Basic Animation Aesthetics: An Essay By David OReilly

Someone on Reddit managed to dig this up, and we should all thank them that they did.

Talented (and charismatic) Irishman, David OReilly is well known for being one of the more provocative and innovative animators out there today. His shorts Please Say Something and The External World continue to find new audiences today, despite the fact that they have been out for quite a while.

David’s style is fairly unique so I was genuinely excited to come across an essay he’d written on animation aesthetics. You’ll want to read it too, especially as he says this in the first paragraph:

The importance of animation aesthetics is such a subtle yet vitally important one. It might seem superficial to discuss these things, especially because cinema is so much more to do with content and story than a pure aesthetic experience, but nonetheless the visual nature of animation calls for debate on the subject. There is a continuous raft of animation, both commercial and independent, which looks the same, and I don’t believe it has to be so. The more we think about the subject the more playful and interesting computer animation becomes, the medium feels to me like a recently opened Pandora’s box which is still being examined, understood and tamed.

You can (and should) read the rest of the (9 page) document here.

Guest Post: Great Animated Teasers

Today’ I’m pleased to feature a guest post by Jardley Jean-Louis. Jardley is an artist and illustrator from New York. You can see her portfolio here and her blog here!

Having found an interest in pursuing and strengthening skills in animation after being very single-minded in art & illustration for years, I found sites that catered to those needs and featured a great wealth of creatives making animation in the world today. Some of these animations were teasers that told just enough to build anticipation as to what would unfold. So without too much fanfare, here are some memorable animated teasers I’ve seen recently.

LE MEURTRE teaser from Tom Haugomat & Bruno Mangyoku.

The most obvious: The colors. In my opinion it’s not only memorable because there are only ever four colors or by how rich and deep they are, but how through them, they build each scene. They create an object, fill in negative spaces, and separate one thing from another. While watching, I was reminded of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Body recap by Noel Murray. I’ll quote him here:

…as when Dawn’s art teacher asks her students to explore the negative space around their subject—a body, as it happens.”…”To make out its shape, you’ll have to look at the people gathered around where it used to be.

But, I especially love the scene that starts at :51, I thought I was watching something remarkable. The animators don’t go to great lengths to create it and really, that’s the way it is throughout but here, it’s not too much at all. You get a couple of shapes that’s amplified by a faraway shot and that’s it. Even the dead wolf is a measly shape. But, in the little details the duo does uses, like the clumps of trees and the straggly plants in the ground, for me they’re well received.

Adam and Dog Trailer from Minkyu.

When I saw this, right away I thought it must be associated with Disney in some way. Then I found out Minkyu Lee is a Visual Development Artist for Disney. Jackpot! I’ve never seen nudity in Disney films and am curious if Disney plays a hand in the fruition of the film or if it’s all controlled largely by Minkyu Lee and co. I don’t know much about the workings of animation films, nor have I been following this particular film much to know what’s what. I do know that I’ve interpreted the lack of dialogue, the standalone shots, and this “Adam” and what I assume is his dog, surrounded by this lush but probably lacking in more people environment in the trailer, as a type of film I want to get to know. I’m interested to find out more and the nudity is refreshing because in such an environment it feels like it would make sense. But, that depends on the story.

Playing Ghost TRAILER from Bianca Ansems.

I have no idea how many times I’ve watched this trailer yet only yesterday did I realized that the little girl is playing with the stove buttons to control the fire! I thought she was just far too near the stove and her mother didn’t want that. It’s the little things, these small actions that I feel makes a media so much more especially in Playing Ghost. I think if this film was told with no dialogue whatsoever, and I have no clue if it is or isn’t (The little grunts the little kid makes doesn’t give much away), it would still be one to recommend. I especially love that little sigh she makes at what appears to be her makeshift cemetery. Here you have a film about the aftermath of an event and that to me is already something I’d watch, but shot for shot there’s just so much detail and I’m sitting here staring. So many parts where the animators were paying attention to life and how a room that has been lived in and is marked by what its use is, like the kitchen or the basement, looks. It’s visually a very warm, vibrant, detailed animation. I really can’t gush enough about how much I love these types of animations. Sewing up fabrics, building sets and objects, using found objects, and now with Playing Ghost: paying attention to gestures and personalities of each individual. I don’t think I was more grateful for that than when I saw that little 5 year old stomp her way across the kitchen.

