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Behind the scenes: Working as an animator for Head Squeeze

Behind the scenes: Working as an animator for Head Squeeze

Sree Kadalayil is a Belfast-based 2D character animator. After completing his Masters in Animation from Norwich in 2005, he has been working in the UK as a freelance animator/designer on projects such as James May’s Things You Need to Know Series 2, Yahoo! Finance and 360 Production’s YouTube channel “Head Squeeze”.

He has answered a few questions on what it is like to be an animator for the Head Squeeze channel.


Is making graphics for Head Squeeze similar to making CGI for Hollywood movies?

Sree: Pretty much, well minus the flying spaceships, giant robots, evil monsters and massive explosions! Hollywood CGI happens on a much larger scale whereas we work on a shorter timescale with a smaller team to produce equally appealing content.

At the start of each new episode, we’re given the edited footage and a transcript for that clip. The team then sits and watches the clip, marking the bits that can be illustrated using a humorous animated graphic. We then have a quick brainstorming session where we come up with ideas to animate these sections in a way that they are visual and humorous, while still retaining their general essence. We each then take a GFX (a cooler abbreviation for graphics) to animate, find the appropriate images and animate away!

Sree Kadalayil

Where do you find inspiration/funny pictures?

Sree: A lot of my inspiration comes from old school animation – Hanna Barbera, Looney Toons, Disney, the great ones! The most important thing in animation is timing and those guys have pretty much nailed it!

Do you need to be a good artist to be a good animator?

Sree: It’s not a deal breaker, but it sure helps if you know how to work a 2B on an A4. There are times when ideas need to be communicated to other members of the team using storyboards and a quick sketch works a whole lot better than hundred words.

How long do the graphics take to make per Head Squeeze episode? 

Sree: Since every strand on Head Squeeze requires a quick turnaround, we take around 2-3 days on the GFX for each episode. The process starts with a quick storyboarding session where visual ideas are sketched out roughly to depict an action or a scene. These sketches are then scanned onto the computer where they are arranged on a timeline corresponding to either a voice, or a sound track, so that we can get the motion timing right on the graphics. Different production houses use different software, but the one we use predominantly is Adobe AfterEffects, as well as animation, this software is also used for editing and post production. Other packages such as 3D Studio and Adobe Photoshop are also used in this process.

Do you need to study to be an animator?

Sree: That has always been a tricky question to answer. I have worked with brilliantly talented people, some of whom have postgrad degrees in Art, while others have never even crossed the threshold of an Art School. Personally, I believe animation is a form of art and just like painting, or ballet skills, it is a talent that you are born with. An education polishes these skills by the introduction of techniques new and old, the science, the history, and a library of knowledge compiled by the experiences of others.

Do you have a favourite Head Squeeze video?

Sree: Ah that’s a tough one! I really enjoy Live Experiments and have even tried a few myself. I find NumberHub fascinating, and so is SciGuide. And then, there’s the obvious dry wit and charm of James May & Greg Foot. Now if I absolutely have to pick one, it would be “James May’s Q&A – How does the internet work?” Belonging to a generation that spends most of its waking hours in front of a screen, I feel we all share the common annoyance towards the “loading…” icon that pops up almost all the time!

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