Top Animation News is a weekly column that rounds up the biggest, best and breaking stories from the world of animation. This edition covers February 16 to 23, 2018. Read more »
YouTube star ItsAlexClark on Harmony 15, tips for animators and more!
Among YouTube animation stars, Alex Clark is one of the elites. The comedian-turned-cartoonist’s channel ItsAlexClark has over two million subscribers and growing — quickly. His videos regularly rack up view counts well into the six digits and he creates them using Toon Boom Harmony 15.
Clark started his channel in 2009 as a means to promote his comedy. He began experimenting with Toon Boom animation software in early 2012 and has seen his success and quality skyrocket since. Now, he has a team of two animators working alongside him and they produce videos in a matter of days.
Toon Boom caught up with Alex Clark to chat about how he made ItsAlexClark so successful, his tricks for learning Harmony and what tips he has for young animators hoping to make it big on YouTube.
Hi Alex! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into Toon Boom.
AC: Dude, Toon Boom is the best! I get so mad when people say anything else. When I was a kid, I took art classes before computers were big and found them boring so I got into comedy. Then I saw some animated YouTube videos and thought it would be a great way to promote my comedy.
I started looking into animation and Toon Boom kept popping up — it was used for all these professional projects. I used Flash when I was a kid, but if I wanted this to be a skill that’d be helpful in the future, I felt like Toon Boom was the software to learn. I taught myself with YouTube tutorials and I haven’t looked back since.
As a self-taught animator, have you used the Toon Boom Learn Portal?
AC: Since the release of Harmony 15, I have been using the Learn Portal. When I need to figure something out, I hop on there and search for the specific topic.
What are some of the features you’re liking about Harmony 15?
AC: I love the two-point constraints and how they speed up animation. Those things are freakin’ awesome! I also love the perspective grid tool and my new animator is just getting into the master controllers. It’s going to make our work so much better, I can’t wait!
Source: Alex Clark.
How big is your team?
AC: It’s me, Chris who’s been helping for a year and Francis Dauphin from Canada, who just quit his full-time studio job at Oasis to join the team; I’m pumped because he has so much experience. It's the combination of both their talents that’s going to bring our channel to the next level.
Your YouTube channel can support three employees? That’s amazing!
AC: YouTube monetization alone would not be enough, but if you think about it as a business —and push for brand deals and expand your revenue sources— it's possible to make it work. I get excited by having a team so I make it work any way I can. We're building something huge and I'm excited to see where it goes.
And do you guys use Storyboard Pro?
AC: No, we work so quickly that we do everything in Harmony. We don’t even really storyboard. We import the audio and do some sketches to share with each other. Our storyboards take half an hour for a 30-second clip, then we move on to the animation.
How long does your average video take to animate?
AC: Usually three to five days to do a five to six-minute video, between Chris and I. We reuse a lot of pre-animated stuff saved in the Harmony library. Pretty much any time a character is sitting in a chair, we’re using something we animated six months ago.
Sounds like you’ve got a system. Would you say being a YouTube animator is a viable career path for young artists coming into the industry?
AC: Oh yeah, 100 percent. If you like the challenge of online video, it’s great. Plus, as an artist, it's awesome for practicing your craft and building out your portfolio. Technology means you don’t need to wait for a job to show you have what it takes. You can do it all on your own.
And what is your secret in getting so many views and subscribers?
AC: Just making a ton of stuff and hoping one hits. You’ll be super excited about a video and it’ll tank and then you’ll release another that you don’t like at all, and it’ll explode. Don’t give up and keep posting. We’ve learned some tricks, but even if I told someone all of them and they copied them to a tee, I don’t know if that would replicate our results.
Source: Alex Clark.
Do you have any tips for a young animator looking to launch a YouTube channel and achieve a decent level of success?
AC: For sure: consistency, uploading on a set schedule and collaborating. It sounds so generic, but it works. Nobody is searching for your videos but they’re looking for other people’s. If you can get on another channel, that can be beneficial. Partner with people with similar work to yours. I make animation so if I collaborate with a fishing guy, it’s not gonna be effective. Otherwise, practice every day and hope for the best. Oh yeah, and use Toon Boom!
Within Toon Boom, are there any tips and tricks that could help a young animator?
AC: Start with the basics. Don’t get Harmony Premium and expect to rig characters immediately. That would be insane. There are so many amazing YouTube Toon Boom tutorial channels to follow and if you watch them every day, you’ll learn tons. StylusRumble is amazing, Jon Taylor, Onion Skin — watch them. And use the Toon Boom Learn Portal, of course.
So what’s next and exciting for ItsAlexClark?
AC: We’re working on a few pitches for film and television projects. YouTube is great, but with the right team we'd love to take on something bigger. I’m also always on the lookout to do voice-over on other projects. If you hear of anything, tell people they can flatter me with ice cream and Nintendo Switch games.
Do you create YouTube videos in Harmony? Share your tips, tricks and tales in the comments below!
Banner image source: Alex Clark.