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What you should expect in production dailies

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As you move from school into a production environment, there’s going to be some things you’re probably not use to or some things that aren't exactly taught in school. One of those things is dailies. A daily is a meeting that happens, often each morning, when artists working on a project meet-up to share their work in its current state. The purpose is to make sure they’re moving in the right direction and to get feedback from the director, client, producer or supervisor. Think of it like a critique session with the director, supervisor or client where everyone watches each others work. Stepping into your first daily can be extremely nerve racking and intimidating, with countless thoughts running through your head, “Will the director like it? Maybe he or she is going to hate it. I hope my fellow artists think it’s a good shot.” These are all very common thoughts to have when walking into dailies, and they’re all perfectly natural. Once you realize everyone is there for the same purpose, to make sure the animation, render, model or whatever it might be is what the director or clients want. As you’re probably aware, feedback is one of the most necessary tools for growth in your skill set. Artists feed off of feedback; it’s impossible for us to truly get the animation or model the best that it can be, without another set of fresh eyes on it. As with any meeting, it can eat into production time, and ultimately every meeting costs money. That’s why you want to make sure each daily is a productive one so the time spent is worth it. There is a proper “daily etiquette” that can be extremely helpful to follow. Often this etiquette is only learned through experience, but every new artist should know what to expect in dailies and know how to participate in a productive way, as early as possible. For example, what stage should you present your shot? If it’s extremely early in blocking, then is it even worth presenting? Everyone who has something to show will mean he or she is taking up several minutes of the meeting, and if there are 50 artists in the room, this daily can quickly turn into an all-day thing.

Not always an open critique

One of the important things to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t be afraid to contribute your feedback and give your fellow artists constructive criticism. This can be something extremely hard to overcome especially if you’re brand new to the industry.

With that being said, though, there is a time and place for in-depth critiques, and dailies are not always the setting for them.

It might seem contradictory to the idea of the meeting, which is to see everyone’s work and make sure it’s moving in the right direction. But dailies shouldn’t be a place to nitpick, and dig into one single shot. Everyone’s time is precious, and getting caught up on one shot for 30 minutes just isn’t realistic if production wants to stay within budget.

As mentioned before, any time spent in a meeting is time not spent on an asset, shot, render, etc. Instead of digging into a shot during dailies, make a note to meet up about a shot after the fact, for just a few minutes.

This can mean doing it right at the artist’s desk. In order to give feedback on a shot, you don’t need to have all the artists together in one single meeting, eating up their time.

For instance, you might have some feedback you want to give a shot during dailies. Instead of saying, “I think on frame 25 the arm should be raised higher, and the timing needs to be a little faster. And I think the pose on frame ten should have a clearer silhouette.”

It should be something as simple as, “I have a few suggestions for the timing and posing on some areas of your shot. Can I swing by your desk after the meeting and let you know what my thoughts are?”

That’s all that needs to be said, a note to continue the discussion after the fact, and then on to the next artists’ shot. If everyone gave in-depth critiques during dailies, it would quickly turn into an eight-hour long meeting. Especially since it’s not uncommon to go through 20-30 different shots in dailies.

Keep the director in the loop

Since dailies are, well, daily, you’ll often have a few notes given by the client or director for each daily. And if you’re moving in the right direction the director may just say, looks great, keep moving forward with it.

However, when you are given change notes from the director, you want to make sure that you have all of his or her notes addressed. So you’re ready for the next daily meeting when you present your shot again.

If you haven’t addressed his or her changes, then you need to make sure that you’re entirely clear on what you got around to fixing, and what you haven’t yet. If every time you enter into dailies with several of the directors notes unaddressed then they make think you’re either not paying attention during dailies, or you just aren’t taking what they say seriously. If a director has to give you the same notes every time you go into dailies, then they may become frustrated with you.

When presenting your shot again, you can say something as simple as, “I made the changes you suggested on frame 20 and adjusted the posing to make the character feel more scared. But I haven’t addressed your note about the timing change during the transition.”

That’s all that needs to be said, just to give the director the update that yes, you remembered their note from the previous day but haven’t addressed it yet. It may seem like an unimportant formality. But it can be the difference between the director or supervisor trusting you because no one wants to have to constantly give the same notes over and over, and not see any changes from them.

Never make a significant change without the director/clients approval

As you know, feedback is paramount, which is why dailies are so crucial. But you need to remember that not every suggestion needs to be implemented into your animation, model, render or whatever it might be. Dailies are for the director, supervisor or the client to get a pulse of where you’re going and if you’re bringing their vision to life in the way they imagined.

Making a significant change to your animation because of a suggestion from one of your peers can backfire. Not to say that another artists suggestion isn’t a good one, but ultimately it’s up to the director to decide on what changes happen.

For example, maybe your animation is showing in dailies, and an artist from the back says, “Instead of having the character jump off the ledge and then land and roll, I think it would be cooler to have him jump off the ledge, front flip and then roll.”

Even if you might think that’s a good suggestion, for significant changes like the example above you should always refer to the director or client. After all, if it’s not something the director or client wants then it’s not something you should spend time on.

This isn’t to say that you should disregard suggestions from your peers during dailies, but you just need to remember that ultimately it’s the director that decides on what needs to be changed. If you want to make a large change like that, make sure you run it by them first, and share your idea just to make sure that it fits within their overall vision.

If you have an idea for your shot that you think is a much better idea, whether it’s what you feel is a more appealing pose, or an acting beat that you think communicates the idea more clearly and your shot hasn’t been “final” yet, then you’re still open for changes.

But, you want to remember that the director isn’t expecting a change, so a good approach is to have the previous version of the shot, and then present the newer version that you think is better, let the director know you had an idea for something you thought worked better, and spent a little bit of time tweaking it.

If it’s a good change, the director will likely let you move forward with it, but you never want to go into dailies with a change that hasn’t been requested. If you’re able to, you can even try to communicate your new idea through some thumbnail drawings, or even just acting it out in front of them, so you’re not wasting time on a new idea that might not get approved.

 

Dailies can be an intimidating experience, especially when you come into it brand new. But they’re an essential process if the directors, clients or supervisors want to make sure that everything is moving in the right direction. When you go into dailies make sure you keep some of these tips in mind.

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