Questionare Kiel Figgins
Lead 3d Animator at Shilo
San Diego, CA

Questionare from:
Trevor Campbell
New Media Major at University of Maine, Orono

1. I believe that 3D animation is an unbelievable invention because it allows us to create video games and special effects in movies. It provides an escape for contemporary society, just as movies did in the great depression. What do you think is the importance of animation in contemporary society?

Animation is an story telling medium, much like that of comic books, movies or even song. So as long as stories are still being created and shared, a medium will be used. However, 3d animation has opened up doors unimagined over the last several years. What used to take a team of seasoned veterans with top of the line hardware to create even a basic animated short, can now be created by single, hobbyist animator. Students have access to online forums for technical support, online communities to share and promote ideas and the medium itself is maturing in its own right. Now more fantastical stories can be created and achieved. Lord of the Rings would not have been possible without computer animation, or specifically Massive for the crowd simulations. So the importance I would say is being able to have more stories told, weither by volume (the number of student shorts) or realizing classics unable before.

2. How do you think animation will be important in the future (to future generations) if at all?

Very much in line with the first question, there will always be stories to be told. Cave paintings, comics, flip books, 2d animation, 3d animation, and where ever it goes, the stories remain the same. Future generation will experience the same stories in new and different ways. Deeper involvement, increased and more convincing visuals are only one aspect of story telling, but help the viewer become engaged. So as technology improves, so should the experience.

3. Have you kept every animation that you've ever made, or do you have some standard for the works that you hold onto?

In one form or another, yes, I have all my previous work. Something can be learned from all your experiences getting to the point your at. Much like I keep all my sketches and sketch books. A solid, yet unrealized or flushed out idea is still a solid idea. You never know when you'll have the ability or time to bring one out and finish it. Not to mention, seeing where you've come from and what patterns are shown should help you see where your going and show how much you've improved.

4. For the pieces that you have kept, what is your plan for long-term storage (think 5 to 10 years from now)?

I have several stages of back ups for key bits of work. My primary one is my website, which is backed up every 24 hours by my host. So in the worst case scenario, I'll have the end product to show, even if I loss the source files. Beyond that I keep a flash drive of my Maya and scripts settings. For more long term, I have independent harddrives with archived work which is done ever few months, and an external drive done every six months. For the really old, dusty work, I have a slew of cd's and dvd's with key work on them scattered about. For continued, long term storage, I prefer cds. Durable, reliable, common and easy to write to. Though they don't have as much storage space, when backing up key files, and not entire projects, its typically fine.

5. Have you ever thought about how the hardware/software that you use to create and display your work will eventually become obsolete? If this happens, how are you going to hold onto your animations, or would you?

As hardware and software change very rapidly, the overall shifts are slower moving and easier to maintain. I have personally chosen to focus purely on learning and excelling at one software package (Autodesk Maya). This program will more then likely shift and become another or be dropped altogether, but it is my belief that it is better to learn the craft instead of where the buttons are located. If I can make a character emote in one program, I'm sure I'll find the same tools in the next.

6. Where do you think technology in this field is headed? Software gets better each year, but how about the way you go about modeling and animating? Do you think that technology such as the touch-screen will help facilitate the animation process? Are we going to be stuck using the mouse and keyboard for animation forever? Maybe there's a new device in development that you know about?

6A. Where the field is headed.

As for future technology aiding animation, I think weíre a long way off from anything major. I still donít know what the equivalent of Normal mapping for modeling, will be for animation.

Rag doll and human simulators used in the Force Unleashed?
Lip syncs and emotional expressions based off audio used in Mass Effect?
Custom animation based of character creation in Spore?
Environmental Dynamics in Little Big Planet?

All are leaps and bounds in their own direction, but the framework is based around that one selling point. And though it helps us achieve more motion, Iím not sure that these facets add to developing the character.

6B. How we create with new software.

As software gets more battle tested by more artists and projects, they'll become faster and more streamlined for production. Input devices such as 3d scanners used in Lord of the Rings are getting cheaper and more widely used, mocap's becoming much more main streamed, programs like z brush allow artists to create infinity detailed art incredibly fast. All of these elements provide a stronger base for an artist to work with, and allows them more time to spend on details and finesse the piece.

6C. Keyboard / mouse forever and new developments.

Already computer input is moving away from keyboard / mouse combos. Wacom cintiqs and pens allows concept artist to draw directly on the screen, iphones touch screen technology allow easier multipurpose uses for a phone, more and more artists use pens as their more ergonomically then a mouse. However, I use a mouse and keyboard. A combination of training, hotkeys and multiple buttons on my mouse, allow me to accomplish what I need in a timely fashion. I experimented in college with my keyboard layout (switched it to dvorak), worked great for word processing, but horrible for scripting/coding (using non alphanumeric characters) and most programs (3d or 2d) have keyboard shortcuts setup for a regular keyboard. As for new devices, I'm not entirely up to speed on it, I'm sure once it's placed in front of me, I'll start using it.

Related Links:
Kiel Figgins' Portfolio
Shilo Portfolio Site
Autodesk Maya
Pixologic ZBrush
Wacom Cintiq
Apple iPhone
Lord of the Rings
Mass Effect
Force Unleashed
Little Big Planet
University of Maine