Aardman executive producer Heather Wright predicts:
1. Will 2012 be better, and if so, in what ways? During the first half of 2011 there was reasonable optimism that the recession was coming to an end and the workflow was still good. By about June when there was no sign of the recession ending and the economic situation lumbered from bad to worse it seemed that people got nervous and the workflow slowed down. As with last year we had a number of big repeat clients who came back for more, albeit with reduced budgets and we were busy with Tate Movie Project - our big branded content project. TMP was great because it kept both the commercials and digital divisions busy and although the main project is delivered there is ongoing digital work and community management through to the London Olympics in Summer 2012. (Can give more details/pics on this if relevant) The outlook for 2012 certainly in Europe is the worst I’ve ever seen it. The US seems to be rallying and there is a regular flow of boards coming out but budgets all over are tighter than ever and as a production company you can╒t afford to reduce quality to meet the lower budgets. That path is a downward spiral. Good writing will rescue us from the mire of mediocrity that looms over us and we all know that sometimes the best ideas happen when the constraints are tightest. The threat is that nervous clients lead to nervous agencies and all these nerves lead to creative decisions at the lowest common denominator. Aardman will continue to contribute creatively to scripts before they go into production, to ensure that every $ is working harder than ever.
Advertisers, agencies and production companies need to have the courage to support creative people to run with ideas that may feel a bit left of mainstream, and creatives in turn need to write ideas that don’t rely on big production budgets to reduce the financial risk for advertisers and give them confidence to buy the better ideas.
2. Will the animation business change next year from a business perspective, or creative standpoint? Animation companies need to use their skills in design, illustration and image creation on as many different platforms as possible. Online is growing and animated assets are easily and quickly utilized in this medium. In this way it is possible to create a throughput of a larger number of smaller jobs.
3. Multiplatform storytelling and 360 degree marketing continue to be important pillars for big brands; are there any specific ways in which these marketing approaches will shift or change in 2012? The trend for a lead creative agency to hand over a campaign to client╒s partner agencies with ever increasingly specific roles - digital, media, pr, social networking, etc, continues - all these companies have their own overheads and surely it’s just a matter of time before we return to the ‘full service’ model of yesteryear.
4. What new aesthetic looks or creative styles will be on the forefront in 2012? In a world where digital assets can be easily passed over as ephemera there is a desire to see the hand of the artist or the craftsman, to know that work has been created by human rather than by machine. There will be a continued resurgence in stop frame and interestingly in cgi where the look created feels totally real. European animation colleges such as Gobelins, Supinfocom, FilmAkademie Badem-Wurttenburg are producing graduates who create new looks and ideas of such a high caliber that they easily compete with their professional counterparts. Production companies need to snap them up before they get overtaken by them.
5. Directors with multiple skill sets, live action/vfx/animation are in more demand than ever? Will this change next year? If so, in what manner/ways? There is still a shortage of directors with multiple skill sets although some of this slack is starting to be taken up by a new generation of directors with new tricks. These are directors who are ideas people and not simply executors. They also have the skills to create and communicate from their own hands - they can write, draw storyboards, create visuals, and can also present well in meetings giving nervous clients and agencies the confidence that the job will be well done. In this way they are taking work away from the highly experienced and certainly highly skilled directors who rely on a team around them. Production companies can no longer afford to support large teams on the pitch and development side of the job.
6. As animation studios are asked to create integrated campaigns that include an online component, are there particular technical or creative issues related to developing animation for a website or other platform such as mobile device? If so how do you address those issues? Creatively there are no issues creating campaigns with an online component. If the campaign requires straightforward animations then most often we use the same animation technique throughout. These animations all become video files and then it’s just down to the broadband connectivity and processor speed of the individual users as to how long they take to download or stream. Sometimes we create a simplified flash versions of the on air characters which as well having a slightly different look, also means there is less subtlety in the performances, although once you get to clicking through online it’s arguable as to how much subtlety you need. The only technical issues occur where it’s a very small MPU or banner ad where the total amount of data often needs to be 40K or smaller. This means making creative decisions about how much data is devoted to design needs and how much is left for animation. The answer is there’s very little of either so it’s very simple design with very little movement. Most things are doable technically with the right budget...