Interview No. 97
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest has hosted a contest by the name of The Tournament of Flash Artists. He brought this contest to Newgrounds last year and now this year he brings it back under a new name entitled the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation. With the posting of this interview the open round will come to an end. Let's see what goes into this tournament as well as the tournament's creator. So let's all welcome Adam Witt a.k.a. @NitWitt.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: I discovered NewGrounds in 2003, while I was just beginning to learn Flash animation. I submitted a god-awful stick figure animation which made use of the Papyrus font, loud clipping low quality pop music, and a fake loading screen. Somehow it didn't get blammed at the time. I joined so that I could begin showcasing my own flash animation work.
Q: When did you discover animation?
A: In the fall of 2002 I was a freshman in High School and enrolled in the Web Page Design class. The teacher not only taught us the basics of web architecture, design, and HTML; but also taught us the basics of Adobe (then Macromedia) Flash Animation and Video Editing. It was really basic. Literally the only thing that they taught us about Flash was how to create a tween to move a rectangle, the rest I learned by experimenting with it in class and by watching animations online.
Q: How did the Tournament of Flash Artists begin?
A: You can blame it on a couple things. I was an active member of the Albino Blacksheep flash animation community beginning in 2005, which ran occasional contests called the Flash Developers Contests. By the time that Flash Developer Contest #15 came around, I was decent enough at animating to enter, and as it would have it was decent enough to win the contest. It was a small contest where only three to eight people would enter at all, and the prizes were small, so it was no big deal.
When contest #16 began, the host promised a $100 prize and the deadline was April 1st. Several animators made high quality animations because of this incentive, and when April 1st came around, the host called April Fools and refused to award the prize. The entire forum was up in arms over the issue, and I was so enraged by this wrong that I decided I would start running my own contests to show them how it ought to be done. Needless to say, the Flash Devo Contests were finished.
I began a small contest called Logo Go on the forum, where entrants had one week to make a 3-10 second fake logo animation, with a prize of $10 a week. It went on for a solid 7 weeks before losing interest, following which point I began hosting holiday contests such as Trick or Sheep, Woolentine's Day, and St. Sheepie's Day for AlbinoBlacksheep, with prizes donated by the ABS webmaster.
The reason for the tournament structure can be blamed on baseball. In 2007 the Colorado Rockies made it to their first MLB World Series, which was very exciting for all of us in Colorado. I followed the brackets religiously during the playoffs, and one day while at work I thought "What if there were a Flash tournament, where you could decide who the ultimate animator is?" So I set out to create just that. It started with 8 hopeful bracket slots, which quickly filled up to 22 interested contenders in the first year, 2007.
Q: When did you bring the Tournament of Flash Artists to Newgrounds and why?
A: The Tournament of Flash Artists began on NewGrounds last year, in 2011 during its 5th season. The tournament had grown exponentially in popularity and prize value with every year, and I wanted to see that trend continue to see it reach its full potential. The AlbinoBlacksheep Flash community was tight-knit and talented, but was diminishing in size with every year. The forums also began to populate with spam-bots and trolls that caused interest in the forum to decline. Eventually the ABS Flash base grew so small that the majority of participants in TOFA were NewGrounds members who registered accounts on the ABS forums solely to participate in the contest, and then never post again. Their entries to TOFA often made the front page of NewGrounds. After creating a couple topics asking for input on the idea of moving to NewGrounds and receiving extremely low input and for the most part trolling responses, it was apparent that NewGrounds was a much more appropriate environment to help the Tournament flourish.
Q: What is the process of gathering judges and prizes for the tournament?
A: Prizes are gathered on a donation and sponsorship basis. The largest chunk of the prize ($2,000) is being donated by NewGrounds as a sponsor this year. Adobe is donating Adobe Design Premium CS5.5 for the tournament, but declined name or logo placement within the contest. I myself am donating $500 to the prize pool. Additional donations can be made at the NATA website, which will not only help to compensate myself and others who volunteer their time for the tournament, but to add bonus prizes such as store credit and T-Shirts to the mix. We have not received any other donations so far, and so T-Shirts are looking unlikely at this point.
