An Animated Conversation with Joaquin Baldwin

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Creating any animation is an impressive feat: it requires artistic skill, patience and a vivid imagination. Creating animations that receive hundreds of awards and millions of views on YouTube: that's just downright next level. In this conversation, Joaquin Baldwin, the animator behind "Sebastian's Voodoo" and "Papiroflexia," discusses his techniques, the inspiration behind his very different films, and his thoughts on online distribution.

Can you talk a bit about using YouTube and the Screening Room as a distribution platform?
I put my films on YouTube as soon as they were finished, and I've gotten more views here than in all the hundreds of film festivals my films have played at combined. If what you are looking for is to get a large amount of people to see your work, it is definitely the right approach. The Screening Room was a big push on the views, too -- having my films as featured content brought a whole new audience and a lot of subscribers to me. Nowadays, as soon as I publish something, I get a large amount of subscribers who automatically see it so it brings an immediate response.

A word of advice: If you consider your film to be good enough to qualify for an Academy Award, wait a bit longer before you publish it online. Both "Papiroflexia" and "Sebastian's Voodoo" were online way too early, and they both qualified for Academy Award consideration after winning some select festivals, but because they were already online I lost my chance.

What made you want to get into animation?
Being a computer nerd was the start of it all, and loving to draw. I first got into computer animation, more as special effects and fun graphics to play with, while I was in high school. It wasn't until I was working on my undergraduate degree that I saw its real potential as a storytelling tool. That's when I really started pushing more towards creating full films rather than just cool graphics.

Where do you get the inspiration for your films?
I get a lot of inspiration from poetry, very visual metaphors or concepts. Usually my films start with a simple idea or image, and then evolve into a narrative trying to keep that main idea in mind the whole time. I also watch a lot of films, both animated and live action, and directors like Guillermo del Toro or Hayao Miyazaki  are very important sources of inspiration.

Can you tell us a bit about your animation process? How long does a film typically take?
It greatly depends on the film, so let me give you two examples:


Papiroflexia: It took me 8 months of work. It's a 2D film with a lot of motion graphics in it, but the main animation was all created with pencil and animation paper on a light table, then cleaned-up with ink, and scanned and colored in the computer. I used a variety of software, from MonkeyJam for quick animation tests with my webcam, to Animo for quick coloring, to After Effects to put it all together.

Sebastian's Voodoo: It took 10 months of work. It's a 3D film, completely created in Maya and After Effects (with textures painted in Photoshop). I went through the traditional pipeline for CG, from storyboards to modeling, texturing, rigging, animatic, animation, lighting, rendering and finally compositing.

One important part on any of my films is that I spend a LOT of time working on a storyboard before I start animating. The storyboards go through a lot of revisions before they are ready; I try to show them to as many people as possible to get a good idea if they are working or not before I settle into anything.

What would be your advice for someone who's trying to create their first computer-generated animation?
There's a lot of help you can find online, for whichever software you are using, and a ton of tutorials on traditional animation and drawing as well. You should definitely try some traditional animation (not necessarily with pencil and paper, just draw with a tablet on your computer if you want), and get a feel on how the basics of animation work. It'll help with your CG work immensely. Draw a lot!

Where do you see the future of animation going?
There's too many people concerned about Avatar, both animators and actors. I say bring it on; it's fantastic to have all of this new technology available, it will not replace actors or animators, each have their own strengths and work for different situations. And soon all of this new technology will be available for everyone, it's amazing that anyone can do an animated film nowadays, with even the most basic computer. I'm sure soon enough we'll be able to do our own performance capture at home with a webcam ;)




117 Responses on "An Animated Conversation with Joaquin Baldwin"

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    Have visited his youtube channel? Joaquin is massive and regularly hits the 100,000s with just about everything he uploads. Does anyone know of other 'artists' that work in a similar genre?

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