When a person starts a career, the path ahead of them is fresh and new. Every step glistening with the brightest of diamonds. A wonderful discovery each day as one strives to improve and increase one’s skills, one’s potential. There is nothing more exciting than the mystery of the career path ahead.
As time passes the mystery diminishes, the shine appears not quite as bright, but you continue forwards still enjoying the journey and the way the path dynamically shifts and moulds with you.
Then one day all the mystery is gone. The day to day has become mundane, the turns along the path not bringing new pleasure. Instead they provide the same things day in day out. Never enough time to complete your tasks as you want to. Never enough time to add the final finesse. Never enough time to make something truly amazing instead of just finished. That path is now a treadmill, and the diamonds nothing more than distant stars you think you’ll never reach.
I had felt this recently, and I am sure I am not alone.
Do not misunderstand me. I liked the path I have chosen and the situations that have arisen whilst on the journey changing it’s shape. I have great clients who appreciate the time I take over their projects and the work that I do. Everything is going well.
Despite this, I sometimes felt that the time to complete a task is never quite enough and that the quality of the final product is never exactly as I wish it would be. I have felt disheartened, losing my focus and my direction. The path was beginning to feel muddy and my feet were slipping.
And then something quite amazing happened. My vitality for what I do and the passion that was beginning to wane has been completely restored. If anything, it now feels greater than before. I am reinvigorated, re-centred and restored. Ready to throw everything I have into the path ahead with an understanding of my worth and what I can achieve despite the odds. That I can be proud of my work, my decisions and choices.
How did this happen?
I went to a work conference.
I know some people consider a work conference to be an excuse for a week away in a different city where you eat and drink under the guise of learning something. To a certain extent I am sure that this can be true. This was not what I experienced at all. For me, it was more an epiphany. The conference in question was FMX2018 in Stuttgart, Germany.
For anyone who does not know, FMX stands for the “Film and Media Exchange” and is described as Europe’s most influential conference dedicated to Digital Visual Arts, Technologies, and Business. Here there are interviews with influential people from all walks of the Media Industry, Directors, Animators, VFX Artists, Technology specialists, Designers and so on. Over 3 floors, in multiple rooms, there are more things happening than you have time to see, from in depth software talks, through hands on learning of new and future technologies to company recruitment. From students to old hands, the rooms are bursting at the seams with excited people.
Each day I caught up with old friends and made new friends. We had conversations about work that felt similarly awful yet at the same time comforting. We sat in stuffy rooms listening to people enthusing about their new ideas or explaining how they came to be where they are today. We ate different foods, talked about life as well as work and managed to both unwind and learn at the same time.
Every moment I was there I felt my concerns lift slowly away. It wasn’t just the relaxing moments, but I sure they did contribute to this. It was seeing everyone there with such a vigour for what they did. All the shining eyes of the students heading to the recruitment halls hoping to get internships or entry level jobs. All the stands where people showed off their new technologies. All the bosses and high level staff lovingly talking on stages to packed, enthralled crowds. What really struck me was a real joyfulness about the future.
I began to realise that the path was still shining, underneath the mud.
By the end of the week, I was seeing everything with fresh eyes. The projects that I would have passed by, I stopped and saw what they were doing. I began to question whether certain technology or software would aid me in my work. I began to question some of my current processes having seen and heard content that made new paths possible. I felt enthusiastic about my craft, my own skills. I felt as though the mental chains I had created were breaking and dropping away, my mind uncluttered.
On the plane home I opened my phone and looked at the apps I had on it. I realised most of them were about wasting time. I sat there at 35,000 feet and removed anything that I did not need. It turns out I don’t need much on my phone.
And here I am now writing this down, to share it with anyone who cares to read it, feeling more alive and invigorated about my career than I have felt in a long time.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to go to the next FMX, but if you are feeling somewhat jaded career-wise, get out and see what other people are doing in your field. Take a class in your current career to learn something new about it. Start to see what there is to be joyous about.
If there is a conference in your chosen job, then go to it. Make the effort. It will make you feel less alone, and bring you to a new understanding about your place in your chosen path. It has made me appreciate everything again.
In essence, before you decided to start a new career, try to renew your love for your current one. I have and it’s an amazing feeling.
Well, over the years I have tried on multiple occasions to get Blender Institute’s Blender into my work pipeline. It’s never been easy to do. Blender was, for a long time, considered a bit of the 3D love child; you can like it but don’t embrace it, don’t bring it into the fold. It’s (shudder) open source. That means no support, no repercussions when it all goes wrong. When it (gulp) it crashes!!
But each year more people would watch the short films, Sintel, Big Buck Bunny, Cosmos Laundromat, and think, “Hmmm, I wonder”, So they navigate to the website, download the surprisingly small installer and put the software back on their machines.
Only to take one look at the interface and say, “What? Naaah…” and promptly de-install it.
This interface may still be relatively the same as it always has been, and a bit hard to deal with for some, but the software itself is now very robust and capable of producing industry level work. But people still feel a bit squeamish about using it. But why?
On the DVD shelf at my local Supermarket is the film “Ozzy” It looks like a fun film about a dog. Here’s the trailer:
Now, I’ve been in this game for some time and I would confidently say that the software, maybe not necessarily the final look, but the software that did this was definitely up to par.
Blender, all of it. Open Source Software.
The animation company, Tangent Animation, took a big decision when they were championed to make this film.
Well, they took the challenge and made “Ozzy” with Blender.
And as such, I am now using it much more in my pipeline. I use the fluids for paint drips, I used the particle system occasionally, but I do like the cycles renderer, which is good despite all the people on the forums who rave about it. It’s quick enough and the results are physically accurate. What’s not to love?
And with it now having grease pencil added, it is accidnetally looking as though it might revolutionise how 2D animation is produced as well. Look here:
Pepe School Land’s Rigged grease pencil showing how combining the markup elements in Blender with the 3D side can produce amazing animation styles, which make animating easy. I mean, really easy.
And all that stuff is happening in real time. Which means that the render times for this sort of thing are so fast as not to be visible to the naked eye…okay, they will be, but still, they’re faster than most.
So what does this mean for the future of animation? Well, it’s bright. Brighter now than it has been for over a decade. New talent can get their hands on fully production ready software for no cost at all.
Both Tangent and Pepeland have tutorials on their sites – hey who doesn’t these days? – and anyone who really cares to can learn how to animate. Blender Nation is also a great place to learn stuff. Hey, if you really want to, for a measly €9.90 a month, (that under £9.00) you can join the Blender Cloud and get all the training courses and rigs you can lay your hands on. There’s no excuse to not know the skillset.
Blender is fast becoming the go-to software for animation – the rigging toolset is incredible – and is used in games now as much as Maya is. So, give it a try. Take the leap and look beyond the interface.
Whatever you choose to use in terms of software, do not look at open source as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone.