June 24, 2007 11:49 pm

Excellence. Usually, it’s going the extra distance. The hours that you could have spent in your warm, cozy, bed, getting a little more sleep. It’s freezing your butt off two hours early on a really cold morning, in order to add something you thought of last night.

We’re sometimes told that we are perfectionists. That “good enough” is good enough, and we should be satisfied with that. That the customer will be satisfied with what we see as “plain”… Really?

Hayao Miyazaki is a name to conjure with. Why? Because the world does recognize his willingness to put in hours that most studio executives would scream about. Because he insists on having it right. Because he does do the work himself.

Ok, then, but who is Toshio Suzuki, and why does he spend so much time at the studio…. At times, he’s seen leaving at 5:00 AM. He’s not getting rich… I don’t think he’s even paid the overtime. Why does he do it? He’s a producer, after all… they just delegate. In Hollywood, anyway.

Steamboy. It’s an amazing piece of work, especially when you’ve watched the interviews. Katsuhiro Otomo originated, scripted and directed this movie, and I’d say that it was his “child”.

Most of you will know what I’m talking about. You come up with an idea, you let it wander around in your head, accumulating “maybe like that” ideas. Eventually, it becomes too big to just put aside, and you need to put it on paper… or, maybe your computer. So, there it sits… The idea may be just bare bones, but it’s your idea, and it wants to be filled in. So, you pick at it. You add a little bit here, and a little bit there. Soon, you decide you really like it, and begin to really work on it… By this time, it’s much too late to stop.

By the time your brainchild is ready to be made real, you’ve probably driven everyone around you nuts with, “Well, what do you think about this?” questions, as well as anyone who lives with you giving up the idea of reasonable sleep hours. Some say that’s the easy part… others say it’s the hard part. Maybe it’s just a bit of both, since now you have the added agony of having to fight for your vision of what it should be.

Imagine, then, the feeling of turning something you’ve put your heart into, over to someone else. Otomo did just that. He turned the whole thing over to his art, 2D and 3D, departments, and kept himself out of it…. Told them to take as long as they had to, and left them to it. He admits that he was scared.

The artists… even though most everyone I know would call them that, they don’t. In the interviews that I saw, they stated specifically, that they didn’t think of themselves as artists…., “It’s what we do”. To some, that’s a hard one to parse. The ones who understand, “I am what I do”, will understand how they feel. The ones that interpret that as “it’s my job” will probably never understand, but this might help. In the world, there are people who “do their job” and make a wage… then there are people who feel the need to “do it right”…. The Craftsmen. The ones who craft their work. The ones whose innermost self must be satisfied with what they’ve made. That is what Otomo’s art department is populated with. That is what Studio Ghibli is populated with.

Don’t get me wrong, those are absolutely not the only ones, nor are they the only ones who deserve notice, there are many more out there. Final Fantasy 12…. the game! The quality of graphics in that game have set a new standard… see for yourself. If you aren’t a gamer, I’m sure you know someone who is. On the PS 2, load it up, then, just enjoy the cutscenes and general graphics. Most games I’ve played, the movies/cutscenes are anywhere from “ok, I guess…” to pretty decent… gameplay?, well, not always the best. Certainly not usually as good as the movies.

For those of you who don’t know, “cutscenes” and “movies” are the bits that move the story along in the game, but aren’t part of the gameplay…. Some games, you can skip them and some, you have to live with.

Max Fleischer, an old name in animation. If you can find a copy of “Gulliver’s Travels” from his studio, take a good look at the graphics. If you’re lucky enough to get something with the actual original opening, watch it closely, it has a 3D effect that no one else ever bothered with because it was “too much trouble”, and it was cheaper to “multilayer” the cels, as is done currently. He made the first “talking” animation in 1924…. Four years before Disney, and “Steamboat Willie”. His other full-length was, “Mr. Bug Goes to Town”, it would take exceptional luck to find it, but well worth the time, if you want to study technique. On a side note, Max Fleisher invented the Rotoscope, and got the patent in 1917. Much of what we do these days with computer graphics, is derived directly from that machine.

So, where does it stop? When is enough? That has a simple, one word answer, “Never!”.

Sure, you can put it down…for a while, but it’s like a mosquito bite. You scratch, and it goes away…for a while. Soon, though, it’s back… itching, and you scratch some more… then more, then more. Of course, sometimes, it’s like Poison Ivy… the more you scratch, the more it spreads, until it’s impossible to ignore for more than a few minutes.