Judges come on a volunteer basis as well. The only main requirement is that they have previous animation or artistic experience. I do not typically volunteer as a judge, but usually cannot find a fifth in time for the contest and become one myself. The fifth judge is always an honorary position, being the Champion of Animation from the previous year's contest. This year's judges are Tom Fulp (CEO of NewGrounds), Myself (Adam Witt, AGS in Film/Video technology, writing/directing emphasis), Tiffany Witt (BFA in Fine Arts, drawing emphasis), Elliot Cowan (BA in Visual Communication), and Dave Bruno (BA in Film/Video, Traditional Animation emphasis).
Other people who help in behind-the-scenes planning for NATA include Thor, Clod of Blunders and Thundaboom.
Q: How did you come to then start Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation and what would become of the moniker of Tournament of Flash Artists?
A: AlbinoBlacksheep was quite fond of the contest I had hosted on their forums, so much so that they decided to continue the tournament under the same name, but with different people organizing it. The ABS Webmaster, TooMuchSpareTime, and AvidLebon organized last year's ABS TOFA. There was much debate about which contest should retain the original title of Tournament of Flash Artists to avoid confusion, and which contest was entitled to the Adobe Software that had already been donated for that year. It was agreed that the Munchy Media organized contest would change its name in order to retain the Adobe donation. The Albino Blacksheep run contest is most commonly known as ABS TOFA, while the NewGrounds contest is known as NATA: The NewGrounds Annual Tournament of Animation, which was coined by Tom Fulp and most popular in new name polls for the contest.
Q: Did the process of gathering judges and prizes for this newly named tournament change?
A: No, everything is pretty much the same. The sponsor donators changed, but that's all.
Q: How are the themes for the different rounds chosen?
A: All themes must be restricted enough to help people think of specific ideas and hold a level playing field for all entrants, but vague enough to inspire any number of different takes on the subject. It's also important not to favor a specific animation style with a theme, as that would handicap certain entrants.
The Open Round typically has a fun, open and easily brainstormed theme. The middle rounds will usually be medium in difficulty for the animator to brainstorm, or will provide a facet of personalization, intentional external reference, or provided graphics / sound clips. The Semi-Finals have a theme that is intentionally so vague or confusing that the animators will have a challenge in brainstorming a good idea for it. The Final Round's theme tends to insinuate an epic storyline that will lead to an exciting or emotional set of movies to conclude the tournament. Typically I will think of all of the tournament's themes in the month before the contest begins, sometimes with input from siblings or friends. "Discovering Time Travel" was a suggestion from my oldest brother. Incidentally, at the time of this interview, no other themes for NATA 2012 have been decided upon yet. Suggestions are welcome, but never revealed until the round begins.
Q: What can we expect from Adam Witt and the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation in the future?
A: My highest hope is to have big-name animators like EgoRaptor and Sexual-Lobster competing in the contest. It would be really nice to see who comes out on top. It'd be like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny with animators. Also higher prizes (because even $2500 is a pretty lousy amount for all the work that goes into these fantastic animations), more T-Shirts, and more epic animations. I don't see myself animating again anytime soon, but am pursuing a career in Videography and Graphic Design (I am currently attending university for a BFA in Digital Design). Of course, NATA is something I've always enjoyed hosting, and I plan to continue organizing and hosting it for years to come.
Adam Witt is an amazing individual. To start a tournament for the great animators of Newgrounds to compete in is not only a genius idea, but it is one that has its benefits to the creative minds. Dave Bruno was last year's winner, and an interview with The Interviewer was one of the prizes. This year will be no different, so I have been watching this year's contest carefully as I did last year. Adam Witt is a wonderful person for putting this together and I can only hope that he will continue to run it for many years to come.