Meet Aidan McKenna, one of our awesome Online Editors! When he's not waxing lyrical about the latest, greatest band you need to see at an upcoming festival, he's busy making our productions look great! We caught up with him for a few minutes to discuss what his role involves and what he loves about animation.
How did you get into animation?
I’ve always loved cartoons and yet I never took aim at a career in animation. It seemed too far-fetched. So it’s fair to say I took a very roundabout way into the industry. While attempting to build a career as a screenwriter, I took a job as a tape librarian at a post-production facility, hoping to gain some contacts and develop my career that way.
What I ended up developing was a much deeper understanding of the technical side of post-production and before I knew it, I’d obtained this unique set of skills and knowledge that opened so many more doors to me.
One of the doors that opened was in Brown Bag Films when they were seeking a QC Supervisor some years ago. It was a highly specialised role and I was very keen to work with the company, so that worked out lovely.
It also required me to work closely with the online editors, so I got a good close look at what they do. The nature of that work really appealed to me, so I started exploring their toolset in my free time, and eventually an opportunity arose that allowed me to step into that same role here in Brown Bag.
Long story short; curiosity, serendipity and sheer dumb luck!
How long have you worked in the animation industry?
Since summer 2012.
What's your current role and what does it involve?
I’m currently an online editor, which involves applying the colour grade; compositing in final elements and generally adding the finishing touches to the episodes before they hit the air.
The ‘finishing touches’ can be anything from tidying up any small mistakes that may have been overlooked at the earlier stages; adding in effects that weren’t ready earlier (like raindrops or sparkles); adding any bits of visual ‘oomph’ the director or art director think would help the story (fog, for example, or camera shakes); adding the finished audio and the opening and closing sequences to the episodes.
Every project brings a different set of duties for the online editor, but if you think of it as photoshopping an image before it goes on the front of a magazine, you’re on the right lines. We just do it with moving images.
What are your biggest influences/inspirations?
Like everyone else here at Brown Bag, I could waffle on about my influences all day and still forget loads of them.
Anime (Ghibli in particular); Pixar; Laika; Ren and Stimpy; Harryhausen; Venture Brothers; Genndy Tartakovsky; Robert Crumb; Park Chan Wook; Takeshi Kitano; Stray Bullets; Sandman; Spiderman; Jamie Hewlett; Those crazy old animations they used to have on MTV back in the 90s; Russ Meyer; Dario Argento; Rob Zombie; Stanley Kubrick; bored yet?
I’m always inspired by the people around me. Be it my friends, family or whoever. It’s inspiring working around so many crazy-talented people here everyday. That’s what really spurs me on to learn new things and up my game.
What’s your favourite tool to use and why?
A lumphammer. Or do powertools count? Maybe a nice angle grinder.
I use Autodesk’s Flame pretty much exclusively here, day-to-day, which is a wonderfully versatile and powerful tool (suite of tools, really). Anything you can imagine doing with an image, you can probably achieve using Flame, given time, patience and expertise. (None of which I claim to have).
Outside of work, I really do love Photoshop. Always have, probably always will. I’m also getting to grips with Resolume, which is used for live-mixing visuals - that’s pretty impressive too.
What advice would you give someone considering getting into animation?
While I’m not best placed to give advice on getting into animation specifically (see above), if you’re looking for a job in the media generally, I’d say keep an open mind. It’s great to specialise, but take whatever experience comes your way; recognise that all knowledge is valuable. It’s easier today than ever to obtain the tools, information, training and guidance on all aspects of animation - seeking it out and sticking with it is the trick. Hard work is the price of entry.
Oh, and invest heavily in tattoos.
What do you like most about working in animation?
Last week I had a "situation" where the wheels on a car weren’t spinning correctly. Not a real car, you understand, a cartoon car. My job was to get them cartoon wheels spinning just right. Later that day I had some back and forth with an art director about making some sticky taffy snap back into position convincingly after being stuck to a character’s foot.
The thing I like most about working in animation is the look on people’s faces when I explain to them what exactly I do all day.
What’s been the most challenging thing about working in animation?
For me, sometimes just physically staring at the screen for as long as is necessary can be quite difficult. Especially when grading, your colour perception can get all out of whack after six hours or thereabouts. Screen breaks are really important.
Also, balancing how good you can make a project look with how much time you can spend on it can be tricky. Because we’re at the back end of the process, deadlines are tight and immobile. You might want to make something that looks like Moulin Rouge! But you have to recognise that you don’t have the time to do so…
Outside of animation what are you most passionate about?
Music. Cooking. Dancing. Frisbee. Movies. The wife.
Are you interested in getting into animation? Keep an eye on our Behind-the-Scenes and Tutorials pages for more interviews, #Tutorials and #TopTips!