Sneak peek into an animators job

 

1: Hello who are you and what are you known for?

1e77003.jpgS’up fools? I’m Tyler Helton, and I am the Lead Animator on Minecraft Storymode Season 2 at Telltale Games.

2: How did you get your break into games?

My first break into video games was when I was hired as a Junior Animator at Telltale Games in 2013.  Prior to this, I had done cinematic for Zynga with Green Grass Studios, a small company in Dallas, Texas. At

The-Wolf-Among-Us-Boxart

 Telltale, my first game was 

The Wolf Among Us in which I helped craft acting choices for multiple characters including Mr. Toad. 

3: What are the worst mistakes you see from interns or fresh hires? Advice on how best to mentor them?

There are a lot of bad habits I observe in new employees and interns; for example, not taking notes on any task given to them, not developing an efficient workflow, procrastination, lack of communication, and inability to receive constructive criticism. I would advise any new intern or employee to always have a pen and paper handy so that you can write down any and all information that gets thrown your way. As an animator, writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgyour workflow will determine your success or failure at any studio. A workflow that allows you to create quality animation within your time constraints will always make you stand out. You won’t always know the best way to tackle a shot, but having a consistent workflow will help you work through any problems the shot contains. It is easy to get distracted by social media when you find yourself stuck with a problem that has no solution. New employee should ask for help when they need it. Everyone at the studio is working on the same project, and we all want everyone to be successful, but that success won’t come if you don’t participate. The number one mistake is taking criticism to heart. Criticism cannot be taken personally. Too often I have seen animators emotionally distraught when multiple edits are made to their shot, or their shot gets completely cut. Sometimes the ideas you have chosen are not right for the project, and you must trust your leads and directors with their vision. 

4: Is there any current or past games that you would have loved to been involved with? How would you have changed them if you could?

Well, we could be here all week for this one. There are thousands of games that I wish I could have worked on. But for time’s sake I’ll just say all of the classics (Mario Bros., Contra, Legend of Zelda) and more contra_logo_by_orangeman80-d8blt08.pngcurrently The Last of Us, any of the Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Ghost Recon, and the Mass Effect Series. The level of gameplay and storytelling nowadays rivals full feature films. 

5: VR/AR hardware and gaming, a fad or here to stay? And how has this affected the way you work?

I don’t think it’s a fad, but I don’t think the technology has yet shown its full capabilities. There are a few limitations that need to be addressed, but once they have been solved, it might become the next form of entertainment. At the moment this doesn’t affect the way I work. 

6: As a animator, what are some of the silliest questions you get asked at a party? Do people think you just play games all day still?

I don’t have time for parties, I am an animator. 🙂 And I do still play games all day…that’s still ok, right?

7: Coming into games from a commercial animation field, how was the transition and how does the work and environment differ?

The two are very similar. You work at a fast pace to get visual representation of the product. The difference is mainly the technical side with games you are constantly flipping back and forth between your animation software and your game engine. 

8: Have you ever worked on a turd of project in any way and at what point did you realize it just wasn’t very good? Did you try and turn it around or just get it out of the door?

At the beginning of my career, I worked on a few projects that I didn’t understand or see the vision behind it. You can almost always tell when your heart is not going to be in a project, but it’s important to work through that and do the best you can. Everything is a learning experience and you should not take it for granted. As a Junior Animator, you are not given much responsibility to improve the product. I would advise you to trust your leads and directors. Sometimes a project will surprise you and while you’re in production you might think its crap, but once the whole thing has come together it might not be as bad as you thought it was. 

9: Big picture question: Can you share your thought about your 10yr out look for games?

The speed at which games are improving is incredible. Thinking back to games I was playing in 2007 it seems like so much has changed. The world pexels-photo-220201.jpgsizes alone are becoming almost unmanageable. I think the games we’ll be playing in 2027 will be so expansive and immersive that everyday life wont be able to compete. I can see many people losing themselves in a VR RPG World Of Warcraft style of game. 

10:  Finally……Any advice for your last boss?

My last boss gave me my first opportunity in this industry. He took a chance on me when I had very little to show. I owe so much of the success I’ve had to him. My advice is keep doing what your doing. Helping young talent come into this amazing industry and surprise us all. 

Thanks Tyler, for a great insight to being an senior animator!

If you would like to know more or to connect with Tyler, check his profile out on Gamesmith.com.

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