Zach Thomas Postmortem

Zach Thomas

Positives:

  • Having a Knowledgeable Adviser: Berton was a great adviser throughout the entire process. He was crucial in the story development and helped to set targets for the group. He was able to give us the hard reality when it was needed, but was also helped to keep us motivated and working. Even when he was giving us bad news or telling us that we needed to put in longer hours I came away from meetings motivated and up bet, only to realize later that I should had been upset. I hope that Berton remains someone I and the rest of my team can turn to for advice in the future,
  • Finish a Large Project: While there is a long list of improvements that could be made to our finish product, it is an impressive accomplishment to finish a short animation in 9 months. Looking back I recall all of the people that started out in our major, and realize that out of all of them the five of us are the only ones to go through the program and finish with a complete animated short. This accomplishment speaks to the talent and dedication of my teammates.
  • Work for My Portfolio: While I did not get as much for my job reel as I was hoping for, I do get show my work on the characters. There is definitely lot of aspects that could be improved on, but I learned a lot from making them, and think they are a reasonable representation of my work.

Negatives:

  • Group Dynamic: From the beginning I think we struggled to work together as a group. There was never a time that it felt like everyone was contributing and we were all working equally towards. At times it was like pulling teeth  Maybe that is the nature of larger projects and people having different areas of interest. For instance, I felt engaged in the project while working on the character models but afterwards felt like I lacked a direction on the project, and I know Avery wasn’t as interested in story development at the beginning, but became extremely involved in modeling the environment and rendering. It is difficult sustain a strong dedication and work ethic out pure obligation, especially when there are other obligations. I would often just want to work in separate room because it was too tense and stressful to be working in the same room.
  • Technical Difficulties: We spent a lot of time just trying to get assets to a usable state that we never got to iterate and learn from improving our work. Rendering our project and getting the render farm at the school working turned into a larger than expected problem that Avery and Chris devoted a large amount of time getting work. Others times it took longer and more effort than necessary to get a plug in or application installed on computers. Especially frustrating for me was the fact that not all of the computers had the same update version of software. These were mostly avoidable and issue fixed issues that added an increased burden on those who were already over worked.
  • The Pitfall of Working with Story: Coming up, agree on, and writing a story took an exceeding amount of time and the process never really ended until the final weeks of the project. Even though we started early last spring coming up with concepts we didn’t pick a story until the last possible moment in fall. One of the issues was that we were trying to come with story ideas by committee and enviably someone was always unhappy. We were never able reach a point of cohesive and productive idea development as group. Eventually, Chris, our project lead, decided on an idea about a janitor in a superhero base, and even though others in the group were not enthusiastic about the idea it had to happen or else we would had just continued to spin our wheels coming up with story ideas. The work done in the pre-production phase turned out to be the most crucial to the success of the rest of the project, and unfortunately our communication with our adviser and each other at that time was less than ideal. Even after we decided to stick with Chris’s idea he struggled almost all year to come up with story that made sense to the viewer. To his credit the end story turned out more entertaining  than expected and had some truly funny moments.  In the end the story turned into something that we need in order to get to production work. Trying to work out the story while do production work resulted in a lot of wasted effort that . For instance Juan spent a lot of time working on a bee gun and Alexis animated an entire scene with the bee gun in winter term that was cut after the winter final. With an already small team and tight deadlines changes like that while needed resulted in a lot of increased stress.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • A Workable Project Scope: In the early  phases of the project it seemed like the an obvious and expected choice to make an animated short film, but I think that ultimately it was detrimental choice. There is a lot to be learned from the process of completing a complex project such as animation, however it also results in a lot of half baked worked. For instance, the rigs for the characters were scripts that while worked had technical limitations that either had to be hurriedly fixed or just dealt with, and the charter animation in some shots got rendered even though there were clear errors and improvements that needed to be made. However, because of the project scope and the amount of work that needed to be done down the pipeline a lot of those errors were written off as “could be better”.  There was no time to iterate and apply lessons learned, mistakes had to be sucked up and dealt with later on down the pipeline. This unfortunately resulted in a lot of work be dumped on the people responsible for rendering and composting because whenever an issue arose earlier it had to be fixed by them in not only one shot or scene, but in all 150. A lot of recognition has to go to my teammate Avery for really taking charge and doing the hard work to fix all these error. On future projects I plan to limit and understand the scope of a project before embarking on it even though I know I will most likely not have that kind of control in the professional workplace. Instead of start with a large ambition and trying to get all the elements together to realize that vision pick a simple yet intriguing concept and work outwards.
  • The Importance of Pre-Production: A key lesson I learned is to have a project you interested in before picking group; don’t pick a group then try to find a project you are all interested in. Looking back the most crucial stage to the success or failure of our project was pre-production. Other more success teams had a clear concept by the end of last spring, and were able to use it as a compass to keep their project on track; we unfortunately had poor communication during that period. It seemed at times we were fighting against the uncertainties that arose in pre-production, as the story was continual being refined until spring break and even after. I personally like everyone on my team, but it became clear early on that everyone had different expectations of what they wanted from the project. While everyone, to varying extents, made efforts to stay engaged it seemed difficult for everyone to remain active throughout the entire 9 month project and often people struggled to find ways to contribute. I know personally I got frustrated and disinterested at times, especially when I know that there were other projects and assignments that needed work and that I was more interested in. It is import to have a core concept, goal or vision to keep everyone motivated and on track.

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