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yet another advice seeker...

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yet another advice seeker...

I’m posting here today in the hopes to get my head straight using your insight. I have been a computer programmer for the last 9 years and although I enjoy the work it’s not my passion. The reason i know this is that I have no desire to better my skills.

Recently I had a bit of an epiphany and i decided I wanted to do something in the animated movie industry. I love art and it’s something i can do for hours without realizing the passing of time. I also am a bit of a movie/series junky and i thought with my background in computers I could do something in the realm of Character Technical Director.

I have a good eye and instincts; I’m extremely hard working and have keen attention to detail. My drawing skills are still in the early stages but I’m told im doing quite well, I used to paint but drawing still isn’t effortless or "second nature", but it will get there. That said i do not want to be a 2D artist, my hat off to you guys, but i don’t like to redraw the same thing hundreds of times. Its one thing to draw something over and over to get it right, quite another to draw something that’s right over and over just to make it walk, jump ect.

I’m pretty sure i don’t need to be a good artist for what im aiming to do but i always like to play with ideas on paper and for that drawing is essential, in my mind anyways. I’m not too sure what else I need to be an excellent Character TD. I believe that one should have at least a fair understanding of the work others do around you in order to be successful at yours, so im also busy learning 2D animation in my spare time so that i am familiar with the principles as well as learning about character creation, timing, appeal, and all those juicy bits that are so essential. I did read that i might need to take some courses in maths and perhaps physics?

Anyways i'm quitting my job at the end of the year to embark on this new path and although i have been accepted into a 3D animation school for next year, i am still not sure if that is the correct way of going about it. You must be wondering where my questions are so here they are:)

Please understand that this is a very new endeavor on my part (about 4 months now) and I have researched the process of animated film making online to try and find what role would suit me best. Technical Director is what i came up with, now i would like to get some insight from people in the industry so that i can make the best choice possible because at the moment i feel like im stepping into the big void of the’s a little unsettling.

Last months i went to do a 3 week "drawing for animation" course where we did a week of life drawing, a week of character development and a week of storyboarding. That was hard hard work but man was I in my element. Havent enjoyed something so much in a long time. I really think im on the righ set of tracks, just have to find the right one for me..:p

If Character TD is indeed in my future, can someone tell me the skills (or what i need to learn) in order to be good at it? Is going to a 3D Animation school a good place to start? Even though im pretty sure I don’t want to be an animator(3D), in my mind its good to know that stuff and also they teach character development, rigging, production and all sorts of skills that I think a character TD needs(although I could be wrong, hence my post). Any and all info is most welcome and please be frank. Ken, if you are reading this, bring it ON :D hehe i like your candor in the posts i have read so far.

If you have other suggestions that you think would suit me better, rather than TD, please tell me. Its most possible i just didn’t know about that option.

No matter what i decide to do, I know i can make a success of it, I just have to know that im not wasting my time on something that is not going to get me where i want to go(destination still in flux), so hopefully with your help I can go forth confident im on the right track.

Anyways, i think that my post is turning into a book so i will leave it at that and look forward to what you guys have to say.

Thank you in advance guys,

Jali's picture
Kind regards, Jali

Kind regards,

Welcome Jali

Probably the best way to find out what skills studios look for in a TD is to check the job listings those studios post. Check the Pixar or Dreamworks job listings on their respective websites - they always have a prerequisites section that will tell you what they're looking for.

While art skills are always valued by a studio, most TD position have more technical than art requirements. You may find that you already have the background and training necessary to step into a TD role.

One of my recent students with a strong technical background was just hired as a TD at Dreamworks after a couple of introductory animation classes. While I'll take credit for not discouraging him from working in animation:D, I know that it was his technical background that landed him the job.

Thank you for your reply :)

Yes, I pretty much started my search at Pixar and Dreamworks sites. I watched their job description vids and scratched arround in their job oppenings to see what was available. Dreamworks have an especially helpful site!

