Mass Animation: A Guest Rebuttal


Back in July, I scribbled out a diatribe against Mass Animation, a Facebook-supported competition to create a CG short film by crowd-sourcing the animation to thousands of animators around the world. (See trailer above.)

While most of the Motionographer regulars agreed with my points against Mass Animation, not everyone felt that spec-work competitions like Mass Animation are a bad thing.

To help flesh out the other side of the story, we got in touch with Alexander Micah Snow, Mass Animation participant and then animation student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. We edited his response for length, but left it otherwise in tact.

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

In Support of Mass Animation

By Alexander Snow

Not too long ago, I was checking my Facebook to see if anything new was going on, or if as usual, somebody had taken a hideous picture of me without me knowing.  This is when I first caught a glance at the feed about something called Mass Animation. As soon as I read a few lines of the description, I was hooked:

A chance to work with professionals, especially from such great studios as Sony Imageworks and ReelFX, was an opportunity I wasn’t gonna miss.

Benefits

For one, it was a great way to get your name out there and network, whether you win a shot or not. I met a lot of people and discovered some great studios that I didn’t even know about, such as Seagulls Fly. This was one of only a few opportunities I had been given to speak with professionals in the industry and to pick their brains.

Another great thing about this competition was that it gave me a reason to work hard, work fast, get some outside opinions, and work on something for my personal demo reel. As a student, the deadlines are a lot quicker paced, and trying to juggle multiple classes and assignments can get tough sometimes. That’s definitely a good way to get the juices flowing, but sometimes you need to give yourself time to animate and hit all those beats and details.

This competition was a great way for a student or recent graduate to get a professional-like experience—and possibly get paid. Even if it’s not the biggest salary, it is still something.

Most animation internships don’t pay anything, so this was a great chance for somebody who needed income to do it in their spare time. This way you get an internship-like experience (though not quite as one-on-one) and still can do your day job.

Experience is experience in my mind, and this experience came with the chance that I could possibly be credited in a film that shows before a major motion picture.

Process

The competition also answered a question I was having about working remotely: I was happy to discover how well it worked. The shot just had to be downloaded and you were ready to go. You follow the simple steps to save and output the video and voila, you’re a competitor. With the pace and deadlines, it was a lot like being a professional, just in a more laid back sort of way.

alex-shots

In the end, I submitted three shots . Out of those three shots, I liked the way two of them turned out. The day finally came and the results came out and I… won. Only one of my shots won, and oddly enough, it was my first shot that I did—the one that I had lost hope for.

I was really excited. I was extremely busy at school and started to get worried about time that I would have to fix the shot and clean it up, when I got another email. This one told me that my shot had been cut from the film, but that I would still be in the credits and I would still receive the money.

The Takeaway

This ended up working out perfectly. I had made friends with people in the industry, worked on a professional project, gotten my name in the credits of a short that would show before a real movie, received $500, improved my skills a lot—and I had gotten a feel for the “real” world.

Did this competition help me get a job? Not directly, but it certainly was a step in the staircase that got me to where I am, an animator at Rhythm and Hues working on a feature film.

Mass Animation was a fun ride in the theme park that is the world of Animation. I don’t know what ride I’ll go on next but who really does? Maybe it will be the next Mass Animation competition, maybe it won’t. All I can say is that I highly, highly recommend this competition or any competitions for people looking to improve and push themselves.

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About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.

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  • r3awak3n

    i wont comment on the concept of mass animation. I can see both pros and cons from it but as in the world someone is pocketing a lot of money where others are working for little….

    I do have to say that this trailler did not make me want to watch this movie a single bit, man, the guys voice was annoying and it was not all that exciting. not saying the movie is not going to be but this little exerpt wasnt that cool

  • I don’t doubt that Mass Animation provides value for the individuals participating in it. My main complaint is that it’s not a sustainable system for film production. As a “talent scouting” service perhaps it has some future, though.

    And just to be clear: I don’t categorically have a problem with competitions. My first ever motion graphics project was for a Creative Commons competition. It gave me the right amount of structure and incentive to get me started in a field that was (and still is) incredibly overwhelming.

  • r3awak3n

    It is a concern that people are working for so little money. A lot of freelancers in this industry get that in a day of work, some can get twice as that. What will happen if people are willing to work for 500 dollars, hell, even 3k for a whole project….Also the problem also comes from the fact that people can work from all over the world, 500 dollars in the US is not that much but in india and brasil for example is a lot more money. THe work quality is great so how long will it be for big companies to source out work. It already happens with roto but it will probably happen with creative stuff…There are so many tallented dedicated people in countries where 200 dollars a day (even less), is a lot of money and they are whilling to work for that kind of money.

    Competitions are great but this is a little sinister when they will grab all the hard work people did for 500 dollars and turn it into a lot of money… at least that is what i understand.

  • “possibly get paid”

    This is the main problem that most of us had with the competition.

    Also, this isn’t really a rebuttal, as it addresses none of the myriad points and nuances of the situation that were brought up in the previous thread. Instead, this comes off as a pretty naive, rose-tinted view from a student with little or no work experience in the real world.

    I’m curious if he’ll feel the same way 5 or 10 years down the road, when he has learned to value his time and expertise.

  • polyomino

    I don’t understand the strong negative feelings here. It’s a transaction between consenting adults, with no subterfuge.

    Is it a good use of your time? Who am I to say. Is it a good way to make a movie? Heck, go for it.

    As for the effects on the market… I spend my days behind a screen & mouse & keyboard, not producing food or shelter or even medicine, and getting my bloated American salary. I can’t tell how it’ll all play out in the end. Should probably learn how to grow corn, just in case.

  • poolparty

    I think mass animation is just revisiting a similar problem that exists in creative fields where people are under cut. The competition just drives down the pay. What mass animation does is open the floodgates on producers looking for a cheap work, and they should, because they were given that opportunity.