Onward Trailer from John Robson.

Have you ever seen something like this before? I think what sets this animation apart from many I’ve seen is how epic it feels. Yes, it’s about an adventure, a journey but, it seems like much more than an animation. Like it could easily transfer itself to live action but chooses to be an animation because the animators enjoy the craft. Though the strikingly realistic scene of the thunderous darkened clouds and rippling waters stunned me, it’s in the warm glow that covers the face of a bowing Sean to light a cigarette off-screen, that I was sold. It’s a great scene, a great effect. In John Robson’s own words, he’s using a combination of computer and stop-motion animation photography. That might’ve been why I was so surprised with the ease at which the main character speaks and moves his lips? It’s a contrast to Fantastic Mr.Fox, where I noticed the mouths moved awfully fast and not especially relaxed. I’m curious to know if that’s a common with puppet animation that aren’t altered with computer effects. Beyond that, the trailer has the markings of one to be anticipated from the choice in typography to mark it’s title and release date, to the mood and narration of a solitary man on a quest. But here’s the kicker: This animation might be in a different stage than the ones mentioned above in that it still needs funding to continue on it’s way. From speaking a bit to John Robson, there will be a kickstarter campaign (a site that helps to fund creative projects) in the months to come so if you’d like to donate, know more about said campaign’s launch or just promote the animation any which way you can, be sure to follow him and keep updated on his site.

Slow Derek – Trailer from Agile Films.

Last but definitely not least comes Slow Derek. Seriously, I sat there with my mouth open on both viewings of this. It looks like a life that’s finally about to start. I think that’s how I can best sum it up. My assumption is it’s using the very common trope of an unhappy, dull man who lives a life of dreary routine and said life changes through a surge of courage after a particular event but most likely it changes for him. But really what can you know in :20 seconds? Though I’d say it uses those seconds well. I’m pressed to know WHAT HAPPENS and HOW. Through a series of quick shots, a train or car that expects a collision sound effects, and some action shots of Derek himself, there’s a lot to absorb and await. It doesn’t let you breathe and grasp what you’re seeing, it basically pulls us along until the end when the Earth spins and even then it’s going too fast.

I’m sure in the months to come there will no doubt be a wave of teasers making their way to the public and many in the current that haven’t been touched upon in this list so if you’ve got some you want to share, please do.

5 Signs That It’s Time For A New Job

So today is a bit of a momentous day for me in that I start a new job; only my second real one. Yes, I’m still a civil engineer so no need to change the title of this blog just yet.

Changing jobs can be difficult, and for me a lot of it was psychological in that I really did like where I worked but still had to pluck up a lot of courage to hand in the notice.

So below are a few indicators that it may be time for you to do the same.

1. The People You Work With Are Nuts

We’ve all been there, when co-workers and bosses are just not nice people. Unfortunately, there are horrible people all over the place and some are inexplicably in positions of power. However, job satisfaction is hard to come by when there is someone who is making your job a living hell. The bottom line? The stress of dealing with such people isn’t worth it, no matter how much you earn.

2. The Place You Work At Is Horrible

While your office/studio may not be comparable to, say, a coal mine, that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant place to work in. Cramped conditions, lousy air-conditioning, smelly toilets are all signs of a terrible office, but they are not the limit. You might also have to deal with constant noise, poor maintenance, you name it. If spending 8 hours a day in a building takes effort, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to find a nicer place to work.

3. You’re Not Challenged Any More

Work should be challenging on some level. It doesn’t have to be a constant burden, nor does it have to be a walk in the park. Moderate challenges are part of career growth and should be welcomed by anyone who wants to get ahead. If you feel your job is too easy and you’re not being stretching the brain muscles like you should, then it’s time for a change.

4. Your Over-Worked

Too much work is bad. Everyone knows that. But the funny thing is, people will tend to work longer and longer without thinking about when they should stop. If your boss came to you and asked you to work 70 hours next week, you might laugh. But what if he asked for an extra 5 hours? Sure, you could do that, right? Well if you got comfortable doing that, then another 5 on top of that wouldn’t seem near as bad. Before you know it, you’re up to 70 hours and all your free time has disappeared. Sure, you might make good money, but it isn’t worth it in the long run, as this cautionary tale details.