The trouble is that they give very general requirements, which is fine when you are already involved in the industry because you probably know what they mean but for me, when i read something like "Strong programming skills " I think ok..what kind? is it sufficient to be a good programmer or do you have to know something specific. Take me for example, i have been coding for some time but nothing in the graphical it count?
"Education in computer science, mathematics, physics, architecture".. ok i dont have a degree but i took first year maths, also there are so many different avenues to study in maths and physics. Anyways, lol do you see what i mean?

I dont want to be a technical person only though..I would like to be involved in the creative process. I know they have a whole separate department that deals with the really technical know the people with degrees in applied maths and string theory :p

I think my strength comes in the form of being able to be logical/problem solve as well as be creative, combining the two. im strong at in both but i enjoy the art most. That is why my ideal job would be something where i can be creative and use my technical skills to help..

I hope im making some kind of sense here...:o

Kind regards,

Any and all info is most welcome and please be frank. Ken, if you are reading this, bring it ON hehe i like your candor in the posts i have read so far.

You must be careful what you wish for , grasshopper.

I almost passed this one over.........until I read that line.

But I'll tell you why.......

I've reached a point where inquires like this almost do not merit a response from me. Please understand that's not a snooty or scornful thing, but its an attitude I've developed over time based on the common situations I have seen.
If you've read my posts before, there isn't going to be anything new in here.

But to that end, here some more of my famous candor:

If you want to do it.

Let nothing stand in your way.
Climbing the figurative hill will be steep work, but it can be done.

I don't know your strengths because, honestly........EVERYONE says they "are improving with their drawing/art skills".

To get the BEST advice, show something.
Doesn't matter what it is; drawing, CG stuff, animation, just post something in this thread or in the show-off gallery threads.
This gives all comers something tangible to gauge you buy.

( I mean we can do it, or the people hiring can do it........and we might give you some feedback. They will just say yes or no.)
Now, at any point in time here, you can sit yourself down and decide what are your strengths, what are you amibitions and map out your course.

If you want to be an animator, then I suggest STRONG drawing skills.
Same thing if you want to be a designer.
If you want to be more involved in the technical side of things, given your background......then you need to look at how to best present that.
I know nothing of the programming side of things, next to nothing about rigging or builds, so how you go about showcasing those skills will have to be advised by someone else.

My oft-repeated mantra remains the same: the best possible asset in your resume'/portfolio is strong drawing skills. Even a neophyte recruiter can grasp and spot strong talent, so solid skills are the more direct expression of your value.
Rigging, and builds and other sundry things spin off from that because they are more just credential items and not something readily demonstrated.

But all that pales before the question of whether you are wasting your time, right?

Show me/us what you can do.
That give us advisers a better idea of where you are and what you can do.
Look in the mirror and ask yourself how badly do you want this?

That's the litmus test, because once you show stuff, the honesty REALLY comes out.
If you show weak stuff, you'll be told its weak.....and might not be told clearly how to improve it. That can be crushing.
If you show intermediate level skills, you'll probably be given shorter answers like "work on structure", " try for more appeal" etc......and expected to understand what its meant.

At any level short of'll get non-specific advice because the journey to pro-level is...........admittedly......quite a ways.

The best way to get there is to ruthlessly apply your self to making your work as close to the professional stuff you admire in all respects.
That means, essentially, being able to DUPLICATE the professional work in a new flawless capacity.
I'm not talking your interpretation, your spin........I'm talking about you being about to do a dead-on render of.....A Final Fantasy character, or drawing Mickey Mouse perfectly, or animate something in FLASH that makes someone laugh........or assume it came from a TV show.

That is the level the industry needs its talent at and that is what you need to aspire to.

Good luck and I hope the candor helped.

( I should really bottle that shit too........ Cuddly Ken's Cartoon Candor 100 grams for $10.99........)

