Sideline to Speciality: Hobby Animation and Commercial Animation
Hop onto YouTube and you'll find any number of talented hobby animators. Whether they take it seriously or are just experimenting or having a laugh, their presence doesn't go unnoticed. But does their existence influence the commercial sector of video animation and can industry professionals learn anything from the animated videos of these hobbyists?
With such easy access to professional-level animation programs and a wide array of platforms on which to display their animated videos, in spite of it being unfeasible for the hobbyist to produce feature-length films, the talent level of many hobby animators is on par with that of professional animators.
As well as creating some healthy competition, the work of hobby animators can inspire professional creativity and workflow. One major advantage a hobbyist has over a commercial animator is the freedom to experiment without consequences if they fail. Unfortunately, having to work within the timeframes and guidelines of client projects can leave little room for experimentation with regards to style and technique. Commercial explainer videos, for example, require a clear and concise style and method of communication in order to properly educate their audience. As for animated corporate videos, many companies have an established brand image that must be adhered to. However, by watching and studying the animated videos of hobbyists, professional artists can be inspired by and learn from their tried techniques.
Seeing the work and passion of hobby animators can also inspire creativity outside of the workplace, leading to something that is very important for any professional: personal projects.
Spending all of one's time and creativity on commercial, client-driven video production can soon leave artists feeling stale and burnt out and, consequently, productivity and growth start to stall. This is where personal projects come into play. Spending time on something one is truly enthusiastic about is a great way to boost creativity and inspiration. Neither what you do – you could even imitate what you do at work and make your own animated educational or explainer videos! – nor how much you do matter. What matters is having an animation project that is entirely your own, to style and experiment with as you please, and even scrap if it doesn't work out. No pressure. In no time, new ideas will be flowing and your skill-set and abilities will improve. Personal projects as such will even give you the edge over other employees, as when hiring, many animation studios (including Zedem Media) look for personal work as well as university or client projects.
Even within animation studios, it's good to take a break from corporate video and work on fully in-house projects. Here at Zedem Media, we take creative breaks from our regular animated explainer videos to work on our own promo videos and other projects, which have very satisfying results.
Many companies are aware of the benefits and have incorporated time for personal projects and innovation within their working weeks. Probably the most notable example of this was Google's 20% time policy. This allowed their engineers 20% of their time (one day per week) to work on their own personal projects. The proof is in the pudding and this policy birthed innovations such as Gmail. Even though Google scrapped the policy, many other companies adopted similar policies that have worked well for them, such as Apple's “Blue Sky” and Microsoft's “Garage”. This is a policy we are adopting too, allowing our artists and animators two days every month to spend their time honing their current skills and learning new ones.
So even if you're a professional animator, take a leaf out of the book of the hobbyist, and keep on learning!