Updated: May 3, 2021
Most visual media we consume daily will incorporate some form animation from the simple moving graphics in a Youtube video nudging you to Like and Subscribe to the full blown out blockbuster features from Pixar and Disney films alike. The industry and its techniques has made its mark in the modern world, inspiring many others to pursue along the same path, creating content meant to entertain, educate or encourage the audience to action. For those that wish to take this path or are considering it, there is an importance in understanding the nature of the craft and what you might want to look out for.
“Animation Means To Invoke Life, Not To Imitate It.” -Chuck Jones
Animation that suits you
Animation can be described as providing the illusion of movement to drawings, models, photographs and still objects such as puppets by presenting them in a sequence. A single image by itself can tell a story on its own, subject to the perspective of its viewer, while a sequence of multiple images can instill movement and life, driving a narrative that evolves with each occurring image in the sequence. While it’s easy to consider animation as being either 2D or 3D, the craft can be further defined through different styles:
Traditional Animation, an older type of animation which involves drawing each frame individually on paper and combining them into a sequence
⦁ 2D Digital Animation, utilizes software that acts similarly to traditional animation, but allows for the use of various tools to aid in the process
⦁ 3D Digital Animation, allows objects to be created in 3D space and can similarly provide movement to those objects. Think real life sculptures that can move
⦁ Stop Motion, the use of photography with real life objects that are provided with small amounts of movement with each frame
⦁ Motion Graphics, is a digital form of animation, focused on providing movement to text, shapes or images without having to draw every frame separately
Animation can even be further branched off into other styles such as Typography (the animation of text and font), Flipbook Animation (traditional animation made in a book with easily flippable pages) or even A.I. Animation (Animation generated by A.I. based on the inputs it receives).
While many ideas and skills are interchangeable between styles of animation, having a preference would help you towards specializing in a specific style. It would take a considerably long time to be well practised in all the various styles of animation. There is only so much time those pursuing the craft may be able to spend learning and even then, each style continues to evolve with new skills constantly required. Ideally, learning the basics of each style and focusing on your preferred one would present a more productive use of time spent.
"There are no rules, just tools." -Glenn Vilppu
Creativity and Technicality
At first glance, animation at its core is represented as a display of unconstrained creativity. This is definitely true from the inception of animation from its beginnings of pencil on paper. While there has always been some level of technology that has aided in Animation, with the increasing pace of digital development, being able to adapt to the technical advancements has become an important aspect of the industry.
Some people may be more inclined to consider themselves more of creative type, capable of drawing out and developing ideas using common methods. Others may seek the technical approach towards creating content efficiently in a seamless and automated manner. This can include writing scripts that automate the movement of multiple objects over time or maybe building plugins that can act as shortcuts for certain tasks such as changing the color of multiple objects at once.
While either one may find success in their approaches, allowing yourself to consider both creative and technical aspects will open up opportunities to the type of content you can create.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
The Path to Learning
When learning a skill set, it is very often a point of argument of whether it is necessary to do official schooling to properly progress and improve or if the free resources available is enough to achieve a professional standard of skill.
Online resources provide an easy to access method towards learning skills, and with people constantly sharing information, the resources continuously expand. Social media platforms and forums such as Youtube, Polycount and Guru3D allow for a simplified two interaction between those who teach and those who learn which on occasion can be very effective, especially for troubleshooting purposes. Often times professionals upload resources to the public, but since there are no entry requirements to share information, at times people may share their own experiences that may lead to others going through unexpected issues should they choose to follow it.
Schooling, while less accessible and often times considerably more costly, provides something online resources rarely have, which is an opportunity to a mentor who can guide and provide attention towards your needs. Having someone experienced guide you through your journey can ensure that the expedition is more smoother than when ventured alone.
Each path has its own pros and cons, but ultimately both will allow you to arrive at your required end goal given enough effort. Your own learning capability or access to information will be the decider towards which route you may be willing to take.
Moving towards your choice
Animation is a broad topic, with many areas of interests to cover, and with how its been developing in the past decade, those topics only continue to increase. Like with most industries, with animation, it’s always good to keep an open mind towards learning new things, as the standards and practices will generally change overtime, occasionally very rapidly as well.
Blender was a free 3D software that rarely saw use a few years ago in the industry due to its limited functionality. Through numerous updates and developments, it’s seen massive improvements that allow it to potentially compete with the main industry software in the near future. A software once suspected by many to not succeed, can now hold its own in the field.
As a subject to partake in, it is definitely worth it if you find yourself highly interested in it. There can be some struggle if you lack creativity or technical capabilities, but with enough intent to learn and practice, it’s possible to make up for anything that you may have been lacking.