I haven’t even announced my availability, or put out a portfolio or demo reel, but somebody reached out to me with a potential job offer!
They want a one and a half to two minute animated product visualization commercial. Likely they reached out to me because the prices for even a small professional shop to do this would be prohibitive.
I like that they were realistic about the time-frame, and realize that I’d be using pre-built assets for nearly everything except their product itself. I wouldn’t need to be finished until the end of the year.
I had a video conference with them today, and I should find out next week if the potential client is going to go forward with using me. I’m excited about this project and hope that they choose to go forward with me.
I’m sure there’s all sorts of things I haven’t thought of. One of them is pointing out that all the test animations will be relatively low quality renders, and I’ll probably only render specific test frames to ensure things actually look the way they should.
We need to decide on a final render. This would likely need to be at least 720P, more probably at least 1080P. The client may want full 4K. FPS needs to be decided on too, and the client needs to be advised about the difference in render times, and costs, between all the options.
Part of my job will be researching rendering options. There are multiple things to consider. One is cost. One is time. There’s quality. Different rendering systems produce different results. Then there’s compatibility. I don’t want to have to deal with trying to render on a system that can’t take Blender textures or simulations, for instance.
Even if we render on my home system, cost is going to be a real consideration. The electricity use of a 3090 running non-stop, or running non-stop during non-peak hours, are not inconsiderable.
We discussed meetings. I’m thinking of 2 meetings a week. An e-mail on Monday, and a Tuesday and Thursday meeting schedule works for me. The client and I will need to decide on a schedule. I really want to avoid meeting Friday then again on Monday. The Monday meeting wouldn’t have much more to say than the Friday meeting. If the client wanted Monday and Wednesday or Thursday instead, that’d work well too.
I’m willing to do this project inexpensively to:
- Use as part of my demo reel
- The client’s product isn’t even yet a prototype.
- There may be certain bits of the animation I can’t show, but a big part of taking this on is to have something great to put on my demo reel.
- We’ll need to decide what I can actually show.
- Gain Experience
- This starts with writing up a good contract for the project.
- Agreeing on all purchased assets
- My modeling their robot
- My texturing their robot
- If the room isn’t a complete pre-made set, then setting up the room
- There’s a rough “script”, but we’d need to get an actual storyboard
- I like the idea of rough drawings for each key shot
- I don’t mind the idea of very rough untextured models running around to make sure that the timing and framing is the way the client want them.
- Simple Animation
- Complex Animation
- The person
- The exploded view animation
- VFX like the particles that need to move around
- Composition, if any
- Most of this will be done with the 3D tools, even if basic composition might do a better job of something. Compositing is not a strong suit of mine.
- Post Production
- Adding and syncing the client’s soundtrack
- Review and edit to correct minor or major errors
- This should be limited, particularly if we do a “rough animation” to agree on shots ahead of time.
- Final renders instead of test renders
- Setting Expectations, and Safety for Both Parties
- I’m relatively inexperienced. The client will want to be able to take my project to somebody else if I’m not measuring up. I’m thinking 4 cutouts.
- Modeling and texturing
- If the client doesn’t like the models I created, the rest of the project won’t be successful
- Basic Animations
- If I can’t get the robot running around the environment to look right because of lighting, the room layout, the timing, camera angles, or any number of things this would be a good spot to stop.
- I think the exploded view of the product would be part of this.
- Animating the homeowner
- They want a mostly realistic person to be animated. This is another good stopping point.
- The person would be a purchased asset, and the animations would have to be limited. Think never seeing the person’s face from the front. Always from the back, over the shoulder, etc.
- The person is still potentially the trickiest bit of this project. The client doesn’t want a Pixar or cartooney look, but I’m going to have to emphasize that it’ll be possible to tell, even with a realistic character, that this is a CGI person.
- Finally there’s the simulation animation.
- They need some particles to follow a path and look good.
- If all that goes well, hopefully the limited post-production, and adding audio that the client provides, won’t be problematic.
- Project Management
- All of the above is larger milestones. I’ll also learn a lot about day to day running of a project.
- Milestones and check ins with the client.
- What got delayed.
- What got done ahead of time.
- What needs to be redone.
Throughout all of this it will be important to manage expectations, and to properly communicate with the client. I already let them know that the simulations and animating the person would be two challenging bits of the project.
Managing Project Files
Another aspect of this is making sure that both the client and I have access to everything we need. This includes:
- The purchased models
- My models and all the .blend files I produce
- Sound Files
- Test and production renders
- Most likely this will be on a Google Drive the client owns
- Backups! In case somebody makes a mistake, files need to be recoverable.
The Non-Client Bits
I’ll need to at least fill out some tax forms so I can be properly paid for this project. The income should be low enough that there are no IRS surprises, but after this client I’ll need to:
- Setup a company. Probably an LLC.
- Get the website in a shape that I’m happy to use it to advertise my services.
- Read up on taxes and bookkeeping. One of the things that seems the most ridiculous to me is the estimated quarterly income. I’d much rather report actual income and expenses on a monthly basis as an independent contractor can have wildly fluctuating income.