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Hi Ken

I realize its hard, well impossible, to judge without some posted art. I do plan to do it, just that i havent yet scanned it onto computer, and also i dont have much to show in the way of cartoons or animation since i have only just started and I wanted to concentrate on first learning to draw. Will attach my portfolio thus far, pronto. ( i shall then be wearing a Ken proof vest and await my order of Cuddly Ken's Cartoon Candor :eek: )

When i mentioned not wanting to waste my time I meant by studying the wrong thing. I realize that if i want to make it i have to just do it. And that is completely up to me, all im trying to do is get my ducks in a rows, have a list of skill i need to aquire so that by the time i apply for a job I am addequatly equiped to succeed.

As i mentioned in my earlier post, when job specs mention something like "Education in computer science, mathematics, physics, architecture" i want to know specifically what type of maths and what branch of computer science..maybe im just making too much of it but this is very important to me and i would like to get it right:D

Anyways, thank you for your post. I will try to post my work tomorrow.

Kind regards,

Anyways, thank you for your post. I will try to post my work tomorrow.

You do not need to do it tomorrow.

Take stock of the work you have.....look at it critically. If you need to address some weaknesses in the work, take the time to do so BEFORE you post it.

Posting something "at the level you are at now" isn't really going to help you if both of us can see that there are flaws.
This is not a brush-off, its direction/guidance to sweat the self-exploration and growth first and then come show the crowd for advise later.

This does a few things:
-it forces you to rely more upon your own senses, study skills and intuition ( all skills you will need on the job) to evaluate your work in comparison to the professional stuff. If you do it right, are honest about things and do not succumb to the'll make progress on your own.

- it gives you time to work toward those frustrating roadblocks all artists get to, where you need a small solution to a "major problem" and once you get it.........boom, its a breakthrough that launches you to the next level.
Again, self-exploration helps you work through the weeds, so to speak so your work--and your obstacle--are more refined.
Most beginners work betrays so many common problems that the only advice possible is general at best. If the work is honed to a more refined state, you'll get a more refined and useful answer out of the criticisms.
You are training your eyes and hands to "see" in this.

- and it will also spare you the useless platitudes that soften the blow to the ego when your work is weak and people want to let you down easy.
We both know.......if someone sucks.......they suck........and nobody "wants" to suck.

Or tell them they suck.

The danger of platitudes and encouragement is that some folks feed off it as if its enough, and they stop growing and then stagnate ( which can happen to beginners AND pros alike). I mean........after all.............people are telling you "its good!" , right? Why be dissatisfied?
Danger, danger danger!
Good is kind of subjective anyways, though........I evaluated "good" when people started talking about and then handing me money to draw. Obviously, the more money they talk about/hand you the "gooder" you are, right?

Until you get to that point, "good" is how close your work is to the stuff that is making someone else money.

Don't be afraid to wait a bit, take the time to work on your stuff.
Obviously you've got the smarts to program computers for almost a decade so
you doubtlessly have the self-discipline to apply to art matters. Its not that different from computer programming --just some different rituals and perceptions.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

yes i agree, there should be a"pat me on the back" thread and a "critique" thread.

Sure, who doesnt appreciate their work being praised from time to time, but critisism is more helpful. I have already posted some of my portfolio pieces on the site for critisism and it was very hepful but now that im moving more into the animation world it might be helpful to post it here, not so much for critique on the actual work but to give context to my post..

Lol shoo i have gone off on a tangent to my original post havent I? I wonder if there are any Technical Directors that frequent these waters?

Kind regards,

Character TD's tend to do mostly rigging, and sometimes -depending on the studio- cloth and hair simulations.
The programming part is largely learning how to script in MEL or MaxScript or whatever the software of choice uses.
If this is what you want to do, pick a software (Maya would probably be your safest bet) and learn how to rig, do hair and cloth. Once you hit the ceiling of what the out of the box package will let you do, write some scripts so you can do it anyway.
If you wanna get some more expert advice from riggers try this place :


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy [i]-Tom Waits

Hi Dave
Thank you :) I'll peruse that site.

Kind regards,