There are labels. Most particularly, “Workaholic” and “Perfectionist,” come to mind. A workaholic is someone who would rather spend their time “doing their job” obsessively, than…anything. A perfectionist? The general view is most often off the mark by quite a bit. Usually, when someone is called a perfectionist, they mean someone dictatorial, who nit-picks the tiniest details, while someone else does the actual work. The connotation here, is what has been called “The Glory Game”…someone who is taking the credit in order to “climb the corporate ladder.”

Ok, then, what are we? True, we’re easily able to ignore starvation, fire, flood, man-made disaster, planetary destruction, and the Universe in general, in order to add that “One last touch.” It’s also true that we’re living proof that time is compressible. How else do you explain the ten-minute hour? This is usually prefaced with the statement, “This’ll only take a minute.” It also explains how coffee can go cold between one sip and the next, a glass of soda goes flat, soda cans multiply, cigarettes smoke themselves, and the sun suddenly changes position in the sky, then rises and/or sets, willy nilly.

So, why do we do it? Why do we live and work under conditions that no sane person would tolerate?

It’s because of "The Dream." You envision something. Then you craft it, moulding it and shaping it until it’s the best you can make it. Then you share it…a part of you, what you see. The most rewarding part? When someone goes, “Yes, I see it too.”


My real name is Louis Meert... I'm archdruid here at Renderosity. I have been read to, and have read nearly everything I could find since the age of six. My particular passions tend to be Fantasy and Science Fiction. I love humor, especially in a Fantasy setting. I have also read the autobiographical novels by Gerald Durrell. I have travelled the world, mostly courtesy of the US Army, including Antarctica ("wintered over" there with the army). I love horses and hope to have another string again. I'm teaching my daughter bladework (full length Claymores, for now... lighter blades later). Currently, I have written one, and collaborated with my daughter on a second book, which "we" are working on animating. I have been in and around computer graphics, in one way or another, for the last thirty five years and am currently "independant" (I work for a slave driver... me).


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Article Comments

LillianH ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 11 July 2007

Love the article Louis! I often say this is an obsessive-compulsive passion. You hit it on the mark. "We are the makers of music. We are the dreamers of dreams." ~ Willie Wonka (Roald Dahl)

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 11 July 2007

Great article Louis thanks for taking the time to write this. I enjoyed reading this.

AnteriorLobe ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 11 July 2007

Perfection is an elusive goal. The way I think about it, perfection can only be approached asymptotically, that is, one can take more time and get closer and closer...but the goal is never quite reached. And even this, I think, is an oversimplification, as there are set backs and unexpected consequences that press one farther from that elusive goal. There is a quote I like: "Nothing is ever completed, just abandoned" meaning that at some point one must let go of a project or else be trapped in the search for perfection forever. I'm sure I'm paraphrasing that, by the way, and for some reason I associate it with Hemingway, but I'm really not sure where it comes from. Another way of looking at this, at least for me, is that after something is done and let loose into the wild, lated I might see it again and no matter what I will notice things that, darn it all, I wish I'd changed. Little things, tiny things, but offsets from perfection none the less.* So, you're absolutely right, Louis. Perfection - the desire to translate what is in the mind into a render or page or canvas - can be a relentless taskmaster, and yet, the universe is finite** and we won't be around forever, so eventually it must be defied. ------ *Of course there are plenty of things I do which are fairly rotten from the start and advance, at best, to a tolerable mediocre, so don't think I'm making claims about the quality of my own work. **Ya, I know, it's a bit more complicated than this. But just saying "finite" I think is okay for these purposes.

graykeeper ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 12 July 2007

It is a comfort to know that there are others out there with the same view of this new fangelled artform. Also comforting to know that us white beards can play right along with the younger artists. My observation is this.If you think you have been working on something for 10 minutes but the coffee has gone cold and it has really been half an hour you have been in the mediative zone where all true art comes from. If this happens fairly often your are indeed lucky. I think there are many benefits to spending time in the zone. Not just fine art but health, intellectual and spiritual spinoffs as well. Not something to bitch about but something to look forward to. Thank you for your thoughts. Serious stuff for all to consider! Tim (graykeeper)

Hypernaut ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 12 July 2007

I enjoyed the article very much, because I fall prey regularly to the phenomenon called perfectionism :) - sometimes it's great to see how much can be achieved with will, persistence and hard work and sometimes it's frustrating if the result doesn't match up to the vision in your head.

SevenOfEleven ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 16 July 2007

Great article. Lots of times the vision in the head does not fit the picture. Well there is the next picture and if not that, the next. I guess over time the gap between the two gets smaller. Well as long as we are not like the artist who sold a picture, had it delivered to the customer and then would tweak it at the customer's house until the customer had him thrown out.

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