The standard work week is 40 hours for a reason. Putting in a lot more than than consistently is bad for your health and a sure sign that it’s time to switch.

5. A Combination of All Of The Above

Funnily enough, I learned that you don’t need just one reason to switch jobs. In my case none of the above were an issue on their own. But a little bit of one and a little bit of another combined to give me enough reasons to say yes when the question came along.

This will be the case for most people, and only you can decide when the time is right. Either way, it’s up to you to make the change, very rarely will it come to you.

Addendum:

You’ll notice that pay isn’t on the list. The simple reason is that almost everyone is aware of how much they earn and it’s a natural trait that people want to earn more. The result is that people will be acutely aware when they are being under-paid and as a result, will more than likely look to switch when they are.

The Modifyers

Chis Reccardi and Lynne Naylor are two of my very favourite artists, so you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that they created a pilot for Nickelodeon that sadly, so very sadly, went un-aired and un-picked up

Thankfully, said pilot can be seen online, and if you haven’t seen it already, be prepared to utter some words about Nickelodeon that probably aren’t not suitable for public broadcast.

http://vimeo.com/9383918

Here’s What Happens When Politicians Try To Animate

Not a video, click through to enjoy.

For the record, I am deeply sorry that I can’t embed the video here (stupid Washington Post) so you’ll just have to click through to enjoy.

Long story short, the Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty got tossed out a few years ago, and like any good politician, he’s not ready to give up just yet. So, his good friend Sinclair Skinner decided to give him a hand, by producing a 12-episode series of animated shorts based on Fenty’s life and political career.

You won’t find any mind-bending animation, but if you manage to sit through the entire 2 and half minutes of the first short, you’ll understand why politicians and their friends should not be involved in animation of any kind.

Oh, and don’t forget to read the comments!

In Praise Of the Flaws of Hand-Drawn Animation

Over at the Dead Homer Society, they regularly run discussions of recent episodes. With the recent broadcasting of the 500 episode, the discussion included NoHomers.net contributor Zombies Rise from the Sea, who had this to say about the animation on the show and where it’s been going these last few years:

Hand drawn animation is like an art, to insist that people want cleaner HD animation is just shameful. It’s like we don’t appreciate flaws in work, we want everything to be robotic.

While this is aimed more at the Simpsons than anyone else, it is true. The fact that Flash and CGI animation can create much more “perfect” visuals does not result in a superior picture.

Viewers may notice the flaws in traditional, hand-drawn animation, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who believes that such flaws ruined the viewing experience for them.

Yes, They Somehow Placed A Mazda Into The Lorax

Soooo, you remember when I discussed the “green” marketing for The Lorax? You don’t? It was only last wee…. oh never mind, how about this video below then?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrvg33vkdFI

Yes, it’s The Lorax, with……a Mazda!

And this is much more than a commercial, for, according to Autoblog, the CX-5 has a starring role in the upcoming film as well!

So along the lines of my first post; is this appropriate, or even a good idea?

Mazda is claiming the car has “Skyactiv” green credentials, but as one of the commentators points out, that’s really just a marketing name for technologies that are already present in many modern cars.

So the link between the two properties is a weak one, but certainly the pairing of a car company and Dr. Seuss has gone well before, right?

Eh, no.

So we have a film that’s animated, a car company with no real green credentials (we’re still waiting for a true Mazda hybrid) and a story that’s all about environmentalism but has supposedly been altered just enough that that’s not the emphasis.

Hmmm, I have my doubts.

In the meantime, here’s an example of an animation/auto combination that most certainly makes more sense:

Yes, it’s Misato Katsuragi and her Renault Alpine A310; a Porsche 911 for the more independently minded driving enthusiast and that suits her down to a T.

Tom & Jerry: 72 Years Old Today

Yes, the original cat and mouse duo are 71 years young today, February 20th. Back in 1940, the short Puss Gets The Boot was released and featured the two characters who would quickly become the characters that are so beloved today.

So now I’m curious, in 1940, was stuff from 1869 as popular and as widely known as Tom & Jerry are today?