What does a typical day look like for you?
So far, a “typical day” at the studio could mean just about anything from animating, designing, experimenting and losing at table tennis against Mark for the dozenth time… But as part of the motion design team at Buff, my main role is to translate storyboarded design, created by our ridiculously skilled designer(s), into animatics (sequenced stills to establish timing), experiment with a couple of ideas and finally translating designs into mostly 2D animations for explainer videos, animated brand assets and even motion toolkits [sample animations that represent the essentials of a brand’s motion language] at the best of my ability.
I might also be involved in the early exploration phases, after we get the script from a client, where some of the creative team get together and brainstorm how we can translate the script into compelling and understandable visuals - before the designers in the team begin exploring the design or illustrative style for the overall look and feel (i.e. Styleframe phase).
As multiple projects tend to run simultaneously, often at different stages, I might find myself spending a couple of days animating project A, then working on delivery for project B while we await feedback on project A.
How did you get into animation?
Some days I also wonder…
Originally convinced I wanted to become a hardware engineer and build my own Android phone, at the last minute, I was recommended to look into Creative Media & Technology while picking a subject for college/high-school.
From the get-go, the course exposed my peers and I to a more hands-on and autonomous way of working compared to secondary school, exposing us further to content creation with tools like Premiere Pro, After Effects and designing in Illustrator and Photoshop as part of our briefs. It was a challenging course, but there’s something about creating your own content, instead of just consuming it, that flipped a switch in my head.
My peers and I would often consume a ton of video content, ads, clips, animations and games, and try recreating things we saw from tutorials to emulate those. In my case, most of it looked crap, but there was no pressure; we were in an environment where learning new tricks was more important than making a stellar video/animation.
What might have later gotten me to this point was the act of just creating for myself. I did more of this in the basement of my uni’s UX course, often experimenting during the summer to add yet another project to my Behance portfolio.
Doing all those things made me watch more tutorials, curate projects I liked, email and DM people I admire, as well as follow new artists and studios, shamelessly imitate their work, feel like garbage because my stuff looks really bad, iterate on it till it looks less crappy and post it online. I try doing that for new, interesting ideas I have – until I’m tired of looking at it. All of that stuff eventually added up to a portfolio of work that convinced people into hiring me for stuff. But I’ve said too much 🤫
What are your tips for creating a great portfolio or showreel?
While my portfolio (and general presentation skills) still need improving, I remember discovering UX/UI case studies on Behance back in college, and marvelling at how in-depth and well designed they were. Often being one continuous chronological journey from the brief to the final thing, and everything in-between, showcased boldly and using the white space so creatively. I was more impressed with the presentation than the actual outcomes at times.
While that can’t always be done for every portfolio project (making updating them even more daunting), I’ve personally learnt a ton from observing how other people present their projects, saving them, and making notes for how I could imitate or incorporate what they did into my presentation. Little things from how they order the project, their choice of embeds, the header/thumbnail image or the layout (and amount) of the text.
I’m personally still iterating on how best to present the work across platforms, but taking time to really show it in a way that does it justice, and implementing what some more “professional” creatives do, can be really worthwhile, especially for the bigger projects :)
What are the most exciting aspects of your role?
There’s something about being handed a still image/design and starting to imagine how I can go from nothing to something unexpected and lively. It's a daunting process, as I often struggle to come up with good ideas, but every now and then it’s just nice to sit down, play some music and start sketching down (or gesticulate) ideas for how something can move in an interesting way.
Despite my limited knowledge of software and animation, I’ve been trying to be more expressive with movements and approach things in a more playful and bouncy fashion (when appropriate), and dial it down or up depending on feedback received or the execution I see in front of me.
While most of what I ideate turns out feeling a bit meh, on a few occasions, through sheer iteration and perseverance, I’ll stumble on something that excites me and really sets the tone for the shot or entire project I’m working on. The tricky part is maintaining that momentum and quality, but something worth striving for.