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Current time:0:00Total duration:11:12

Animation director: What I do and how much I make

Video transcript

so my name is Lisa labraccio I'm 32 years old I am an animation director at Ted Edie and I make approximately 80,000 a year Ted ed is the educational initiative of TED conferences so Ted ed works with two pair animators and educators so an educator might be a teacher or a TED speaker or an expert or a researcher in their field and they pair those people with animators who will work to bring their lesson idea to life and to make those into a short animated video so they're about five minutes long when I work as as an animation director and as an animator there so I actually work with that educator to id8 so to make that that lesson into that script into a video as an animation director what will happen is that I will get a script early on in the process and from there it's my job to research all of the information in that script as I'm trying to of course it's been fact-checked when it's come to me already so I'm not doing research in the typical sense but more in a visual sense so I'll look at at other artists work for inspiration and I'll spend some time on Pinterest I'll be reading up a lot of extra information about the topic looking at all the different theories and and communicating with the educator quite a bit to ask questions and get more information and then from there I start to put together a style board or a look and feel for the project so I'll start to decide what method of animation I'll use because I work in traditional animation so I do stop-motion hand-drawn a lot of tactile elements as well and then I'll start to create characters and storyboards and and at that point decide if I need other people on board with me to help me execute the project as animation director is at Ted ed we get creative freedom so we do get to decide what style and what way to execute the project we get to do each time which is a major perk that said if anything that we're doing is not in service of the information so it's very important that we're creating an overall educational film right so the educator can step in and say this is inaccurate you've portrayed this person and correctly that color implies this and that's incorrect but whatever right but they can't say oh I don't like your character design so that's the line so we do get a lot of feedback throughout from both the educator and our internal team so that's the other animation directors who work there our producer our script supervisor our director up top so you know it is there's there's plenty of feedback being given but we also work on super tight timelines so you don't really have the option of it not being done he's kind of just done when it's time to go online so ted-ed produces 150 animated shorts a year which is a lot and in house we do about 20 of those I do five of those per year each one is about 8 to 10 weeks production timeline which is actually really short for animation so short animation I've also spent on a personal project on a five-minute film two years before so it is this is a scaled-down version of that production so we we start we basically pick up a script before we finish our next project so that way or our current project so that way when we finish the project we dive right into the next one my most recent project is about this manuscript called the Voynich manuscript and actually it came up in a script meeting and as I had mentioned it's not a topic that I'm normally interested in but I just quickly googled the book to see the images of it and it's a lot of these you know weirdly stylistic drawings of plants and creatures that may or may not exist and just was really fascinating stylistically to me and also I really like plants and and that sort of thing so it seems something in my range anyway and I got kind of obsessed with the idea of like seeing the pages of the book actually move and and seeing that this object which is from dated to the 1400s I come to life so I flagged it and eventually took that project on and it was a big challenge because this so this book lives at Yale University's Rare Book and Manuscript library which means that you can't touch it or turn its pages or really interact with it at all so it was our job to do all of that either digitally or or some other methods so I knew that I wanted to have some digital animation of of the actual book pages from the high-res photographs that exist of it but I also knew that I wanted to see the book in space and I couldn't have that unless I physically created a small version of that so we actually made a miniature Voynich manuscript you know it's only a few pages long but that gave us the option of making stop-motion animation and having the actual books on full pages unfold in the book and then that also helped me figure out because one of the challenges in this project was what method of animation do I use when I'm not in the book pages and I knew that I didn't want to draw animation for it because I thought that that would conflict with the already existing style of drawing that's in the book itself but I had to tell a story through history while also showing the pages of the book so it ended up being a really helpful to use stop-motion to depict this because it was a very obvious change from the digital landscape of the books pages to the stop-motion characters so that part was super fun for me because I got to make small puppets that were all done in pen and ink and then water colored and very precariously cut out and then those were all moved under the camera with with mapped acts as their joints so we used a piece of foam core that was covered with paper under the camera and placed down those puppets and all of their joints were operated from these you know like tacks right here and then I did all of that stuff motion animation under the camera so that was my area but also this was so this decision at the very beginning was really an important one because it also dictated that I needed someone else to work on the project with me so I work in After Effects and Photoshop in animation all the time but it's not my leg after-effects is not my strength so I have worked with this one artist before who's really not just good at making after effects animation but she also really enjoys it which is where I fall off like I don't enjoy it at all really like moving objects under a camera but I knew Caitlyn who who came onto the projects and helped me would would really just do a great job so she took over that entire section and that was really fun for me because I was able to let her also have ownership of a piece of the project as well so I also in addition to my work at Ted which is my full-time job I also work as a freelance animation director and I do similar explainer videos PSAs short short videos or experiments whatever on the side and so between the two of those jobs I basically make around 80 thousand a year that can change depending on the year but of course I have the full time job that serves as something very sure and regular and it really depends animation is a very you know it's a it's a lot bigger of an industry then then it seems it seems quite niche but there's actually so many niches inside of it so you know my friends who work in advertising for animation and that's of course a higher end of income friends who work for big studios like a Pixar DreamWorks or a Cartoon Network and feature films going to be different than television I started in animation in the independent animation world which is the low end of that working on documentary stuff and short films festival films projects ads when they come in but all you know that's that's the lower end of it so a freelance animator can make and I know this because I hire them often for projects can make anywhere from 400 to 1200 a day depending on the kind of animation that they do and also what level they're at so you know you have a junior animator versus a senior animator someone who's been out of school for a minute or someone who's been doing it for a decade so those are all be different rates within that range but that's typically the range and of course that's a freelance rate so that doesn't include things like health care or benefits packages and it's you know you get work when you get work so you know there are a lot of jobs within the umbrella of animation for what I do as an animation director and especially working on educational material it's important to be really strong with visual storytelling and some of that is something that just comes from having watched a lot of content and some of it's from having made the content worked under directors who made great decisions that you watched and sometimes terrible decisions that you watched so that way you can learn from that but I would say that's the number one important skills that visual storytelling which comes with a sense of like what's best to have on screen to tell this story but in addition to that there's so much right so animators have to be have to know a lot about drawing about cinematography about how do you light a scene about mood and in composition to be able to storyboard and they have to know at least a little bit about sounds design and how to direct other people how to take direction from other people I would say one of the things that I've been able to learn thanks to my role at Ted ed because we turn over pieces so quickly and we are working just for two months on a project and then it's a totally different style and topic for the next two months you really learn to to get rid of things that don't work and to also not be afraid to share ideas you have when they're in really really really rough places and that's the thing that I was totally afraid to do before I started this job I would like want to perfect a thing before sharing it and and you just don't learn that way and you also don't get the best product that way so so it's a lot about that but I also think it takes a lot to know what your strengths are so for me I I learned pretty quickly in school that I really wanted to have my hands on the whole process so and I also in learning that learned that I'm not the best character animator for example but that does mean that I can identify someone who is much better than me and hire them to come on to the project and everyone benefits from that including the project that you're making
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