By Guest Blogger
Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member
Arnold asks Velazquez about his take on the importance of a degree, certificate or training in the industry. Velazquez responds that there are several people he has met over the years that did not have any degree who were able to get in. "As the industry has become more popular," he notes, "it's gotten a lot harder to get your foot in the door. But I think that if you get to know what it takes to make a game and you decided which area you want to focus on, that will definitely help." So will a degree, he claims. "Learn all about what position you want and what you want to get into." Because this is such a specialized industry, it is crucial to know your strengths and become skilled in that area. Then you will be able to prove it to a potential employer.
As Velazquez goes on to say that personal projects are available to him, "it's just a matter of me actually doing it," he laughs. "Especially after working, I still have enough energy and passion to work on being a better animator and drawer." Keeping the whole team motivated and up to date on their own skills and inspirations gets a bit adventurous, however. "The number one thing we like to do here is set up figure drawing classes. It's a way for us to keep up with our drawing skills, and just to have that available is helpful. Playing games is another way of getting our skills up. You figure out why they're fun, why they're not fun. We also watch movies, a lot of Japanese animations which keeps us pumped up." Velazquez says that personal fun is important to growth as artists and developers. "It's so important."
"Any demo reel tips or advice you can share with our students, Bruno?" Arnold asks. The question had been looming for awhile. "Oh of course - I can really only talk about it from an animator's perspective, but what I like to see is creativity, definitely." Velazquez mentions that we all probably know the usual submission requirements of a walking and running cycle in animations. "But I'd rather see them being incorporated into a scene rather than just simple walking and running cycles on their own. Show me a guy running and then coming to a stop. Show me a little story that incorporates that idea - I'm not saying everyone has to create a short film, but maybe a small scene that shows camera movement and personality. Just have fun with it and show me your creativity." Velazquez goes on to say that he would really only want to see students' best stuff. "I'd rather see a short demo reel with nothing but good stuff then a longer one with a bunch of really bad stuff," he laughs.
"And how much does fan feedback affect the evolution of a series or characters and game play?" Arnold wonders. "Oh, I think it's very important actually. A lot of us like to go on blogs and read comments after the game has come out. We take it apart and really read into what people have to say," Velazquez claims. "This is so that hopefully we'll get another chance to change something in the next game or something." Velazquez opens up about Kratos's weapon choices in the series. "This happened with Kratos's new weapons; we tried to do our best with those weapons and people seemed to like to go back to the chains. We realized that people really liked that about Kratos, as it was a part of his character, and so we tried to incorporate that into God of War III for fans who liked that aspect about him."
"Bruno, what's the best piece of criticism you've received about your work and what does it mean to you now?" Arnold asks. Velazquez thinks aloud until finally stating that, "as an animator, one of the best compliments is when someone doesn't notice anything about the animation.." He laughs and goes on to say, "I mean when someone doesn't say anything negative about it. If something moves in an unnatural way, it stands out like a sore thumb. I mean silence is golden because if it's right, the animation just feels natural - animation is about making movements feel natural, people don't question it when you get it right." They just enjoy it.
Velazquez talks about how important he thinks hand drawing skills are to an animator. "Because I came from an artistic background, it's certainly very helpful. I don't think it's a must though, to know how to draw, as long as you understand the principles of animation." He recommends taking some figure drawing classes to help with developing and brushing up on skills. "It helps train your eye to see how the body works, how weight is distributed, how feet stand on the ground."
As Arnold and Velazquez agree to bring the presentation to a close, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have attended such an event. One part of the earlier conversation echoes throughout my mind as we all say our goodbyes. What motivates Velazquez day to day, exactly? "It helps when a project is successful," he laughs. "Lesser known ones helped along the way, of course, but if you enjoy it it's great." Velazquez went on to say that the cycles in a production can take several years, so motivation is important. Keeping the focus drives the team along and, as is quite evident, he enjoys animation, "so it is always helpful and inspiring to learn each day, work on what I love each day." There will always be a need for animators, he claims. "As the industry moves forward, it's important to have animators with those core skills, so there will always be a need."
In wrapping up, Arnold asks is Velazquez has anything else he would like to share with all of us. As he thanks everyone for their time, Velazquez admits that he is honored to be the first guest for the Guest Speaker series. And I cannot help but feel the subtle chill of excitement that creeps up my spine as he ends in saying, "This has been great. And I look forward to possibly getting to work with some of you guys in the future!"
Many thanks are owed to Bruno Velazquez for his unparalled time, presentations, insights, and thoughtfullness while working with our IGDA Guest Speaker Coordinators, Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division faculty and staff, and the students of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.
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