2020. What the hell was that, am I right?
I don’t really feel the need to recap much. Most people reading this were there and can share their own harrowing tales. It’s only January. Every new year still has some traces of the last lingering on until it comes into its own. I feel 2021 is going to be full of surprises. Here’s hoping they’re pleasant ones and not, you know, the kind we got last year.
Let’s Talk Goals
I want to draw and animate more, sharing it online for you kind folks to enjoy. What I make and where exactly I share it, however, is still being determined. I’ve spent the last few years dealing with analysis paralysis. When I made webcomics I struggled with building an audience. I’d focus all my energy on making the comics and spend almost nothing on promoting them. Not saying this was intentional, as I fell down the rabbit hole of researching everything I was bad at, feeling like I could come out swinging if only I knew how to properly go about putting my work out there.
The reality is the web constantly changes. My last webcomic, Billy Badass, ran on Tumblr where I could make use of tagging, posting YouTube videos and relevant links in the accompanying blog to enhance the nostalgia trip. It was designed to play to 80s and 90s kids, tying retro pop culture events in with the story. (Surprisingly similar in a number of ways to Little Billy) That was 2015. In August that year Maker Studios closed Blip.tv, a competitor to YouTube. 2017 saw the first YouTube Adpocalypse. 2018 Tumblr purged NSFW material from their site. 2020 saw COPPA sweep over YouTube and the official end of life for Adobe Flash. Not to go into politics with this post but Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the policy which protects websites from repercussions on user-posted content, has been targeted from both sides of the aisle and would radically change how we use the web. Here’s a video on the history and consequences of getting rid of it:
Obviously I’ve considered posting on my YouTube channel. The problem is the all-mighty algorithm. Animators used to do well on there until the Reply Girl saga of 2012. Monetization went from favoring views to watch time. This effectively killed short format content on the site as animators moved on to producing Let’s Plays and vlogs. Storytime videos eventually brought animation back with creators like TheOdd1sOut, Jaiden Animations, and sWooZie. Arguably these types of films are more animatic than full animations, though to me that’s akin to complaining about the limited animation in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s a cost-saving choice that facilitates the limitations of the medium while still allowing for new original material.
There have also been some impressive collaborative productions. Vivienne “Vivziepop” Medrano and her studio Spindlehorse made pilots for Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss with Hazbin Hotel being picked up by A24. Knights of the Light Table has produced music videos for Night Runner, TWRP, Starbomb, and Ninja Sex Party. Explosm got together with Octopie to create The Stockholms.
As far as individual creators go, there are a few like Felix Colgrave or Jae55555, drawing the toons they want, making it work with a blend of Patreon and/or commissions. Basically for anything I post to be successful would require either a large existing audience or big frequent updates with enough time to grow a following.
YouTube Shorts is essentially their answer to TikTok with vertical clips up to 60 seconds. This is problematic to me because it corrals videos into a beta feature nobody’s looking for, it’s a copycat move when they have a legit history with short content to build on, and I expect most content creators are going to repost from other similar platforms until they know how long Shorts will be sticking around.
Not a lot of people talk about Vimeo these days. That’s because in 2017 they changed their business model from being a high-end alternative to YouTube to being a software provider for video makers. It’s a good example of knowing what you want to be and working towards that goal as opposed to people’s expectations. I’ve seen a number of folks recommend hosting demo reels on there saying it looks more professional, you don’t have to worry about ads, and if you need to replace/update a popular video it can keep the same URL. I recommend checking out the Plymptoons account from Bill Plympton. He has a wealth of behind the scenes and production blogs.
I’ve used my Instagram account for work in progress material and Inktober drawings. I’m going to be honest, I find the dimension options confusing and regularly check to see what they currently are. Lots of great artists there, though I’ve heard it can be difficult to stand out these days. Best advice I’ve seen is to find specific tags that are less crowded. (i.e. instead of #art maybe try #socalpainters) I remember back when Twitter decided to start using photos and quit showing previews from links in their feeds. :V
First hyped as an alternative to YouTube, IGTV is for videos from one to sixty minutes long. Originally they needed to be vertical but now they accept horizontal as well. It has a dedicated app though on the web you need to go to the Instagram profile of a specific creator to find their videos. A lot of artists I follow post speed paints. (an easy thing to do with the record feature in Procreate or Clip Studio Paint) Mythical use it to share bonus content with their followers. I considered doing shorts for it, though the vertical requirement at launch was a bit of a creative hurdle. It didn’t seem worth designing content I couldn’t fit anywhere else, in an usual aspect ratio. Also a lip sync test I posted got removed due to copyright a year after I shared it.
