I recently had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week at Kilogramme, an animation studio in Manchester, on a work experience placement. I thought I'd write a blog post covering who they are, what I did and what it was like, for anyone who is wondering what a work placement at an animation studio is like - and to say a big thank you to everyone at Kilogramme for having me!
Firstly, the studio itself - Kilogramme first caught my attention late last year with their work for Transport for Greater Manchester; though I loved the art styles used in many of their projects, as well as their use of both computer generated and traditional animation techniques. Kilogramme are responsible for the animated segments of the CBBC series, The Dumping Ground, as well as adverts and explainer videos for both local and global businesses - they also often work with Marketing Manchester on promotional animations for Manchester's Christmas events and markets. You can find their website here, but I'll give you a little taste of what they do below (and if you like the look of any of these, just click the photo to see the full project!).
The studio is led by Jon and Claire, who often direct/produce projects and give guidance to the rest of the team, made up of freelance animators. Everyone was welcoming to me (I can't count how many times I was offered a cup of tea!), hardworking, and very talented. The studio is homely, with lots of art on the walls from Kilogramme's own projects as well as other artists, and a selection of books. I was given a computer in the centre of the studio, running windows - I only mention this for those of you like me who haven't touched a windows computer in ages! This possibility hadn't crossed my mind beforehand, but it did come back to me fairly quickly once I'd adjusted to the Control button's placement. Now, onto what I did in my time there!
Shortly after arriving at the studio, Jon got me started in checking out the project I'd be working on - it was especially important and exciting for me to work on a real project and make a worthy contribution to the studio (something which I had spoken to Jon about before the placement, as I wanted to get a sense of a real project). Jon explained that at the moment the studio were prepping a pitch to send to the team at Marketing Manchester. If they won, they'd have the opportunity to produce an advertisement for this year's Christmas markets and events, which Jon and Claire had already planned and were creating an animatic for. My task was to create animation tests of parts of this advertisement to help in illustrating Kilogramme's pitch and animatic. Jon showed me the illustrations I'd be animating and gave me an example of the movement he was looking for, from one of their recent collaborations with Lettering designer, Martina Flor:
I'll be honest, this definitely freaked me out a bit - the animation style was beautiful and experimental but quite complex - and I'd never really done anything similar before. But, I'll give anything a try, so I decided to just get going and see what I'd come up with! Now, I can't show what my finished pieces look like, but I thought I'd give a small outline of what my days were like for anyone wondering:
9:00 - 9:15 - Arrive, unpack my things, set up the computer, remind myself what I did the previous day.
9:15 - 10:00ish - Organise any files from the previous day into folders, create sketches of what I want to animate next, plan if they'll be frame by frame or keyframe animated.
10:00 - 10:15 - Potential meeting of everyone at the studio where we might show current projects or discuss ideas, e.g. looking at the animatic of a project or checking the progress of existing projects.
10:15 - 12:00ish - Keep working on my tests, either in After Effects or Animate (where I spent most of my time working on frame by frame bits).
12:00 - 12:15ish - Jon might come over to check my progress, give feedback etc. Just a chilled out conversation on what I'm doing or planning to do and how.
12:15 - 1:00 - Keep working, making changes or additions to my designs as I see fit or come up with new ideas.
1:00 - 2:00 - Lunch break! Lots of the team get their lunch outside the office but I brought a packed lunch (and often avoided the Mancunian rain!), refill my water bottle.
2:00 - 4:00 - Continue with my tests, chat to the rest of the team, occasionally get four legged visitors (who distract the whole studio), try to get things polished and rendered out.
4:00 - 4:15ish - Jon might come over to check on me again, give more feedback etc.
4:15 - 6:00 - Finish off what I'm doing, prepare illustrations to be animated tomorrow by splitting them into parts or layers to export to After Effects.
6:00 - Go home!
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Kilogramme - I'm really happy with how my tests came out, particularly the frame by frame parts, as I'd never animated frame by frame at 30fps before; they looked really fluid and polished. I also got some really positive feedback from Claire and Jon at the end of my placement; they were happy with the way I'd combined the frame by frame and After Effects animations and praised my ideas. I also got some great insight from Jon on where to go next and how to develop my skills, potentially by doing a Masters in Animation, as my week there has definitely given me more confidence in my animation skills as well as giving me a push to put more time into improving them and using them more often. I'm now starting to see animation as something I could actually do full time, which is really exciting!
To finish off, I'd just like to say a massive thank you to everyone at Kilogramme for welcoming me into the studio and a special thanks to Jon for setting up the placement and mentoring me through it. Thanks for reading, and I'll be back soon!