Newest Rookies Team Member: Robyn Daly
We'd like to welcome Robyn Daly who is going to be a regular contributor on our YouTube and Twitch channels, offering advice to aspiring 3d animators and giving general feedback to Rookies members. She's been in the animation and graphics industry for 10 years and has a passion for bright colours, anime and cats. Robyn lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and toddler.
What's your current role and what does it involve?
I’m an Animation HoD/Supervisor. I share the role with a colleague since we do 2d and 3d animation, motion graphics, VFX, VR and AR and we split the duties between disciplines- It involves quite a bit of admin, like doing budgets and project and resource management for the team, and more meetings than I’d like, ha ha. Checking scripts, sometimes writing them, and giving creative direction.
Animation directing, giving the team feedback and guidance on their shots throughout the animation process and making sure that the end results are cohesive. Technical direction and assistance where needed. I act as lead animator on some projects and still do a lot of practical animation and graphics work, as well as looking for new ways to improve our processes, new software to try and generally keep us up to date and current with our practices.
Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?
I work at Mann Made, a media, events and digital content company. We do quite a wide variety of things. Commercials, videos, explainers, apps, digital content… anything animated, digital or graphics-related really. Large scale events - which obviously has now been affected by Covid-19, but now we do online/digital events and also offer VR event experiences.
When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?
I’m not really sure. I knew I wanted to work in a creative field, and I knew that I didn’t want to be a graphic designer. I was accepted to do Fine Art at another university but I changed my mind about it, and decided to do animation instead. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about it, I just loved Tim Burton and anime and wanted to make cool stuff for a living.
How did you get your first big break?
I’m not too sure what constitutes a big break. I couldn’t get a job in the industry when I first left varsity. I’d trained in Maya and most of the places here were using 3ds Max and weren’t interested when I said I’d learn the software. So I had to get a temping job while I learned 3ds Max on the side and did online freelance jobs via freelancing sites. I built up my portfolio a bit and got my first freelance gig at a media company and from there I did a few more freelance and contract jobs, which led me to my current company.
Describe the journey you took into your current role?
I started out freelancing at the company, and then they took me on full time. It was a pretty natural progression - junior animator to mid-level, then lead animator. I took on some script writing and was creative director on some small projects and became an animation director, and was already doing technical direction, then took on project management and budgeting for the department. The team grew a lot in size and we branched out quite a bit, starting to do VR development and just generally having a lot more going on, so I was promoted to being another HoD so we could split the duties.
Day in the life
Describe a typical day for you and your team?
We have a morning meeting to review what the day’s output is going to be and assess what everyone’s capacity is in case any surprise projects come in, and see what deadlines are looming. Then it’s into admin, and after that It’ll usually be practical work, whether it’s animation, 3d modelling, motion graphics or whatever, as well as overseeing projects that I’m managing, and giving team members feedback on whatever they’re working on..
What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?
At the moment we use Blender, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Mozilla Hubs. I also use Procreate for illustration or character designs.
Which departments and key people do you work closely with?
The design department, as well as directors, client liaisons, and project managers.
Are there any industry trends that are changing the nature of your role?
VR and AR. We’ve gotten into it quite a bit in the last couple of years.
One thing you’d never change about your job?
The practical part of it. I’d never want to just manage or direct people without ever being able to create things myself too.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?
The amount of admin!
Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?
No, definitely not essential, but it can help to have a structured curriculum and learning path as a base to work off of.
What tasks would you typically ask a junior artist to handle?
Simple animation or motion graphics work, or creating 3d assets.
What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?
They need to have experience or knowledge in 3d as well as motion graphics and 2d animation and a good eye for composition and appeal. They need to be able to deal with deadlines and stress, have a good attitude, and it’s always a good sign when they’ve invested in growing their skills and have passion projects they’re working on.
What skills seem to be missing all too often?
A lot of animators are concentrated on the movement but not the overall shot. Also time management and the ability to prioritise what absolutely needs to be in a shot, and what is a nice-to-have, especially with tight deadlines and several projects going on at once.
Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?
It depends what they’re applying for. If they were applying to the company I’m at, they would need to have some 3d animation, preferably with some nice particle simulations and good camera work, and a shot or two of character animation, as well as slick motion graphics.
What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?
I’ve had people apply who don’t have a showreel or portfolio- they just send you a link to a google drive with a bunch of random stuff they’ve done in it, or a site where you have to scroll through a million projects. It’s better to have your best work concentrated in one portfolio or reel, and then if you’d like them to look at other work, link to that as an afterthought, but not as your only method of showcasing your work. And they also want to show stuff that they’ve done that’s subpar, just because they think it’s better to show a lot, rather than just a few choice pieces.
If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?
I would say, find out about production pipelines and learn according to those. Don’t just do random tutorials, because you’ll miss out on crucial steps, like being to create a 3d model you want to eventually rig and animate but not knowing about topology. Also, just try to learn as much as you can. Competition is stiff.
If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?
I guess I would tell myself to practice more and utilise the spare time I had back then to get better quicker.