story

DreamWorks Outreach Program

Stopping at AAU while on her global journey to reach out to various schools, we have Tiffany Feeney, DreamWorks' manager of university relations, come spend an evening with us to talk about DreamWorks' Outreach Program and what recruiters like and want to see on applications. There's a little bit of everything for everyone in different departments and it is at all their locations, Glendale, Redwook City, and Bangalore. The Outreach program generally takes 40 to 60 people so get those resumes, cover letters, and reels ready! While there is no exact deadline listed, Tiffany recommends to have your applications sent by the end of March. Story It is important to have original stories to show your creativity so be sure to include 2-3 of your own works! Stories should have a beginning, middle and end; do not do "To be continued" as it shows nothing of your capabilities and ends up killing your portfolio. There should be 10 to 40 boards per project. For story artists, there is a program called the Story Initiative where you must send in a physical copy of your portfolio, along with resume and cover letter by March 21st. For those chosen, a story test will be given of a script containing DreamWorks property and you will have to draw 100 boards in a certain amount of time.

Visual Development Visual development are artist who design characters, sets, environments, and props. As an entry level position, you will be designing the sets, environments, and props, while character designers are positions that are promoted into after showing adequate skill and knowledge of the pipeline. Often the character designers are also the art director. It is important to demonstrate how you think through showing thumbnails. Think also about light and color and the story behind everything you design. A good design doesn't just stop at how it looks but also consider how it lends itself to animation and the pipeline procedure through turntables and  shader packets.

Modeling While it may look nice to have your model beautifully textured and surfaced, that should be the last thing for you to consider as a modeler. It is perfectly fine, and even encouraged, to have a plain lambert gray shaded model so that whoever is reviewing your reel can see the topology and the joints. Have strong organic models, such as trees and rocks, on your reel as they are difficult in their own way to model well. Beautiful cathedrals can look impressive but modelers know that they aren't all that hard to model as cathedrals aren't really all that complex; once you model one buttress you just duplicate it over and over again. When even modeling items such as environment assets or simple props, give the object a character; not only characters have individuality. Once again, consider the pipeline and don't over detail. It may look fancy to sculpt in all the weaves and folds on a piece of fabric but that becomes unusable in production as fabric usually goes through dynamics and smaller details are done through surfacing.

Character TD All you elusive riggers, show those deformation systems of skin wrinkles and cloth movements along with standard joint based skeletons. Have bipeds, quadruped, and facial rigs.

Surfacer Even though you may be trying to specifically enter in to the CG animation side of the industry, it is good to show realistic texturing and surfacing. Try to match an object to a live action plate and what recruiters always enjoy seeing is food that looks so real that they get hungry and want a piece.

Previs/Layout Show off that film background with some amazing camera work and some set dressing and composition techniques. A lot of times what separates a student film from looking professional are those static locked cameras so getting in there with some adjustments to camera and lenses to make your film look more dynamic.

Character Animator Give your characters a performance and personality while focusing on acting and physical movement. While lip syncing is good to show, you don't need it on everything, instead try having a character off screen or to the side and show a second character emoting in reaction to the dialogue.

Character Effects Hair, cloth, and fur, oh my! Since there weren't any people present who were interested in this particular area, Tiffany didn't delve too much into this area.

Crowds Crowd artists are the ones who populate scenes that contains 6 or more non-main characters. Crowd artists will mainly animate in cycles and also use mocap.

Lighting It is suggested to take a recognizable object and be able to sell it well with lighting so pay attention to the world around you. Lighting tends to intersect a lot with surfacing so there are the same suggestions of matching to a live action plate and showcasing food is always a crowd pleaser. DreamWorks' entry level lighting position is called Lighting TA (technical assistant) and lighting TAs are the CG supervisor's right hand wo/man and are responsible for setting up shots and light rigs to be passed on to lighters to polish, render, and composite.

Matte Painting Demonstrate atmosphere and space in sets, worlds, and extensions.

Effects Cloth, fluid, and physics. Like the story artists, effects also has a challenge called the FX Challenge for you to send your reel to.

Technical Director For those of you who are good at problem solving, programming, scripting, and can fix everything to make the lives for the rest of us in production easier. ___________________________________________________________________________________

For those who haven't seen it yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is finally out in theatres. For those who have, those who joined us at the early press screening, go see it again! What we missed out on in the press screening is the short that goes before the movie. It is a 4 minute short introducing us to DreamWorks' next movie, after How to Train A Dragon 2, Home, that is slated to be released later this year in November.

Blue Sky Panel

Over in the repurposed church that is now the beautiful St. Brigid's Theatre was an enlightening evening with Blue Sky's Mike Daley, story artist, and Deb Stone, manager of talent development. We got to watch the trailer for Rio 2 and hear a little about BlueSky's internship program, Acorn Academy. However, the highlight of the evening was Mike Daley's talk about being a story artist. Through a hilarious and adorable series of boards, Mike illustrates the process of a story artist's "life cycle". First is "The Egg" where the story artist is hatched. After the script or idea is created, the concept is handed to the story artist, who is still an egg, and is "kicked off" to hatch into a little caterpillar story artist to start working. The caterpillar story artist will look for various references stemming from real life and/or movies. After working hard to collect all the references, the little caterpillar story artists takes all the ideas and hides away in a chrysalis to finalize the draft of storyboards. Once the boards are finished, the story artist emerges and either turns into a beautiful butterfly, if the idea is liked and approved, or a ugly moth, if the idea is no good. If the story artist becomes a moth, the moth will give birth to another egg for the whole process to start over again.

