Why is perfection seen as the best?

Most projects for clients, seems to take a natural linear path. You tend to find yourself saying the same sequence of things, when asked about timings. For example, how long do you need for drawing up a deck of ideas for the client, how long will it take to execute the project, how long will amends take and then finally, how long will it take to finesse and polish it entirely?

If this was a conversation about animation, then why is the final part needed? Why does it need to be polished and glossed? If the animation is informative and accompanies a body of content, then fair enough. There's times where polish and finesse to the animation is required, in order to allow the content to be in the foreground. However, what if it's a chance to create something new? A way of entertaining, while evoking and challenging peoples expectations? Then in that case, I see the polish and gloss as only one part of the spectrum.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of sharp edges to your work. I found this out when I realised my most popular work was the stuff I did on limited time. For a while, I was thinking how much I wish there was time to polish and tidy up my work, but in reality, people liked it more because of the rough edges.

I created this animation for PLAYDEAD, within the space of 5 days_



I had to go to Glasgow and stay with a friend for the week, so I could go into the studio everyday and work on it. I even used a Surface Pro (the smallest fucking tablet you'll ever see) for drawing it frame by frame. I was also recovering from a cold; basically, I wasn't off to a great start. I walked into the studio with only PLAYDEAD's expectations and my trusty little Surface Pro. Because I was drawing frame by frame in such little time, there was no chance of preparing. I would bring up multiple pictures of crows on the screen in front of me, and draw from reference. No tracing, just purely by eye. This was my flying cycle reference_



There wasn't even a storyboard; there wasn't time. My brief was simple; to create a 30 second animation of a crow, transforming into symbolic shapes, that would represent the subject of the poem, 'The Crow', by Ted Hughes. So I sat and drew like a mad man, frame by frame, guessing as I went. There was no room for amends; once a scene was done, it was done. It turned out to be an incredible week with a bunch of extremely talented folk. The guys loved it and so did the client. There was additional work to be done to it, but in the end, I managed to produce a fully realised animation within a week. It was so rough looking that it actually became the idea itself. The flying looked strange, the shapes and line work were erratic and the pacing was strangely off kilter but it worked! It had such a human touch, ingrained into it. Ted Hughes was an incredibly flawed man, yet he created beautiful poetry. This was my homage to the man and his poem. I might have used a digital platform to make the crow, but it could have easily been pen and paper.

And so I realised, that time to polish and gloss at the end of a film production, is sometimes not warranted. There's a rulebook somewhere that tells you to create a production that falls in the same trend as existing work. This is sometimes sub conscious, especially when working on film/ animation; you instantly want it to feel 'legit' and 'credible'. How do you do this? By adding the trend-factor to it. Everything you've seen has a proven and tested formula, that becomes your final touch to the project. Whatever originality you had in there, is now gone. The cuts and transitions will be familiar, the colours and style will be trendy and even the music and pacing will have been drained of all life. You have now added to the sea of invisible animations, that will go out and serve their purpose, without ever reaching a higher meaning.

Now, it sounds like I'm ripping into 'most' animations out there and I guess I am a little. But I still believe that producing an animation/ film that is safe and trendy, will always be relevant for certain clients. When you get a brief in and the proposition is very clear on what the purpose is, don't fight it. The client is paying for something that is probably going to be effective in what it's for. But! If there's wiggle room for some originality and something new, then jump on it. And don't be afraid of making a bit of a mess along the way. Trying un-tested methods, tends to be the most interesting results.

When I think of production that has been tried and tested, I think of shit like the X-Factor. That show has unlimited money. So what do they do? They buy all the most popular and most expensive music and kill it to death .A sad moment? use 'Any Other Name' by Thomas Newman. A moment for drama? Use 'Time' by Hans Zimmer. This is lazy as hell. And even the transitions are so glossy, you actually hear the same sound effects over and over. The structure is so tight and established, that if you watch an episode of the X-Factor from years ago, it will be exactly the same. To me, it's like leaving a Big Mac out for a couple of years, to then return and find it looks exactly the same, even though it's clearly rotten and stale inside.

People want fresh air and sometimes that means throwing the gloss and polish out the window and creating something imperfect. At the end of the day, none of us are perfect. We can surround ourselves in aesthetically perfect technology, furniture etc. But we're still walking sacks of meat, sweating and panting, as we drudge through life. Our interpretation of beauty, is warped by culture and society. We don't see beauty in, for example, something different and evocative in an Art Gallery, as much as we do see it in a sunset, or a picture of a flower or even a picture of an attractive woman. So our idea of perfection, is really down to what our culture has done to us.

This is why we need a bit of dirt and grit thrown onto the canvas, instead of something pretty and distracting.