his breakdown. The timing might be too fast for the audience to see, but it would help him understand where the stretching and squashing should happen.

About his timing, Arthurnal pretty much nailed it down since the planning stage. I didn’t have to help much.

What was one of the most challenging things about this particular piece?
Animating a female character. I barely had a chance to animate one before. And the part where she said “Blah blah blah.” It was a challenge to find an act that suited both the story and the sound.

Can you remember your initial reaction to the eCritique?
Keith Sintay's eCritique
I was very excited to receive Keith Sintay’s comments. Lip-sync has always been my weak point and his comments were very helpful. He suggested how the jaw and muscles should move in a physically corrected way. I always like the  and when they’re for my own work I’m even happier.

(To view the ecritique, please click here)

Is there anything you'd like to add about your thought-process or experience in February's competition?
It was a blast. I had wanted to participate in the 11 Second Club for a long time. Competing and working full time job at the same time was a challenge in itself. So much patience required. February’s dialogue was very interesting. Working on a shot for a whole month had helped me discover many of my own errors. You also have to make your own decision when to move on to the next stage and polish your work.

If you had to choose only one super-important lesson to pass on to a beginning animator, perhaps one that took you a long time to learn yourself--what would it be?
Most important is to be patient. Animation can take very long time to train. We all run into many obstacles and no matter how skilled you are, you need patience. Never stop learning, never stop working. Eager to learn new things at all times. It is an endless path of adventure.

Interview by Steven Hawthorne