Friday, 30 September 2016

The Next Steps In An Animation Education

Back in my university days, when I'd tell people I was studying animation , they would often joke that I was just watching cartoons all day. Obviously, this was a big part of my university life, but people would often be surprised when I started to explain all of the different elements that you must understand to be an animator.  We all know that we should be animating bouncing balls and reading The Illusion of Life to help us learn animation,  but what about those other aspects of our field that help us be a more rounded animator?  Here are some of the subjects I'm trying to get my brain to absorb:
cat glasses smart
Physics is the reason I started thinking about the subject of sub-genres inside animation. I recently heard an interesting interview with Professor Alejandro Garcia, a physics expert for Dreamworks (video here). It is obvious that Physics is involved in animation , but I've never read a physics book , or gone back to the actual science. Surely I should understand Newton's law if I'm animating it every day? I've been listening to some science podcasts and also watching experiments on Youtube. Sometimes you think you can predict a scientific outcome, but I'm constantly surprised. Such as this person throwing a spinning basketball off a ridge:

Even after a lifetime of using gravity and physics (and often clumsily not using gravity right in my day to day life) , I couldn't predict what would happen. It is interesting to look at the 12 principles of animation and apply exact physical rules to them. It changes your perspective.

Psychology (Animals and Humans) 
Most people are aware that the things on this list are part of animation, but it's rare we take the time to study them individually. Studying and looking into psychology and philosophy have really made a difference with the way I see my work. I've been reading some psychology books (mainly things like 'psychology for dummies') , but mainly I've been watching a butt-load of David Attenbourgh. I love everything about those documentaries. It started as wanting to study animals , but it became a study in comic timing. The animal kingdom will teach you more about comedy timing than anything else. I love it! Plus that beautiful voice...WE LOVE YOU ATTENBOURGH!

Okay, so I know this is an obvious one and that every tutor or mentor you've ever had has told you to get to Life drawing class, but once you aren't a brand new, bushy eyed junior, how many of us actually do this? I've started life drawing again (it's burlesque ladies in costume, which makes it extra fantastic). I've bought watercolours and I'm setting time aside every weekend for art. It's annoying because I am so out of practice. I'm hoping if I persevere it will get better. It feels good to be in a life drawing room again and to be using tangible materials instead of being on a p.c. I am instantly more inspired and thinking about the body and composition more. Which leads onto the next topic...
Philippa Rice drawing writing craft cute
I think I know things about the anatomy, but I don't. I know the animation basics. I am hoping to look at some massage books and physiotherapy books to understand the way the muscles connect. I heard an animator Samy Fecih, in a great interview you can see here, explaining how difficult it is to make a fist once your wrist moves your hand past 90 degrees. I'd never considered this. I also want to study animal anatomy to get a better understand of what the hell is going on there.

Going to the gym
This is kind of linked to 'anatomy'. I have started going to the gym a lot , and I've been trying to lift weights. I am normally a lightweight who does cardio and a few push ups before giving up. Once I started having to lift weights I started really studying my center of gravity, my foot placements and my bodies movements. Most people in the gym are staring in the mirror to see their rippling muscles. I'm looking at my line of action. I've even started taking a tiny sketchbook to thumb things out quickly if I do a pose that I didn't expect to work. If nothing else, it makes the gym a lot of exciting.

Editing is a passion of mine. I love grabbing my holiday videos and sticking them together in an entertaining way. Editing it an incredible tool . It's storytelling and it's most basic. I love that it feels like reverse engineering. This is what you've got, now tell a story using it. Obviously, if you don't like editing or haven't done any , you will feel weird the first time you step into editing software (I use Premiere, but there are so many free ones online now). I'd say that you don't even have to show anyone. Even if it's just a phone app.  I'd recommend watching some of these incredible youtube film analysis:
10 most memorable edits of all time
or this one: 

Then I'd recommend doing a few little tests of your own. Understanding how cuts work and how film language can alter a scene is stupidly interesting to me.

Get some popcorn, get comfy and once a week try to watch one of the films*  on this list:
The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
It is research after all.

I'm embarrassed how many iconic films I haven't seen. I love film. I watch them every day and yet I'm wasting my eyeballs on awful stuff, so why not watch the ones the world agrees are amazing. Next up for me is Lawrence of Arabia and Misery.  I'm not limiting myself, though. I'm going to re-watch a few of my favourites. 12 Angry Men and Rear Window should  be watched at least once a year. 

*TV is so good now that a new list of 'Greatest things committed to film' may have to be the new list. Battle of the Bastards in Game of Thrones....pure genius!

So that is how I'm occupying my time at the moment. I want to up my animation game and i'm hoping these things are going to take me a step further. Go Go Team Animation !

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