My generation was fortunate to grow up during an era of emerging technologies and we were able to experiment with them as they came to the surface. The most prominent of these technologies, without a shadow of a doubt, would be computers and the Internet.
While growing up and advancing through school, most of what I learned came from textbooks. Then, we were given computers and the Internet, which turned into a phenomenon of ‘how did I live without this?’ It was an explosion of technology; people across the globe had access to just about any information. It was limitless what we could do, and what did I want to do? I wanted to make light sabers for the short films I created with my friends.
Thanks to the Internet, after a not so short period of time, I was able to teach myself Adobe After Effects and then turn that knowledge into fun features for my short films. They featured a lot more lasers, explosions and light sabers. Every good film needs explosions, right? Kind of, depending on the look and effect of the explosion it could very well be pointless. I was not alone in my aspirations and being self-taught with Adobe After Effects. People the world over were doing the same as me, teaching themselves and seeing what came of it. This became noticeable when YouTube became so prominent. However, no matter how much experience you had with the program, the effects almost always felt amateur and flat. I don’t want to use the word “boring”, it’s such a terrible word, plus how can an explosion be boring? The fact of the matter is, some of the effects and animations kind of were.
The reason the effects were flat, fake looking, and boring was because everyone had learned After Effects the same as I had. We were animating things without knowing the proper way. Adobe had unintentionally bred an army of animators with no background on animation. Behind a computer screen, you think to yourself I want an object to move from point A to B within a 1-second timespan. The computer will do as it is told and move the object from A to B in that 1-second and that’s it. In life, things do not simply move from one point to another, they flow, wiggle, bounce, jump, run and creep. In life, there is expression and emotion in movement. This is the first thing many cartoon animators learn while in animation school. However, when you are self-taught, you don’t have someone to tell you these things and correct your errors. Humans relate to emotions and sense it in so many ways. Seeing someone walk slowly, shoulders slumped and their head lowered you would get the sense that they’re sad or upset. While in the inverse, if you see someone strolling upright with their head held high, you will get the sense of their confidence or happiness.
We are still a ways away from being able to tell a computer to create exactly what we’re looking for with our animations. For now, I continue to look every day for new ways to add life to my animations. I look for ways to add expression, exaggeration to every movement, to make something as simple as moving from one point to another relatable and attractive to the eye. It is my goal everyday to put life into my work, so my question to you is; what can you do to add life to your work?
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