Sandra Ní Chonaola

What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Sandra Ní Chonaola and I am an Animation Supervisor at JAM Media in Dublin, Ireland.


What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Hummm… I don’t know if I’ve had any ‘crazy’, jobs, but I did start out studying Fitness Instruction only to go onto a career in accounting to finally find my way back on track with animation.


What are some of your favourite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The current one, ‘Tilly and Friends’. Its not only mind-blowing to work with such talented, enthusiastic seasoned animation directors every day, but to get to work on such unique project is truly inspiring. Based on a series of books by author Polly Dunbar, the show is heavily traditional, though it is drawn digitally. We aim to honour the books as much as possible, when a shot is approved in animation it put through After Effects and given a paper texture and a boiling line, that allows it to look just like the books. Its so beautiful, I love it! It’s a pleasure to look at eight or more hours a dayJ


How did you become interested in animation?
I have been a huge fan of Warner Bros for as long as I could remember. The likes of Daffy Duck giving out about his lines etc… persuaded me that these characters where alive… so the concept of becoming an animator happened fairly late for me. I was probably about nine years old, when I got three video tapes – yes… VHS back then!!! Lady and the Trap, Fievel goes West & Land Before Time. Three movies that changed my life! Story so engaging that could raise emotions in you, as well as make you laugh – I was hooked!


What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
8.a.m. – Arrive in work. Get a large coffee. Check work emails and watch episode deliveries from our outsource company in Canada. Approve/ give revision notes on shots up for approval by the animators from the previous night. 10 am – check in with our in-house animators to see if they have any questions regarding their shots, deadlines, revision notes etc. Chat with compositors about their needs from animation that day and relay that back to the animators. 12 pm – sit with the directors and watch an episode up for final approval. Start to write changes needed on a shot per shot bases. We discuss and write notes in terms of animation but also compositing/camera and Background 1pm- lunch 2pm – return to episode approval notes. 6pm – update tracking sheet for animation (this is what shots where done and by whom to keep track of production and to make sure we stay on course for the deadline). I also quickly look through what shots are there for approval. I usually just approve the ones I can, and leave the ones that need notes till the morning.


What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Wow… I love so many part of this job it’s hard to pick just one! Every single person I work with is amazing, working together with these guys to make this show as beautiful as possible is a really exciting experience. However, working with directors that are so open and willing to pass on knowledge so happy to teach is what makes even the hardest days so enjoyable.


What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Filling out Excel sheets. Whatever I did to deserve this, I am truly sorry! It’s a way of seeing how the episodes are progressing, which is important for a tone of reasons. At bigger studios, someone else would take care of this… but luckily I have people to help me get my head around it. So its not that bad.


What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
An in-house approval system called the JAM Pot which allows me to see shots up for approval singularly or in sequence and write notes directly to the animator and them to me too. And Flash CS5.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
For me it’s time away from family and friends as you work hard to perfect your skills. However I have recently discovered the awesome power of work-life balance.  It’s true; you can’t write about or portray life believably if you haven’t experienced it…


In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have been blessed to meet and or work with amazingly talented people, both well-known and not so well-known. Meeting people who love what they do just as much as I do is super inspiring and I enjoy it fully every chance I get.


Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be happy, be helpful. Always remember how lucky you are to know what you want to do in life. Work hard, keep your inspiration close. Be honest with yourself in regards to what your level of talent is, and build on it – work hard perfecting it always and always continue to learn. Respect and value non-animation friends and family, in time you’ll find they are the ones that keep you sane. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to look stupid. Ask questions. Be genuine. Smile, its only a cartoon J

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