How to quickly improve your work by asking for feedback
When I first started my Animation Course, I was afraid of what other people might say about the things I made. It intimidated me to show my drawings then, and even now I feel awkward about it.
I didn’t know the difference between constructive criticism and someone bashing my work, or comments by people with no artistic background saying stupid stuff.
After a while, I realized feedback and constructive criticism were not what I thought; they are just comments on how to improve my work, which relieved my fears. Because of that realization, when I got my first job, it never bothered me to have my animation or clean-ups scrutinized and commented on.
Also, when you work in a studio, you are part of a team and other people before you have done amazing work already. I found it comforting and inspiring to be in a big group of creative minds.
Last month, I finished my second cartoon. I watched it over and over, and something wasn’t right. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to improve it.
So I did the most uncomfortable thing: I asked for feedback and used it to change my work.
I’ll show you the feedback I got and a comparison between the first and the second versions of the cartoon.
First, I’ll go through all the revisions I made in the cartoon, the reasons behind the changes, and why they work better.
By the end of the post, you’ll know more about pacing and how to use it in your own stories.
ASKING FOR FEEDBACK
Revisions are part of the animator’s job. Everybody gets them. Your work is meticulously checked frame by frame. Stuff gets tweaked, added, redone, removed, or commented on. It’s part of the job and you get used to it.
Why was I nervous this time? Because it’s personal work I created from scratch. But I was willing to do this because I want to get better.
I asked Keith Dury, a friend from my animation class in college, for feedback.
He’s been working as an animator ever since we graduated. He has worked in every department of an animation studio and is now working as a Storyboard Artist. I was confident he could help me make my story stronger.
Before I go into the changes I made, watch the two versions below. The first version is the original; the second is the revised version.
Muuuch better. Simpler and clearer.
Keith told me the pacing of the story caught his eye.
- The cartoon has 5 scenes, all about the same length. 5 scenes, 5 seconds.
- There are too many cuts for a non-action story.
He commented that fast action scenes needs simpler composition, closer shots, and the subject should be more centred in the frame. My cartoon was not a full pack action story, so the drawings had too many details and weren’t hinting at any action. Neither were the image compositions.
Aha! This make total sense!
I went back and re-edited the whole thing following his suggestions.
1-Remove scene #2 and #3
What?? I never thought of removing those scenes entirely! I was trying to fix them.
Originally, before I published the cartoon, I didn’t like the way I had animated the second scene. I struggle with foreshortening, and the arms didn’t look good. Note to self: practice foreshortening.
I was also supposed to change the third scene completely. My idea was to show the feet of the crowd walking to the left and to the right, splitting in half. Again, that would be giving too much information.
Since the project was dragging, I decided to let it go and keep those two scenes as they were. I wanted to keep going and make a new cartoon.
Once I deleted those scenes, I saw why they were not needed.
2-Stretch the length of the Establishing Shot
With almost 2 seconds available from removing the two scenes, I could expand the establishing shot. We now have time to see and enjoy the view a little bit.
I went back to my animation file and re-animated the camera move. I added more frames in the timeline, and accentuated the parallax effect even more.
3-In the last scene: remove the second set of surprise lines and Track Out after the first set of lines
I was sloppy with this scene. I did two things wrong:
- I animated the surprise lines with no regard for how the composition would look as a close-up. The close-up was going to be made in Premiere and I was animating in Animate.
- I made the Track Out without thinking of the timing of the surprise lines.
I went back and adjusted the lines around the head of the character. Now we see them in the shot and the camera move also happens at the right time. It’s much cleaner.
Note: Another detail that still bothers me is how low rez the image looks in the close up. It’s a technicality I didn’t think about when I was creating the cartoon. Next time, I’ll avoid that.
WHAT WENT THROUGH MY MIND WHEN I WAS CREATING THE SHORT
I knew I was making big crowd scenes for very little screen time. What I didn’t realize was that they might be too short for the viewer to process all that information.
I tried to cram as much information as I could in 5 seconds, but that was the wrong approach.
I’m fully aware these are 5-second cartoons and I don’t have much time for anything.
If I wanted to do a fast paced action story, I should have used more close-up shots and had the character take up most of the screen, which means fewer details for the viewer to process.
Since this cartoon was not meant to be fast paced, fewer scenes would have helped the story to be clearer.
I originally told the story chronologically from a, b, c, d and e, when all that was needed was going from a straight to d and e.
I should have let you, the viewer, fill in the blanks and trust you to figure out what was happening.
Another hint that scene b and c were not needed: the title already told us what was going on.
The title is part of the story, and care should be taken to choose a good title that complements the action. It would also be to my advantage to craft the titles more carefully since I only have 5 seconds to tell the story.
I love the new cartoon. I feel we understand the story better even though there is less information in it.
Obviously, there is much more I didn’t talk about, and much more I can improve on, like the animation, the design, the colors, the composition, the storytelling, etc.
I’ll keep making more and keep showing you all my revisions. 🙂