Animation Director - Buck
Moses Journey was brought up in a deeply artistic household and began his creative pursuits at an early age. By the end of high school, he had built several websites, worked as a technical adviser for professional artists, and presented twice at Siggraph. In 2002, he graduated from UCLA's Design|Media Arts department and dove head-first into the budding field of motion graphics. Journey worked as a freelance animator for several years before becoming an art director at the boutique motion graphics studio National Television. In 2010 he took a staff position at the acclaimed design and animation firm, Buck, and now works there as an animation director.
Q & A
OTHER COMPANIES AND INDIVIDUALS STRUCTURE THEIR PROJECT FOLDERS, NAME THEIR FILES AND ORGANIZE THE INTERNAL ASSETS WITHIN AFTER EFFECTS; WE CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE A PHILOSOPHY THAT TAKES PRECEDENCE AND LEADS THE CHARGE. WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND HOW DOES THAT MAKE AN IMPACT ON HOW YOU STRUCTURE YOUR WORK FLOW?
I believe it's a crucial aspect of working with a team to treat your work not just as animating/designing/whatever-ing, but also as UI design. Often, one's work will travel through others' hands, and it's respectful and efficient to organize one's projects accordingly. Other industries -- coding in particular -- have great, though rigid, structural and organizational protocols in place; coders are taught to notate and build their work using pre-defined structures. That said, we're often artists who thrive best with some freedom and flexibility. We have to respect the creative spirit while still keeping things organized.
HAVE YOU HELPED DEVELOP A STRUCTURE AND METHOD THAT IS CURRENTLY BEING USED BY BUCK, OR IS THAT A WORKFLOW THAT HAS EXISTED FOR QUITE SOME TIME?
I've built a little script that imports a default After Effects project template here at Buck LA. It seems to work well, and if users wish to specify their own template project, it'll import that with a click of a button. Currently, I'm using labels as the means of organizing folder structure, rather than numbers or hashes. This way, we can keep everything named using regular English, yet organize folder display order. Our overall folder structure was mostly in place when I came on staff, but I’m a part of the team that decides on changes.
IN YOUR OPINION, HOW OFTEN IS SOMETHING LIKE FILE STRUCTURES EVALUATED AS A GROUP, EITHER INTERNALLY AT BUCK OR JUST IN GENERAL? IS IT SOMETHING THAT IS DONE ONCE AND PEOPLE STICK BY IT, OR IS IT ON THE TABLE FOR DISCUSSION EVERY SO OFTEN?
We’ve tried to stay somewhat consistent from year to year, but are open to incremental changes. Currently, we’re in discussions to start culling folder trees that aren’t specifically related to the types of work and applications being used in a project. Though we’re always open to suggestions, it tends only to be a couple of us actually bringing up such a dry subject and change happens slowly. Most shops seem to have a single person in charge of organization, or they just leave things up to whoever happens to be producing or directing the project. Things get messy fast.
CHANGE IS HARD. SO OFTEN FOLKS IN UPPER MANAGEMENT HAVE A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR THEM AND THEY ARE SOMEWHAT MARRIED TO A CERTAIN WAY DOING THINGS. WHEN A NEW DIRECTOR OR EXECUTIVE IS INTRODUCED INTO THE COMPANY, THEY CAN BECOME A FACTOR IN A DISRUPTION OR AT MINIMUM A REEVALUATION OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM. HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED THIS FIRST HAND WHILE FREELANCING AT MULTIPLE COMPANIES OR AT BUCK?
There is a general complacency in the industry. People don’t want to rock the boat, they just want to get their work done and move on. I’ve noticed that if freelancers and staff find the existing system too confusing, they will often just work however they want. It’s very rare for anyone to make suggestions or try to foment change. Perhaps I’m an exception to the rule.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN PRESENTED A WAY OF DOING THINGS THAT WERE, “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY?” HOW WELL DID THAT WORK?
Yes, and it’s worked well. Aside from a temporarily bruised ego, nothing really suffered. I like having structure in my workplace. Consistency is more important than openness, when it comes to organizational structures. Even if things are rigid, a decent structure frees us from dealing with mundane organizational tasks, allowing us to be more creative.
AS A DIRECTOR IN THE CREATIVE FIELD, SOMETIMES IT’S TOUGH TO GET ALL THE DESIGNERS AND ANIMATORS ON THE SAME PAGE. LET’S FACE IT, WE ARE ALL CREATIVE AND SOMETIMES THAT CAN BE LIKE HERDING CATS. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS WHEN IT COMES TO DIRECTING OTHER CREATIVES?
With my own tools and templates, I try to lead by example, not dictating exact structures for every task and asset, but setting up a general philosophy of organization. Generally, I try to keep everything in plain English, not shy away from using spaces in named items (it's 2015, people!), and use the same naming conventions set forth by the host program (for instance, AE likes to add "Comp #" to the end of pre-comp names, so why fight it?). It helps to be hands-on and work directly with my co-workers on keeping things organized, but I've also built some simple scripts to help automate the process.
CAN YOU DISCUSS IN GREATER DETAIL EXACTLY HOW YOUR SCRIPTS ARE USED AND HOW THEY AUTOMATE THE PROCESS?
My scripts are meant to point the way for my After Effects team. Right now, there’s a script for creating controls for rigging in After Effects, a script for importing After Effects project and edit templates, the ability to apply several simple expressions, and a searchable script browser, again, all at the click of a button. If it’s easy to use my structural tools, and people actually find them useful, they’ll naturally start to migrate to my organizational system without me badgering them. We already have a robust, somewhat user-friendly Maya/Nuke/MODO pipeline, and I figured, why not have something like that for the 2D peeps? So far, it’s been a successful experiment, though I sometimes still have to prod people to organize their shit!