Friday, 24 September 2010

2D Digital Animation Developments: Evaluative review

The experience of developing the animations for this module has been a huge journey for me. I encountered many problems, but eventually found solutions and ultimately gained more knowledge of using video and masking techniques within Flash. I facilitated self directed learning with Premiere Pro in order for me to achieve my aims and also improved software skills within After Effects. Even with Flash, I initially encountered a fairly steep learning curve due to using an updated verstion of the software (from Macromedia Flash 8 to Adobe Flash CS4), but now feel that the overall experience has helped to improve my skills and knowledge vastly.

During 2009, I viewed an animated music video created by Kristofer Strom, Minilogue - Animals (2009), which won a silver prize at in the same year. I had previously been impressed by Strom's whiteboard animations that were used for the Carphone Warehouse campaigns, but when I saw Minilogue - Animals, I was captivated. It inspired me to think about using masking in Flash in order to combine 2D animation into live footage.

Minologue - Animals. Directed by Kristofer Strom

The simple, but lively animations blend into the footage and although the whole animation is pretty abstract and non-narrative – it successfully captures your attention as each scene jumps out at the viewer with intense vibrancy.
Another example of utilising mixed media and 2D animation is a trailer for the 2009 East End Film Festival, directed and designed by Lucy Izzard, an animation director and illustrator based at Slinky Pictures. Photographs were taken around the East End and were used within the animation to depict changing scenes, and as the foundation for the animated characters. 

  East End Film Festival trailer. Directed by Lucy Izzard

This trailer is a variation of the theme as it is an example of blending 2D animation with photography rather than film footage, but the simplistic style of the animation fits nicely within the photographic image.

This fusion of real footage and 2D animation communicates effectively within a wide range of mediums: music videos, TV idents/stings, web and TV Flash series’, TV and web advertising, educational animations, documentaries, film and TV intros, corporate training, animated shorts, viral YouTube promos, TV gap fillers, flash banners, film/TV/festival trailers; the opportunities are endless within our visually frenzied culture. There is still a place for 2D at the forefront of animation, particularly when used within a hybrid blend of mixed media. Immediately, this brings 2D into the 21st Century and it can look fresher and more stimulating than some of the mainstream, synthetic and hyperreal 3D that has now become the norm. In 2003, there was talk of animation being dead (Ryan Ball, 2D Animation: Dead, dying or Just Napping), but if 2D was caught napping; in 2010 - it is wide awake within the medium of mixed media. In the words of Lev Manovich, we are using ‘the language of hybridity’.
My first foray into experimenting with hybridity was by using film and masking within Flash - it worked out quite well and I did not encounter many problems – this was with Flash 8. Flash CS4 changed quite dramatically. One of the changes was that you can no longer directly import Quick Time movies – they have to be converted to FLV’s in Adobe’s Media Encoder, this was not too problematic, but adds to the overall timescale. Embedding a Quick Time movie into Macromedia Flash was very straightforward, I don’t know why Adobe have changed this.

There is currently an ongoing argument with Apple & Adobe due to the lack of support for Flash in the iPad, iPod Touch or the iPhone. Adobe rectified this with CS5, but Apple blocked that too. It was reported that Adobe were going to sue Apple for ‘restraint of trade’, and also rumours that Apple are developing their own version of Flash. There have been no official statements from Adobe or Apple, but the rumours are still ongoing.
There was talk of Adobe improving the importing of movies within Flash, I do not feel this is the case because when you import a movie and embed it into the timeline, it does not always import the sound effectively. This only happens when the movie was embedded into the timeline, not if the FLV was a player. Fortunately I did not need the whole of the movie’s sounds for the animation in which I was developing the masking technique and I also did not need any background sound kept with the time lapse footage, but if the sound had been needed throughout the movies, it would have meant that the sound would need to be stripped from the original footage and added separately, which would have lengthened the procedure.

I was pleased with the masking techniques used within the first animation. It was time consuming, but it was worth the effort. I had a few problems initially when I nested animations within movie clips and then masked them, because the nested animation would not work at all, but I realised that if I changed the mc’s to graphic symbols within the Properties Inspector, everything functioned again. I used the bone tool for the cloud carriers that hang from the ‘flying island’. The bone tool is new to CS4 and incorporates inverse kinematics, which uses an articulated structure of bones to create movement, this is more sophisticated and complex than using the hinge rotation technique. By focusing on the techniques, I felt that although I had a range of problems with the video camera that I used and consequently the quality of the footage, I managed to improve my knowledge and skills within Flash with this animation. Below are examples of some of the nested animations.
                             'flying island'

For the topic of Non linear time and space, I researched non linear dynamics, better known as the chaos theory: (accessed: 15.6.10) and  Topotransegrity – Non-Linear Responsive Environments – Robert Neumayr (accessed: 15.6.10).

The research led me to think about time lapse photography and  speeding and slowing down movement and putting different time levels into the same space.
My original thoughts for this animation were based around: 
  • the ebb and flow of the wind
  • Non linear urban environment - jumping from scene to scene in a non linear fashion - voyeuristic views into windows of high rise flats... jumping backwards and forwards in time.

The development of this animation also enabled me to learn new skills, but in a different software (Premiere Pro). I wanted to speed up and slow down the footage and searched for this technique and found a very good tutorial, which helped me to achieve my aims by using keyframes to set points within the timeline where I could speed up and slow down. I also experimented with time lapse photography, which I had never attempted before, which I found intriguing, but less easy to manipulate. I imported the edited footage into Flash, and used some masking within this movie, but not on the same scale as the first one. I also used nested animations, frame by frame, masking and rotoscope within this movie. 

Overall, this module has helped me to develop and enhance a range of skills in Flash, develop skills to take Flash into After Effects and to learn new skills in order to use software that is new to me in order to achieve my aims. 


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