While showing some of his storyboards from Ice Age 4, Mike gives some tips vital for being a quick yet effective storyboarder. Most important is the eyeballs and silhouettes have to be clear. Storyboards are seen quickly in succession so in the few seconds that a board is on screen, the character and the composition has to be able to be quickly grasped. As story artists have to churn out hundreds of boards in multiple iterations, it is important that there is economy in the drawings and is efficient. Digital tools have allowed artists to take advantage of the fact that not all drawings have to be done over from a clean sheet of paper but rather can be copied and have only certain elements altered. A step further is to limit yourself in what goes into a storyboard. They do not have to be incredibly and excruciatingly detailed but with simple of blocking in limited values (black, white, and a few grays in between) with a focus on contrast, a whole composition can quickly come together depicting depth and focal point. Thinking about camera work also comes into play. Depending on where the camera is "placed" different types of feelings may be conveyed. A camera closer to a conflict is more intense while further away is clearer and is better used for static shots to set a scene. The camera can be moved closer towards a certain character, from over the shoulder, point of view, or a closeup to see reactions. To determine where the camera should be is to think about who's story is the shot telling. For all of you story artists who are looking to creating a portfolio, Mike's advice is to make it clear. Start off with a written opening description to help setup what will be shown. Layout the boards clearly. A great way to show off a story artist portfolio is to have the boards in a video and be able to pitch through the boards. There is no need to have voice acting and sound and music attached, but rather you want to show a strong grasp of the boards and the story that they are telling.

Nickelodeon Animated Shorts Program

This is somewhat late as the even actually happened last Friday, January 31st, but Nickelodeon's Jill Sanford (VP of Animation Development) and Sherley Ibarra (Manager of Talent Outreach and Development), came to share what the Nick Shorts Program is all about and exactly what they are looking for in 2014. Nickelodeon's Animated Shorts Program was started back in 2012 to find and assist the development of a new generation of content creators. Now, going onto its third year, the program has seen well over a thousand pitches and produced a total of 22 shorts for Nickelodeon's website and app.

The Animated Shorts Program is looking for comedies that target children ages 6 to 11 with entry points for both boys and girl -- Nickelodeon feels that this demographic is right at the core of the company; they prefer to focus on making cartoons that are character driven, warm, and playful. They aim to be silly and 'smart funny', while still being immature (in the way it is to be a kid); unique, exciting, and surprising stories with kid-relatable issues. What Nickelodeon is not is weird for weird's sake, stories that are too traditional and safe, trendy (as it crosses over into the teen age group), or looking for stories that are predictable or oriented around gimmicks.

Your pitch should be limited to two minutes, primarily in one setting, and with a total of 2 or 3 characters.  Materials to submit include:

  • Concept treatment (a writeup of who the characters are, what the story is about, and where the setting is)
  • Character descriptions - written/and or drawn with a preference to have both
  • 2 minute rough story boards or outline/script (more info is better)
  • Signed submission release form which can be found on the website

The short can be produced in any medium such as  2D, 3D, and/or stop motion. What is important is that the shorts must be comediccharacter driven, and have kid appeal. You do not have to do everything yourself; the pitch submitted can be a collaborative project with people working on concept art, storyboards, character designs, etc., but ultimately, if it's your idea, you should bring the pitch yourself. There is no limit to the number of pitches that can be submitted and this program is open to everyone. Don't try to guess at what Nickelodeon wants to see. They want to hear your voice! Authenticity and uniqueness is what makes a story stand out and often times that comes from something personal.

The deadline for submissions is March 14th, 2014. The winning pitches will be chosen approximately 2 weeks after the closing. Once the pitches are chosen, preproduction begins immediately with the goal of finished shorts by the end of the year to be delivered.

As the story creator, you will be working with Nickelodeon's production team to realize your vision and be able to give feedback and suggestions as the company seeks to support the creator. While working with Nickelodeon to produce the short, you will not necessarily be at the studio. There will be check-ins and meetings that may happen over the phone, Skype, or e-mail, but you mainly only shows up to the studio for key check-ins, such as voice recordings. While you are paid a small amount, you should not consider this a full-time job. Of course if the short does extremely well and gets picked up for a series then you will be working at Nickelodeon full time to produce the show!

Don't be shy about sharing your stories! It can be intimidating to think about how many other people are submitting ideas or feeling that you just aren't good enough. Don't let the "they will never pick me" mentality take over. Probably everyone thinks that, and that means there are even less people competing and even better chances that you will get picked.

In addition to sharing all this amazing information with us, Nickelodeon brought in "care packages" for everyone. These are super special boxes filled with limited edition posters, stickers, and artist cards that are not available anywhere else nor to anyone else but students that Nickelodeon visits.

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