Monday, May 20, 2013

More on The Ideal Workspace

Yesterday's post on studio space seemed to resonate with readers.  FLIP heard from a couple of art department veterans.  

Fred Cline's credits include The Little Mermaid, Bebe's Kids. Space Jam, and Robot Chicken.  Fred told FLIP:

"For me, there is a distraction issue any time there is shared space, and there is an isolation issue every time there is individual space. As for me, if I am storyboarding, I like to share space because it's easy to get a sort of tunnel vision where you are focusing on your own section of the film and not considering the whole picture. Sharing space as a storyboard artist gives a constant reminder of progress on other sections of the film. If I am designing or doing art direction, I need lack of distraction (or isolation) in order to accomplish the most in a limited amount of time. Apart from that, all I really need is an ergonomic chair, and a cintiq. I've found that a central seating area with coffee table and sofa/upholstered chair seating group adds to the collaborative process."

Brian McEntee's credits include The Brave Little Toaster, Beauty and the Beast, Cats Don't Dance, and Ice Age.  Brian told FLIP:

"The old saw "form follows function"is what it's about for me. Depending on what is the task at hand, an ideal workspace can vary. For example, if you are collaborating on storyboards, a common workspace with a large table in the center surrounded by private cubicles or offices would seem ideal. Then board artists can work together or privately as the needs change.

As a Production Designer/Art Director, a cubicle or shared space would not suffice. I need a door I can close. Part of the job is managerial and sometimes requires private conversations--this is true of any lead supervisor position. It was best when I had use of a small conference room nearby for group meetings too, like with the background department or character designers or layout department, or when the director(s) and I needed to go over things.

I also need some natural light in my office--it's better for looking at color artwork, unless it is digital and on monitor display, so good light-blocking blinds are needed as well. I like to work on both flat surface and on a tilted animation desktop. I prefer my animation desk to be elevated and have a high chair so I have the option to either stand or sit while I draw. Drawing is easier on an animation desk but a flat table is better for using pigments, markers, and other rendering materials--these things will roll off of a tilted top.

I amass a lot of reference books and materials, so shelf space and an armchair help. Available wallspace should be covered with cork board and a coffee can of push pins needs to be at hand. I also would want the room colors to be neutral midtones--it displays the artwork well and minimizes visual distractions.

Internet connectivity is a must--Google Image Search is my friend. Internal email and file sharing in big productions save steps.

I am not a big fan of "modular" offices for the crew either. Some need quiet and minimal distractions when they work. Others like noise: music, radio chat, etc. Most of the problems on productions I've worked on were due to spill-over of noise or talk or whatever from one workspace to the next. Having the option to work in a common area is pretty ideal--even a private office can be too small to sort boards, organize notes and papers, and collaboratively draw with others. For cubicles to work the dividers need to be tall enough to at least create visual privacy.

If areas must be shared then I think situations of 2 or 3 to a larger room is a better way to go than a big open floor plan and rows of cubicles. It is easier to negotiate one's personal space with a few roommates than with the whole crew."

Oscar winner Ralph Eggleston  said, " I like an easily accessible office, a large drawing table, with lots of surface space to store paint, chalk, brushes, pencil sharpener, tape, reference, and artwork. 2 lights on adjustable arms on the edge of the desk. I like to have a couple of 4 x 4 Storyboards to hang above my desk, side by side, more if I have room. I like to have several shelves of books of my own for reference or inspiration. I have a Craftsman rolling tool bin to store art supplies. On another work desk, I have a computer with a color corrected screen for digital work, which I do more and more of. And I have headphones. I tend to not to listen to music when I'm planning, but when I'm executing work, I listen to a lot of music--mostly classical.
A lot of artists like natural light--and while I do appreciate having it available, for some reason, I like artificial light to work in. I think it has to do with the "theatrical" feeling of the work I'm usually trying to produce.

I also like common rooms....a room with a large table you can make a mess on with groups of people. This kind of room is great for "jam sessions" where we're trying to glue disparate ideas together into a cohesive whole. We can pin up bits and pieces that work, and find some sort of order out of the chaos.

And I like hanging artwork up in the halls. Especially current production art and early inspirational art. It helps in keeping core ideas alive, both for myself, the crew, and the directors. You never know where a good idea might come from, even if it's an old idea seen in a new light!"

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