Thursday, 3 December 2009

Final version of my experimental piece...

Production Report – ‘Experimental Animation’

After weeks of looking at all sorts of different, very unique, animation styles and techniques, I’ve finally got my experimental piece finished and am quite pleased with the results.
When starting this project, there were so many different techniques I wanted to try, and having a lot more time I probably would have given them all a go to see what I was most successful at and what turned out in the most interesting way.
I found it quite easy to choose the piece of music I wanted to use. After playing them all through a few times, I found ‘Ruta Diata’ to be the one I favoured and had the most ideas for. To me, this piece of music has quite an African, jungle-type sound and from it I immediately pictured dancing, figures, animals and different patterns and instantly the work of Erica Russell and the colours, style she uses came to mind.
To begin with however, I was determined that I wanted to use sand for my animation. This is quite an unusual technique that is being used more and more at the moment. I had seen quite a lot of this in the past including some live shows with people creating amazing images in sand, and this would have been something I’d love to create myself. I have also seen work made by Caroline Leaf which I found stunning and couldn’t believe it had been created using this technique.
However, after doing a few short test experiments with sand I found it really hard to create the right feel and speed for the piece of music I had chosen with the images being clear enough for an audience to understand. I wanted to keep my chosen piece of music and having created a dope sheet for it, thought I would try out a different technique where I could use different mediums and really focus on the accents in the music, fusing the movement and sound together.

So trusting my first instincts with the music, I looked further at work by Erica Russell and the way she creates figures, shapes, colours that move together and merge beautifully in perfect keep with the music. I decided this would be a good starting point and something to aim for as it would enable me to really focus on the sound and creating movement to it.
When talking through this idea, I was soon introduced to the work of Robert Breer and his quick, loose drawings animated to music, which are very experimental and appear almost as if he is letting his thoughts out onto the paper unplanned and completely free. I was also told of how Breer helped to inspire and loosen up the work of Joanna Quinn, an animator I admire greatly, which started me thinking how this project and experiment could really help my drawing skills and allow me to be really free and expressive with what I put down on the paper.
So after studying many short films by Robert Breer and being inspired by the work of Erica Russell I had finally found my method and the style I wanted to achieve.
My main aim for this project was, therefore, to create a really experimental and interesting piece that was extremely free, loose in the drawing, with no particular sequencing or composition. I was hoping that I could get it to work closely with the music, and include some of the techniques that Breer used to captivate his audience, which would also help me greatly to improve and loosen my drawing skills, in turn improving my 2D animation and design work.
Therefore, I surrounded myself with many different drawing materials and mediums and a massive pile of postcards as I listened to the piece of music over and over to get the feel of the sounds and images as I went. I found it really interesting working on a much smaller scale then I am used to, and without being able to see how your drawing is changing from one frame to the next as you can with animation paper, I found it very difficult to gauge any idea of how the movement was panning out and how each line was developing.
For much of the animation I kept the drawings to very basic lines, shapes, colours, just moving across the cards or transforming into whatever pictures popped into my head. Certain images I wanted to repeat and have as re-occurring images, or patterns throughout the piece, much like in Breer’s work, and I therefore took more time thinking about these particular images. I also kept a close eye on my dope sheet as I went, making sure I was aware of whereabouts the accents were in relation to what I was drawing.

After working my way through my postcard collection, making sure I had more than enough frames for editing, I filmed each frame in the rough sequence I drew them, output the movie and put it into Premier for editing and post-production. I was quite surprised at how well the initial drawings worked with the music and the timing of them. I re-arranged some of the images to repeat and show up over and over, and sometimes overlap. The idea of this was to create the captivating, flashing effect that Breer achieves so well in his work which really absorbs you into the movement and images.

Overall, I think the main strength of this project was the freeness and looseness I achieved in the drawings. I am usually very neat and rigid with my animation, and I think I really managed to loosen up what I was doing, particularly as I couldn’t really see frame to frame where I was moving objects to, and also because I wasn’t focusing on drawing anything in particular for the majority of the time. I also think that the timing of the animation works well with the music and generally the two go together and complement each other. Clearly, this isn’t my best drawing work and I can honestly say I spent very little time on each drawing and getting them to look good and right. However, I think this adds to the experimentation and helping to see for the future and in my design and 2D work how much looser and freer I can be and still achieve movement and a nice flow of the line.

I think one of the weaknesses of the project was perhaps the limited materials I used. I could have experimented even more, using paints, other utensils, mediums not related to usual artwork, really got my hands dirty and created marks and lines and animated them. Even though I wasn’t really thinking or planning a story or what I was doing with the lines, I still stuck to drawing shapes or blocks or lines with a pencil, when I could really have done something completely unusual. I could have even built up the materials, added layers to the cards, worked over tape, made it into a transforming collage with marks and lines, rather than keeping to the basics.

I do think I developed skills through completing this project. I was able to really experiment and do something with animation I’ve never tried before, which I think I did to a certain extent. The fact that it really did influence and help to loosen my drawings, which in turn helped towards my other projects also shows development. I found this method of working tricky, not being able to see clearly what I was doing, how it was going or how the movement was working, and not really planning the sequences, but just going for it, really made me loosen up and flow more with the lines.

However, I do feel now that I really could have pushed this project further. I should have used a much wider and more unusual range of mediums, and focused on planning all the different things I could use and work with, in place of the sequence that I would normally have planned out. I like the randomness of the images and roughness, but I can see they would have been instantly more captivating and interesting if I had really pushed the experimental side of the project. I think I should have focused on developing this more, rather then prioritising some other aspects of my work and getting them done. I also may have been able to develop the idea further if I had decided on my method right at the beginning of the project, rather than switch between ideas.

If I were to continue the project now, I think I would really work on developing the idea more before carrying out the experimental work. I saw the idea as a very free one, and I didn’t want to plan too much of what I was going to draw and animate, worried that I would lose some of the freedom of line and image that I was aiming to capture. However I can now see that instead of worrying about over planning the images and sequencing, I should have planned the materials and the way I would create the images. I would do the same experiment again, as I feel it really did help me improve my drawing skills, and loosen up my concepts of design and movement, however I would definitely use a much more varied approach and really push it to the experimental limits.

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