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Home > Special Topics > Activity Report Last Updated: 15:11 03/09/2007
Activity Report Part 5: October 1, 2002

Communities & Regions:

"THE MISSION OF DOKACHIN" Operating in Itoman

Part 5:  An appropriate work assignment using animator skill level and painting work difficulty

By Yoshitsugu Hiwatari (NEC)

Painted by an animator in the MMTC 

1. Understanding the animator skill level

We can refer to qualifications to assign proper work to production engineers. In the software production field, we have a national examination to judge the skill of software engineers such as senior system administrator, system analyst, project manager and technical engineer. This qualification is useful to assign the engineer to the appropriate job, but we have to study the engineerís skill level again when we plan work scheduling. Although these screenings are substantial, in most cases years of experience can be one of the important criteria to relay the skill level to the software production manager.

On the other hand, there is no examination system under the sponsorship of a public organization in the animation production field. Animation production companies judge animator skill level by carrying out self-produced training or based on an animatorís. Therefore there are not many ways to understand animator skill level precisely. In this situation we think that it is reasonable to gauge animator skill level with a definite numerical value, even though the calculated animator skill level does not represent all of the animatorís skill such as artistic skill and management skill.

(1) Analyzing animator skill level
We analyze animator skill level in animation painting work by measuring the working hours and quality of painting work. When the animator paints specific drawings in a short time relative to projected working hours without any mistakes, the animator gets a high score and a corresponding high animator skill level. We think that painting experience is also needed to improve skill level, because if an animator continues painting work his or her skill level does not go down. Animators also can earn points when they challenge painting work that is of a higher level than their current skill level.

The expression of animator skill level S1 is as follows:
S1 = eqE

Where E is the minimum working hours during which the animator should carry out the painting work to earn points; e is the coefficient related to quality; and q is the quickness of the work expressed by the ratio of the actual working hours to the projected working hours. The projected working hours were estimated by the director in consideration of complexity of specific drawings and numbers of drawing sheets.

Our goal in defining animator skill level is to classify animator skill level into five levels as shown in table 1.

Table 1. The rank of animator skill level
Animator skill levelExplanation
1Beginners level:
Painting level-1 work within the projected working hours
2Elementary level:
Painting level-2 work within the projected working hours
3Intermediate level:
Painting level-3 work within the projected working hours
4Senior level:
Painting level-4 work within the projected working hours
5Excellent level:
Painting level-5 work within the projected working hours

(2) Experiments for understanding the relation between skill level and working hours
We computed the animator skill level of selected animators from the MMTC (Multimedia Techno-Center) painting work group. Then we conducted several experiments of the painting work to examine the relation between animator skill level and working hours or working difficulties.

i Experiment -1
We prepared three types of animation scenes representing an easy level, normal level and hard level. Then the director estimated the projected working hours expected to paint each animation scene by a *senior animator. The easy level and common level animation scenes contain six frames, and the hard level scene contains seven frames. The director assumed that a senior animator could finish these painting works in two hours, three hours and twelve hours respectively. From the results of the experiments, the *elementary animators painted the specific painting work longer than the projected working hours, while the senior animators finished their painting work within the projected working hours. The elementary animators tended to spend double the working hours compared with senior animators. It will be effective to use animator skill level when organizing working teams so that each animatorís characteristics can be complemented.

ii Experiment -2
In this experiment we prepared another five types of animation scenes. The difficulty level of each animation scene and the numbers of frames are listed in table 2. Eight animators were organized into two groups (four animators in one group). A senior animator and three elementary animators comprised one work group (group A) and the other work group (group B) was comprised of four elementary animators. Painting work in each work group was shared. One animator painted one optional animation scene, and then the animator who completed the painting work first painted the remaining animation scene. Thus we conducted the experiment to compare group productivity against the productivity of each animator.

Table 2. Difficulty level of animation scenes
Animation sceneDifficulty levelNumbers of frames

From the results of the experiments, group A conducted the painting work in a shorter time than group B. A senior animator painted normal level and hard level animation scenes, completing the hard level scene two times as fast as the elementary animator. Volume of painting work is also related to working hours. When painting a small amount of animation scene such as scene-B, the elementary animators completed the normal level painting work in the same working hours as the senior animator.

2. The working difficulty of animation painting

Because the directors estimated the projected working hours, the projected working hours are different in each case. We therefore had to develop a measurement method of painting difficulties to fix an invariable standard.

(1) Definition of the difficulty of painting work
We defined working difficulty from calculating the complexity of drawings. We supposed that there are two major factors related to the complexity of drawings: numbers of closed surfaces and trace lines.

Increasing the numbers of closed surfaces forced animators to paint many detail areas while selecting many colors from the color pallet. Such operations of animation painting tool are complicated, for example animators manage the zoom function when they paint tiny areas. The blue trace line indicates to paint as shadow and the red trace line indicates to paint as bright, and both trace lines are drawn near the outlines. So the animators have to distinguish the differences of both lines and choose the appropriate colors by referring to the colors of neighboring areas. It is difficult not only to paint the bright or shadow colors in a narrow area, but also to find right colors from the color pallet. In both cases animators should concentrate when they select colors and when they find the areas, and it requires long working hours.

Figure 1 shows a sample drawing of the hard level. There are many tiny areas (closed surfaces) to be painted and the trace lines overlap on all of the outer lines (the trace lines are not clear in figure1).

Figure 1

We measured numbers of closed surfaces and total length of trace lines. We calculated working difficulty D from the numbers of closed surfaces and the total length of trace lines as the following expression.
D = s · Dc + t · Dt
Where Dc and Dt are the normalized values of numbers of closed surfaces and total length of trace line; and s and t are coefficients for determining the weight of comparative working difficulties.

(2) Experiments of painting work to examine working difficulty
Eight animators conducted painting experiments by using animation scenes of three difficulty types . We evaluated the relation between numbers of closed surfaces and working hours. Although we have insufficient experimental data, we found that numbers of closed surfaces and working hours have a proportionate relation as seen in Graph 1. We also found that projected working hours and average working hours are very similar, except in the case of the hard level painting work. Thus we have analyzed the relation between numbers of closed surfaces and working hours, but we have not yet analyzed the experimental data of trace lines.

Graph 1

3. An appropriate work assignment based on the matching of animator skill level and working difficulty

We have analyzed animator skill level and painting working difficulty, and we have evaluated the relationship between animator skill level and working difficulty. We believe that measurement of the numbers of closed surfaces is one of the basic indicators of working difficulty.

The relationship between animator skill level and working difficulty is evaluated in the experiments described in section 1. The results of experiments suggested that the director can plan the working schedule or organize the working group easily, and the director can also estimate the working hours, particularly by referring to animator skill level and working difficulty. Consideration of the relationship between working hours, difficulty level and volume of work--that is to assign hard level work and the large quantity work to senior animators first and to assign easy level work to elementary animators first--should increase productivity. However, when we consider an animatorís motivation it might be suitable to assign hard level work to elementary animators if the volume is not too large.

Animator skill levels are progressing in the MMTC
Animators in the MMTC have been training for two years. We have been inspecting their transition of skill levels. They are becoming highly skilled animators and they currently are challenging motion generation work. When they improve motion generation skills they will be half way through learning the motion generation process to the composition process.

* Senior animator: animators in training for two years in the MMTC
* Elementary animator: animators with less than one year experience in the MMTC

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