SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 8 OF “ANIMATED STORYTELLING” BY LIZ BLAZER
Up to this point we have done a lot of work preparing for our projects, defining the project, developing the story, structure, sound and design assets and exploring through story boarding how to best communicate our message and keep our audience engaged. There is one critical question left: What animation technique are we going to use?
We are human beings, as children once we learn how to do something successfully, it could be a tool or a trick, we tend to go back to it. Educators call it a “schema”. In psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas) describes a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. Understandably, we fall back on these as they form the structure of our knowledge and scaffolding for our future learning. Give a carpenter and a plumber the same puzzle and they will reach a solution different ways. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As we look at a motion project, a stop motion director and a 2D animator will undoubtedly find a way to tell that story utilizing their strength. But are we choosing the best animation technique for that story?
Blazer explains “Selecting the right animation technique can be the key to expressing your big idea, can amplify the very soul of your story and if used inventively can set your project apart from the rest”
Video: “Paper City” Maciek Janicki
A wonderful use of 3D animation to emulate paper. A unique technique utilizing technology to simulate a 2D medium. The streets are paved with paper. This delicate animation follows the charming rise and fold of a fragile metropolis. Captured by an unseen helicopter, the narrative unfolds through winding roads, erupting forests and emerging mountains. Paper City grows in one fluid take, with skyscrapers rising from the page — only to crumble, wrinkle and gently crease back into the ground.
Styles and techniques are like colors, you have a full spectrum to choose from. Below is a different animation that is just as beautiful in a different way and the technique/style chosen is appropriate and fortifies the empathetic message.
Video: “Sensory Overload” Miguel Jiron, Director and Animator
Below you will find today’s most popular techniques and styles to consider for your animation:
The Medium is the Message
I hate to quote the great-granddaddy of communications theory, but he had a couple of things right. “The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. As designers and managers we wrestle with the plethora of devices, formats and mediums that are available to our audiences. Screens are getting bigger and smaller, your animation could be seen on a smartphone or projected onto the side of a building.
As you explore your options for technique make sure to go back to your brief and consider what the project is, then weigh in how most people will see it.
Whatever it takes!
You may go to a symphony and look at a conductor and say “That guy isn’t doing anything! He is just waving his arms around” but it isn’t the conductor’s job to know how to play every instrument perfectly. He is there to know enough of all the moving parts to make the beautiful music happen. A quarterback does not throw a ball then run to the other end of the field and catch his own pass. Your role as lead on an animation project it to bring to bear the forces that will forge an amazing end product. As the character of Odin said to Thor in one of Marvel’s recent films “Are you the God of hammers, or the god of lightning?” when he was unable to summon his powers to complete a great task.
In short: Be flexible, adapt to the project, do not make the mistake of forcing your own preferences on it. Karin Fong, founding member of Imaginary Forces provides guidance “You need to know what message and emotion, you want to convey first. Then you make sure the look is answering those questions. Don’t be seduced by the technique, because it can really take away from the message of your project.”
Do the deep work, as we learned in the previous chapters, work at the edge of your skill set and choose wisely.
Draw from your environment by shooting footage or from your research by incorporating still images. Seek plug ins, find help, outsource work, use workarounds…whatever it takes. It is not cheating, it is conducting.
Video: Imaginary Forces Montage, Karin Fong, Director and Designer
Karin Fong directs and designs for film, television, and environments. She a founding member of production and design company Imaginary Forces. Karin has designed title sequences for numerous feature films.
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
Blazer, L. (2016). Animated storytelling : simple steps for creating animation & motion graphics. San Francisco, CA: Peachpit Press.
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