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Jason Schleifer interview – Speaking of animation

Posted on December 20, 2010 3 Comments
Filed under Animation

For those of you who still haven’t added Speaking of Animation to their bookmarks, SOA is a new blog focused on animation and specifically the work produced at Dreamworks.

SOA celebrates its first birthday this month and after the great podcasts with classical to CG animator Ted Ty, How to train your dragon directors Sanders and Deblois…. They are, this month, interviewing my AM mentor and Dreamworks Megamind’s Head of Character Animation Jason Schleifer.

Jason followed a very interesting path as he didn’t start in 3dstudio dos, Lightwave or even Imagine like most of us but instead went straight for SGI workstations and Wavefront softwares just before they merged with Alias and created Maya. What was supposed to be an initial training so he could teach the other students became the stepping stone that lead him to a solid career at Weta then PDI, the San Francisco branch of Dreamworks.

I could definitely relate that that interview as it brought me back to the years where Bay Raitt and Martin Krol were kicking ass and Mirai’s polygonal and edge flow paradigm gradually got adopted… (ripped off was the term used at that time) by all the major 3d software makers, eclipsing Nurbs and Patches for organic modeling. Some feature studios still use Nurbs and patches nowadays but this is mainly due to pipeline legacy than actual superiority.

Back in the day, Bay Raitt was running Spiraloid, the first “traditional CG modeling” forum dedicated to polygon modeling. The forum is now down but you can find a quick video of Bay Rait modeling Gollum on the Lords of the rings’ Two towers second DVD. There was also “One afternoon with Bay Rait”, one of the first timelapse modeling videos that shook the modeling community in 1999.

Regarding Nichimen/Izware’s Mirai and Nendo, I remember a great video by Martin Krol showing how revolutionary the software was but I can’t find it right now. I will post it when I get home , I have a copy on one of my hard drives back in the UK.

Jason is also mentioning a close up shot by my classmate John Comey where one of the characters from his short film is pressing a button. John hasn’t got his shot online unfortunately.

Having worked with Weta, Jason has had to face the usual question about Motion Capture to which he gave a good answer “in its place, it could be okay”. A previous SOA interview on Avatar was very enlighting in that sense. Most animation purist don’t like Motion capture but for certain things like VFX or realistic games there is just no way around. Staying away from those two is actually a good way to avoid using it :-)

The interview is also about how he approaches his role as Head of Character Animation. Many leads, supervisors or anyone wanting to get into management in feature animation can definitely learn from.

At the end of the podcast, Jason brings up some very interesting points on performance, mentioning the “What if” game and how useful video reference can be, not really as a crutch, to use Milt Kahl ‘s legendary quote, but more to bring subtlety or ideas we would have never thought about.

Victor Navone had a very interesting post on video reference a while back where he first blocked a shot from his own imagination then shot video references in the Pixar hall. The video reference had so much more subtleties that he decided to integrate more of it into the final shot.

Speaking of animation, a great interview with Jason Schleifer

Related posts:
Jason Ryan interview
Ted Ty interview
Q&A with Jason

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