Another response to TikTok, Reels is for 15-30 second videos. Like IGTV you have to hunt to find them. Considering regular videos are up to a minute long it makes technical sense to highlight shorter ones, I suppose. Now they have options for 15-30, ≤60, and 60-3600 seconds. It just feels inorganic to me. Instagram is one app that rolled out these features as afterthoughts, much like their website. They’re intended to keep existing users onboard, not bring new ones in.
TikTok is an app for videos up to a minute in length that came to the US after merging with Musical.ly, a similar Chinese app popular for dance and lip sync acts. I’ve posted a few. A big part of the appeal is using popular songs, either clips they provide or ones you’ve made yourself. The audience skews young but older folks go where the young people are. There was fear it’d get banned after a prank during the election of reserving tickets for a Trump rally and not going, though that’s probably not happening.
I mainly have two issues with the platform:
- The vertical aspect ratio. It impacts design choices and makes using elsewhere look cheap.
- It’s really geared toward vlogging and sharing quick vids from your phone. Animators can make content but laboring over a project gets frustrating when others can bang out 10 clips at a time.
Remember Vine? The 6-second loop service? One of the original developers announced V2 after Twitter shut it down. Following a few years in beta it finally launched as Byte. Originally sticking to the 6-second formula they’ve expanded to 15 and now offer sounds to work with. I’ve posted once so far.
It’s a different community and different vibe from TikTok. They’re smaller, more interested in being experimental and creative, and I respect that. My question is whether my stuff could gain traction on there or not.
One of the original Flash portals, (who, like Homestar Runner, are now looking to Ruffle to keep their archives going) Newgrounds is a dedicated place for artists. If they like or hate your stuff, they’ll let you know. They’ve supported non-Flash videos for some time now. I’ve shared some of my QAS shorts but haven’t made anything specifically for the site yet. I’ve had some more mature ideas that might not fly on YouTube I may host there. My concern is would original content work better there as opposed to elsewhere.
Fiyah TV is a streaming site for online animators. Creators can sign up and publish their own shows in a variety of genres. I first heard of it when the developers posted on Newgrounds. It’s an admirable goal, though I wonder how many new eyes the site actually brings.
Dribbble is a popular site for designers that was invite-only for a long time. I personally know very little about it as I don’t really travel in design circles but it seems a useful place to display and promote projects.
Bēhance is a similar yet different site to Dribbble. I’ve seen a number of articles comparing which one’s better for which purpose. I figure I’ll spend some time checking out both until I get a better feel for how they work.
Did you know you can apply for an Artist Channel on GIPHY? I didn’t either. How about the fact that Facebook bought them for $400 million even though they haven’t made any revenue yet? Here’s a podcast interview with Annie Wong, AKA Headexplodie, about finding clients with gifs.
My Own Site
I’ve actually been working on this last option a bit, off and on. For a while now I’ve felt like the current web has gone stale. The article Why the ‘Weird Internet’ of the GeoCities Era Had to Die explains how things got standardized and uniform. Experimental sites break on different devices. If you’re a big serious corporation you want your site to work every time somebody visits and you expect it to look the same on every screen. It all makes logical sense. Of course, artists aren’t necessarily known for their logic.
Currently I’m playing around with Grav as a CMS and Wick Editor for animating the HTML5 canvas. It has the ease and the energy of making things in early Flash with modern web standards. The problem now is what do I build with it? An homage to Homestar Runner? Something akin to the Space Jam website? I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel as I’ll spend all my time trying to make it perfect and never actually launch.
So I guess I’m relaunching this blog as a chronicle of my steps forward in the animation business. Building up my portfolio, demo reel, and seeing where I land finding work and/or building an audience.