This Module has been very enlightening as it has given me a much better idea of how creating animation feels and what I should expect the end result to look like. Animating a puppet or a figure gives much more satisfaction and personal interest than animating blocks and other inanimate objects with little character. I especially felt this when animating an armature in stop motion as I felt it was much more immersive and akin to real life animation.
The main difficulties I faced with this module resulted from the Covid-19 Lockdown, and the unfortunate reality of being forced to work from home. This presented me with a lot of problems, mainly due to lack of resources. I would have preferred to practice and incorporate more stop motion animation into my project, but I unfortunately didn’t have the resources available to do so. I installed a version of Maya on my own laptop; however, my laptop was not powerful enough to run an Maya Optimally, which made doing simple tasks difficult; and I ran into a lot of technical problems which were difficult to diagnose online. In the end I bought a subscription to Toon Boom Harmony, which is not very demanding to run, and uses very basic animation concepts and tools that I was already familiar with. Therefore, I was technically able to do hand-drawn animation easily, so it was just a question of developing the skill. Luckily, I had very few problems with this process and was able to carry out most of my exercises very easily.
The most challenging problem I faced during this time was the practicality of working from home. When I was living independently in my accommodation, I found it very easy to stick to a scheduled timetable and get work done in reasonable hours. However, living at home in a full house has been very demanding and I’ve found it very difficult to find time where I can work without being interrupted. To solve this, I took to doing most of my work at night time when everyone was sleeping and I had a quiet work environment in which to concentrate and produce work more efficiently and effectively. I found this much more productive and relaxing, and it made me appreciate the need for a quiet, distraction-free work environment more. It wasn’t particularly challenging working at late hours as I was mainly doing tasks that didn’t require me to be as alert, such as drawing and filling in in-between frames. Unfortunately, this led to me sleeping in late most days, which wasn’t ideal as I had less time to be productive and I was often more tired.
My method of working generally wasn’t really affected by the lockdown situation; my approach to each exercise was more or less the same as I had adopted previously. I began by filming a few attempts of each exercise for reference, so I could work from real-life footage to base each movement off, rather than having to imagine the movement of each individual body part. This was actually made easier living at home as I had much more space to use along with props (especially with the heavy lifting exercise). Then, for some of my tasks, I drew out bar sheets as a guide for my animation to gauge an idea of the structure I needed to follow. Then, in either Maya or Toon Boom, I animated each task, starting with putting in contact poses, then drawing in-betweens in Toon Boom, or adding more key frames and manipulating the graph in Maya. By using Stop Motion Pro, I was able to load the reference footage into the software as an onion skin layer, which I was then able to use as a guide for my animation and create more accurate results.
I was surprised by how comfortable I found doing hand drawn animation in Toon Boom as it is a technique lots of people often put off doing as it is very time consuming. However, I personally found it very efficient, and it’s a workflow that I’ll probably consider doing more with in the future. Similarly, I also really enjoyed working in stop motion. I think both processes seem very relaxing and therapeutic, and I think the repetitive nature of both methods is appealing to me. Creating each individual frame provides a clear, methodical basis for any animation, and helps me map the structure out in my head. Both stop motion and hand-drawing have more of a physical aspect to them, which I prefer as it is more ‘hands-on’ and practical, even if it is sometimes time-consuming.
With doing all these tasks I have learnt the importance of creating reference footage to work from. These tasks are impossible to do well without basing the animation on something as there are so many parts to consider. This is because so many unconscious things happen when these exercises are done, and they would not be noticed without studying the reference footage. It is easy to forget how many different parts of your body are moving, each with different muscles in a different way at a different speed, just when completing a simple task that we would do without thought. Also, performance is something to be gained from having lots of reference, which is difficult to just create out of thin air. By using references, my understanding of the human body has grown and the way in which body parts are linked together when they move, which will be a useful tool to have in the future when animating more complex movements.