• Charlotte Grant

Experimental Animation - A Production Report

So, the past couple of weeks, I've been working on my experimental animation project, due at 12pm today (It's currently 3am here).

This project involved making an animation timed to one of 6 sound clips given to us. Our rules for this work were only, that it had to be done without the aid of a computer (other than post production) and that it had to be imaginative, in terms of technique. (My final piece is below)

I began by experimenting using lots of different techniques, some of these were Pixilation, Plastercine, Drawing with pastels, moving objects and using a whiteboard. I made 5 or 6 second test animations with all of these techniques and really enjoyed trying out all of these new ways of animating, but I needed to choose one that I really, really enjoyed, for my final piece, as I was going to be animating about 40 seconds of it, and didn't want to get bored with it.

During A Levels, I got given a lot of plastercine by the art department. In my first few years of College I attended a small stop-motion animation club, which sadly ended when the teacher running it moved departments, they had little use for all this plastercine, so my A level art teacher gave it to me a few years later, knowing I intended to go into the field of Animation. I really enjoyed all of the techniques I tried but I felt plastercine was my favorite out of all of them, mostly because how easy it is to deform and play around with - I felt I could make my animation seem more fluid and free that way. :3

I started planning on paper, coming up with ideas, whilst listening to my chosen track (a 40 second piece named Ruta and Daita which I chose due to the obvious beats in it, that I could use to time the animation efficiently) and jotted down some small storyboard-like frames. Once I was happy with my idea, I made a Dope sheet, deciding how many frames I would need for each part of the sequence and deciding what would be going on in said parts. When practicing with the plastercine, during my trial animations I loved how smooth some of the dot parts of the animation turned out, and I really liked the idea of using dots in this animation, to help with the timing of the beats in the song.

I had quite a surplus of blue plastercine and decided, unlike my practice animation, I was going to do this animation inverted, using a glass panel covered in blue plactercine and animating by using a craft knife to cut out shapes, revealing the glass below. I set up a makeshift line tester, using a jam box with a rectangle and a square cut out of it. I attached this to the shelf on my room-mates desk and weighed the back down with a heavy book. When the camera was on, the lense would pop through the square, allowing me to animate underneath it, on the plastercine, without need for a tripod. I chose to use a powerful desk lamp to keep the light consistent, seeing as I was to be animating this piece over several days and didn't want it to give the appearance of flickering.

A picture of my final setup is below.


When animating this, I tried to stick closely to the dope sheet (especially at the zigzag line parts, as this was essential for my piece to work properly) Capturing this project took me 3 evenings to do, I really enjoyed working with the plastercine even though I found it a little bit fiddly (especially with the 'flute' spikes in the music, that were very difficult to animate and work in time with, and quite fiddly to cut out).

For the most part, the animation comprises of different sized circles, being used to portray the beats in the music, the spikes along the bottom (kind of symbolizing audio spikes in recordings) were used for the 'flute' sound in this music, and finally, the zig zag lines were used for the 'coohing' sounds made. One of the things I found particularly difficult about this project was the timing of the zig zags, I wanted them to be played at a higher frame rate than the spikes and the circles (which were following a beat) so my task was trying to keep the circles to the beat, whilst allowing myself to speed up the movement of the lines. This ended with me animating one circle for every 3 frames of the line and although it may have worked in some ways, I feel it didn't work as well as it could've or as well as I'd have liked it to.

Once I had taken all of the photos I needed for the film, I imported them into vegas where I pieced them together in time to the music (of as best as I could in time...the zigzag scenes sometimes show opposite) The only real editing I did to this scene other than that was to flip the video (like a normal line tester would do, so that your work is the right way up) and to zoom in a little bit, so less of the table was showing, something that I couldn't do during the production due to the height of the shelf.

The things I like most about this project was how free the plastercine looks and the timing of the circle scene. Some things I think should be improved on is the steadiness of the camera (due to me taking it in several shots and having to re-position the camera, it does seem a little shakey in parts) and the tidyness of the piece itself, plastercine is quite rough around the edges and I think I could've worked harder to ensure that it didn't look so rough.

Overall I am moderately pleased with the final outcome, although it wasn't what I was expecting from it. I really enjoyed this project, trying out new techniques and working with different forms of animation and feel it has helped me a lot when studying movement and learning how to match it to music.