What is your name and your current occupation?
Frank Abney, Animator at Crystal Dynamics.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I actually haven’t had any crazy jobs before Animation, lol. I worked at a few retail places, but nothing out of the ordinary.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
My favorite projects so far has been a tv show pilot I worked on called “Miles Across the Sea” at Lightstream Animation Studios, and “Tomb Raider”, at Crystal Dynamics which I just finished work on. “Miles” really stands out to me because we were a small intimate team that felt like a creative family all driving towards the same goal. It was a lot of fun!
I was born in Alameda, Ca and grew up mainly in a city called Suisun City. I got into the animation business shortly after graduating from my first Art School, with help from a career advisor at The Art Institute of California- SF who gave my reel to the owner of a small online game studio. I was hired on as a 3d Artist but I did animation as well.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I try to wake up early (around 5am) to work on personal projects at home, if I have any at the moment. Then I make my way to work. I try to be at work early as well. Most people get in around 10am. I’m more of a 7:30am-8am person. I usually go through my work email to see if I missed anything the previous night. If I’m not already in the middle of something, I’ll check my work schedule to see what tasks are on my list, and get to work. If my lead is there I’ll check in with them to double check what i should be working on (tasks and priorities can change at any time, lol). I go to the gym to work out around 2pm so I’m not sitting at my desk all day. After that, it’s back to work. Meetings vary, but sometimes they can be in the mornings, or in the evenings.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part of my job I like best is when I can just animate. I like this the best because, working on the type of project I’m working on, there’s motion capture cleanup involved, and I’d much rather try to get a natural result by animating by hand. Coming up with ideas, acting them out, etc. It’s also fun when we have to push the mocap further than what was captured.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The part of my job that I least like is when we have to crunch! It can take a toll on not only you, but your family as well.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
At work we use Maya, and some proprietary tools. The way technology has changed has been both good and bad in my opinion… The good part is that a lot of stuff has been made easier for those of us who aren’t programmers. The bad part is on a similar note, but on the animation side. There have been new tools that are there to help you work faster, but you lose some control. I like having the mix of the two Example: The tool is there to help if I want to use it, but the functionality to do the same task manually is there as well, so I can have control over what I’m doing. Hopefully that makes sense, lol!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part for me being in this business is how superficial it can be at times. Sometimes I feel like the quality of someone’s work isn’t as important as where they’ve worked in their career. Which I feel is backwards.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve met A LOT of talented animators, and those who I only knew of by their work!! I’m still looking forward to more “brushes with animation greatness”!!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Losing my dad when I was 5 years old has to have been the toughest situation in my life. It hasn’t been easy on us as a family, but we did pretty well.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yes I’m working on a few side projects (short films, personal acting tests). I can’t share too much, but the short film that I’m trying to finish animation on currently, is about something I’ve gone through personally, and I think a lot of others can relate to it. But I haven’t decided to release any info on it just yet. 🙂
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, I do BMX stunts. I’ve been doing it since around freshman year in high school, and used to compete.
Here’s a video of some of my riding. It’s around 4-5 years old though (haven’t had time to film any new stuff), haha. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj8VBYyarVc
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The best advice I can give is to let the level of your work be your goal, not a studio. Once you shift that focus, you’ll get better, and things will open up naturally for you.