25 April, 2008

Industry Day

I had my first Industry Day at Sheridan. It was an awesome experience!

I handed out the award for Best 2D Animation (in which Collideascope sponsored a $1000 cash prize for the winner) to Eduardo Avenir for his film Lion's Den. This was not an easy decision, there were 8 films out of the 90 classically-animated shorts we screened that I totally particularly loved and were all brilliant for character, story, acting, and design in every way, it wasn't easy to pick just one. Maybe next year we'll figure out a way to split the award amongst the top three equally somehow, because it was a rough decision to make, but it was fun to watch and participate.

At the end of the day I saw...
130 films in 6 hours!

Talk about exhausting, but there was lots of amazing concepts from traditional to CG to stop motion, with a wide range of graphic styles and design.

Meeting some of the 24 students I had hired last summer was very cool as well. It felt like a reunion, seeing their final films, watching how well they had progressed and how well they had done was truly inspirational.

I was blown away at some of the post production that students were able to make for the film, I have no idea how they found the energy to put some much work into adding paint, complex camera moves, crazy compositing tricks, rack focus, Foley style sound effects, fantastic music, and TONS of After Effects. Simply Amazing!

Surprisingly (and thankfully) lots more Flash animation this year too, nearly all of it rough and fully animated in Flash, it was beautiful to see, it's too bad it's taken soooo long for it to catch on in colleges, but finally students can and do experiment in Flash to produce some stunning animation. It was as if Collideascope had started a small revolution for a few of the graduating students that had returned to college to finish their final year and spread the word of what the software could do. After a 4 month internship here the knowledge of Flash had spread all over, and a few used its tools to create some wonderful frame-by-frame animation.

Another aspect I was blown away with was all the students' preparation for this epic event! Thousands of printed business cards, posters, portfolios and show reels, all very professional, some with booths setup with tons of concept art and 'behind the scenes' materials from their film. Overall very impressive.

I had a great time and I hope I'm not too busy next year to go again and again, it was a nice and well organized showcase of over 100 graduating student's works and definitely worth the trip.

23 April, 2008

Series Bible

The playing field for pitching cartoon shows has changed considerably in the last 10 years. Our various animation series have evolved to encompass several different styles for both service work to original properties. Thanks to Flash, the production pipeline has changed to allow animation to stay in North America. But in the 80s and 90s, it seemed all you needed was a face to face meeting or interview with an executive and a nice concept scribbled on a napkin to get a potential show off the ground. If your pitch was a good idea, you'd enter into a development phase whereas writing, visual development and rough character/location designs would begin. Eventually once the show was green lit by the broadcasters, merchandising would begin production as script, voices and boards would be done and animation would be shipped overseas, returning to North America a few months later with full color animation complete, then music/sound effects would be laid in for a final cut.

Nowadays broadcasters and executives need more a lot info before putting a new show concept in to full production. They need to know your resources, they need in depth research on the marketability and originality of your product and preferably a ton of pre-design and script writing to help get a chance to even be considered. Some need fully developed concepts, episodic scripts, color keys, animatics, and animation tests all included in your pitch. In essence, spend a lot of your own time and money to develop your idea... yourself. The competition is the same, but it's gotten a lot more intense, a one-sheet or a 10 page bible may not be enough to sell your idea anymore, making contacts, working harder with your research, and fully developing the idea yourself has become the norm.

Now most major studios look for catch phrases and marketability above all. Quoting Denny Furlong and MickMak from Frederator:
Sometimes you will even be asked to sum up a characters entirely using catch phrases, and be ready to explain your target demographic. Oh and now they love to see you walk in with a fully animated pilot or a few shorts because that allows your idea to go straight to market testing at very little cost to the company (executive types like saving money).

The Series Bible is a pitching tool to show executives that you have the nuts and bolts down to sell a show to them. It's size ranges from 1 pg (called a One Sheet) to 15pgs (a Presentation) and usually consists of a setup (What the show is about), character designs and descriptions, what the world is and why it's different or not different from the real world and then a list of either Springboards (think TV Guide) or a season of synopses (beginning, middle and end). Generally in that order.
Here at Collideascope, our templates have always been something like this:
• Main Concept of the Series
• Characters - Descriptions/Designs
• The Environment/Style- Descriptions/Designs
• Story Outlines / Episode Synposis

A simple 10-20 page bible describing the visual style, character development, and stories of the series is all you would normally need, but many have gotten off the ground thanks to the internet, releasing their own YouTube channel or webisodes/independent short films online. Garnering attention with lots of hits for it's original & entertaining content and eventually landing a deal to expand their concept to broadcast television, all this is slowly becoming a more common occurrence, but still quite rare.

Here's some links on advice and strategies for developing and pitching animated series:

Shown below is one of our very first pitch packages. Constructed about 10 years ago, Teletoon gave us the chance to make this half-hour pilot that got us off the ground and got the ball rolling with our first cartoon series. This pilot was made up of 10x2min. shorts and was one of the very first times Flash had been used to produce fully animated content for television.

Eventually the show looked like this:

Art by Sean Scott.
In comparison to the final product, the designs and characters changed quite a bit, but Teletoon was stoked about getting their own Calvin & Hobbes style show about a kid who escapes into his own imagination, so after a year in development we got started in mid-2000, the Bible helped us get our first show off the ground, got us funding for the pilot, and eventually continued the series into 39 full-length episodes (in full HD 1920p resolution) that kept us busy for 3 years in which all scripts, voices, designs, storyboards, animation and post were produced here in-house.