Spotlight On… Ryan Neal: Animation Supervisor

Facing our literal spotlight today is Ryan Neal as we ask him what it’s like to be an animation supervisor on our new series, Luo Bao Bei

How did you come to be an animation supervisor?

When I was a kid, my family took me to an animation studio in Disney World Florida, and I told them as soon as we left the building that I wanted to be an animator! I studied as a traditional animator and illustrator at the Glamorgan Centre for Art and Design Technology but, after university, the era of more traditional animation was changing and becoming digital, so I had to learn quite a lot on the job.

Recently, I started on Luo Bao Bei as a Lead Rigger and found myself being asked for advice on issues right across the production from design to animation. This made me feel I could draw from past experiences and give more to the production than just building the rigs.


What does your role involve?

I use a program called ftrack to check each of the animator’s shots for the overall direction and quality of the animation, continuity and any technical errors that may arise. I then make comments and draw annotations before sending them back to the animators for changes. When I’m happy with each shot, I then mark it ready to be included in the edit.

I also build the rigs that the animators use to animate in their shots. These can be characters, props and backgrounds, and they act as digital models that can be moved around and animated – much like how stop-motion animators use physical puppets. Without rigging there would be nothing to animate with!


What’s the best bit about being an animation supervisor?

I love being able to work with our amazing animators by talking through the shots with them and helping them to get the best out of the acting and performance in each scene. I get to watch and have a hand in crafting each and every shot from the moment it leaves layout.


What skills are important for animating?

Good observational skills and being able to turn that into great acting. A critical eye for what makes a good pose, expression and gesture. A good sense of timing in movement and, finally, a love for animation!


What inspires you?

This changes so much! Anything really that shows a good technical grasp of a craft and an innovative approach to it, with in animation, illustration, film or music.

As for animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was particular favourite of mine, especially the technicality of the animation together with the live action. Also, as a kid, I had a VHS of Looney Tunes, mostly Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck sketches. I played that tape about a million times!


Any advice for an aspiring animation supervisor?

Get a good working knowledge of all areas of animation through the experience of working in different productions. If you know a little about a lot, with a sprinkling of more in-depth specialist knowledge here and there, you’ll be able to understand what’s going on throughout the studio and offer some informed advice where needed.

And finally…

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to draw, paint, play the guitar/write music, go on hikes and play PC games.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

Once, I learned Pi to some 340-odd places, then decided it was a bit pointless, so promptly forgot all but 3 digits.


(Artwork by Ryan Neal)

25 January 2017