Monday, January 5, 2009

In Charge...At Large

After a very disappointing second attempt at running my own company, I wondered if there was any need for a small operator in a time big industry? As it turned out, there was! The layouts I did as a Free Trapper were in demand and a spot opened up as a Crew Chief for the Company. An ol' employer of mine remembered the level of quality I turned in on a regular basis and hired me on. I was back working at the HB company but this time running a crew of layout artists.

Most of the guys I learned from were now retired or had moved up the ladder. This left a spot open in management. My reputation as an artist with a functional left brain recommended me to this task. More importantly, I had the ability to communicate specific information clear enough to expect an accurate product in return. So, my job as a Layout Supervisor began. This position is rather an antique one by today's digital production system. In the days of 35mm film production and paper animation the process demanded that scripts be converted into storyboards. These were small panels of shot by shot action and compositional drawings of background elements that visualize the whole cartoon in a form similar to comic books. They were done quickly in those days and were often very sketchy. The details of the actual compositions, background designs, incidental characters and prop designs as well as all initial animation posing was done by the Layout Department.

The Layout Department was the first directorial step in the film making process. Each panel of the storyboard was broken down into sequences based, usually, on background elements.; Ext. Schoolyard, Int. Classroom, Int. Soda Shop. Ext. Athletic Field, etc. Obviously, if the episode took place mostly in a lifeboat at sea, where the background was the same, this system didn't work. In that circumstance, the show was broken down into Night and Day, Storm, Ship Sighting, Shark Sequence, etc. This was my job. I had a staff of artists that needed a week's worth of work each Monday and I had to break the show down into chewable/doable sizes that could be done in a 40 hour week. There were approximately 300 layouts in a typical half-hour show. Each artist was expected to do 30 layouts a week. Therefore using simple math, the only kind I know, I'd need 10 artists to do a half-hour show each week. I didn't have 10 artists on my team. I had between 4 and 6 artists of varying levels of speed, talent and competency. I needed two weeks to produce a half-hour episode. My job required that I meet that schedule. How I did it, Young Artist, is the subject of another blog.

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