It’s good to know your limits, WIN a Free Anime Pass

9 09 2009

dm_pic2It’s good to know your limits. I heard someone use a phrase while talking about fighter pilots once, that they all have some measure of “spare capacity”. I never forgot that term. Apparently, during exercises and engagements, there is such an intense accumulation of data and tension that the brain just starts missing things (and I guess you only have to miss an incoming missile once to end the lesson). I’m sure this must be true for jet pilots, and I will argue it is likely almost the same for many people working in the animation business. The technical knowledge required to perform a wide variety of tasks, with any decent degree of depth and professional finish, must be comparable – and so must be the pressure, because most projects don’t afford any breathing room, aside from the odd well funded, well staffed projects with cushy deadlines. They do happen!  Many old hands will tell you, with eyes glazed over with visions of palm trees and free meals, of some past beautiful job as if they had once found the fabled Shangri-la.  But in reality, critical deadlines loom constantly. It’s that dark, Lord of the Rings-like presence over your right shoulder – your mouse-arm – waiting to give you the shiv.

Time was the industry was filled with artists who knew more than many Technical Directors do today.  However, there were never enough of these animals to fill seats as projects grew in scale and as technology really started to gallop. So they broke things down into pipelines, so that animators and other artists and TDs could handle more realistic, digestible quantities of tasks, and learn a fraction of what is actually required to make a series (or VFX shot, game, or feature). Is it better that way? On a lifestyle and business level, yeah I guess.  Companies are bringing bigger and better products to market, and artists are enjoying relatively decent work hours, but there’s a little hidden trap built into it. That is, people aren’t necessarily being pushed to learn more than they can currently handle. Sometimes you need to though, because you really didn’t get into this to continue to fly little flight trainers or simulators, or to fill gas tanks.  Most of you wanted to be jet pilots. You may not end up in top gun school, but the dream should stay alive. You may also find out you are an ace in other unexpected ways.  It doesn’t matter as long as you get pushed to some new limits.  Just remember that it’s easier when you’re young, while you still have all your brain cells and energy, and are still too naive to know when you’ve gotten in over your head.  When you thought less and just did. When you floundered and kicked until you figured it all out, like when you were learning to ride a bike or swim, or trying to figure out Call of Duty for the first time.

No, my worry isn’t so much about knowing limits, but NOT knowing them.  You’ll definitely know it when you do, after you’ve chewed some nails, lost some sleep, and when you have slammed your head into a wall with a million attempts at solving a problem from hell. Maybe it’s a new package or scripting language, or new management approach, or some higher profile animation sequence you want to take a stab at. People will let you try. They may not always use your completed shots as if they don’t like them, but they’ll be interested to see what you can do – especially if you make it clear you are prepared to keep plugging away till you get it right. If you don’t happen to be at a company yet, you might set a deadline for yourself and dive into some new package, or ask a company if you can submit a specific test for free on something. Maybe link up with someone you know to attempt something bigger together.  I’d certainly be willing to give my two cents worth on it if you needed some feedback – as many would.

Again, do it most when you are young, because you don’t see many jet fighter candidates showing up in their 40’s and 50’s. Those guys did their time earlier and are often pretty damn savvy about approaches at a macro level.  You’ll meet them, and will probably remember it, because they’ll be the ones who don’t tend to scare easy, or quit.  They also might just be the ones pushing you to some new limits, to a place where you can finally tackle the impossible and still have some spare capacity to see the next challenge before it nails you – and that you realize you are actually enjoying doing it.  That usually means you made it.

Doug Masters, for Toronto Animation Live, September 09


Toronto Animation Live is giving away two free Anime Passes to the Ottawa Animation Festival.

The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is the largest of its kind in North America, attracting film buffs, art lovers, filmmakers, and cartoon fans from around the world to the nation’s capital.

In order to win a free pass ALL you must do is fill out the Toronto Animation Live Survey and email your name and contact info to

On Oct 1st we will place all of the names into the pot and draw two winners. Good Luck!

Please follow this link to the Toronto Animation Live survey.




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