Taking a well-deserved break from her day job as the Receptionist here at VFS, Lindsay MacKinlay spent last week taking part in the Animation Summer Intensive. This Intensive encompasses the 3D Animation & Visual Effects, Classical Animation, and Digital Character Animation programs at VFS. Lindsay loves drawing and animation, so she was thrilled to be able to take part. Read on for a first-hand account of Lindsay’s experience.
Guest Post by Lindsay MacKinlay
Well, the first day of the Animation Summer Intensive has concluded and I’m totally excited for more! We started the day learning some Classical Animation basics. Using a technique called “flipping” we breathed life into a sack of flour as we drew it leaping from a table top onto the floor, one frame at a time. It’s amazing how you can take an inanimate thing, like a sack of flour, give it personality, and even make it cute!
I was so pleased to see my little bag of flour come alive once each page was inputted into the Flipbook software. He jumped and landed just like he was supposed to! Watching this happen made each amateur animator smile. They had created something!
This small bit of animating gave me a new appreciation for the animators on feature length classically animated films, like those from Disney in years past which were created without the use of computers. Every frame needed to be hand drawn again and again with many retouches to get every movement, every gesture, and every nuance perfect before it could be put in the film. Amazing.
During the second half of the day, we worked on making an original character, largely by trying to find inspiration in everyday objects. Our instructor, Andy Bartlett, told us about many well-known animated characters have been based on objects. This gives the character some dynamic visual interest and helps build a back-story.
Woody from Toy Story was modeled after the archetypal yellow pencil. It was meant to represent classical animation making way for new CG animation. CG animation was represented by Buzz Lightyear, who himself was modeled after Mac prototypes of the time. The character of Anton Ego in Ratatouille was modeled after a coffin to add to his sinister presence and character.
I can’t wait for what the next few days bring!
Day 2 & 3
We’re halfway through the Animation Intensive and really learning a lot.
On Tuesday, we had a life-drawing session. This was definitely intimidating for a lot of the students, as many had never spent much time drawing before, let alone an in the flesh nude model. I have done some life-drawing before, so it wasn’t so new to me, though it was new to look at drawing from the perspective of an animator – to really get the weight and over-exaggerate some movements, and work with straight lines and curves to accentuate tension and looseness. It was challenging.
Through the latter part of the day, we took on animating a walk cycle in 2D. This was not as formidable as I would have thought. Animating walking seems like one of the most difficult basics to master, but overall I think everyone was able to achieve a happy little ball putting one foot in front of the other without too many problems.
On Wednesday, we learned a bit of the history of animation. It was nice to be introduced to some beautiful films which you don’t normally get to see, such as The Old Man and the Sea by Alexander Petrov. Some of the work done by these animators is really extraordinary!
In the afternoon, we were introduced to Autodesk Maya, the quintessential 3D animating and modeling software. Using Maya, we animated a bouncing ball. The program is definitely intimidating for someone who’s never used it before – like me! There are so many tools, buttons, and planes to work with that you can get lost! But instructor Colin Giles was great at clearly demonstrating what we needed to focus on and how to get from point A to point B (and all the little tweaks in between). Definitely lots more fun to be expected with Maya.
Day 4 & 5
The Animation Summer Intensive has come to an end, and I feel like I have learned so much in just one week. During the last two days we continued working with Maya, trying our hands at Camera Projections. This is a type of visual effect where you take a 2D image of something in reality, and recreate it in Maya in 3D so that you can manipulate it and add camera moves that might be impossible or impossibly expensive if you tried to achieve them in the real world.
This was probably the most challenging thing that I did during the week, as it is such a finicky process. Despite my execution difficulties, it was really cool to see the basic process of creating a Camera Projection, something which is applied to so many films these days.
The final thing we covered this week was 3D Modeling. For this we used a program called ZBrush, which was so awesome and much more intuitive than Maya. It was like manipulating a piece of virtual clay. You can push, pull, morph, bend and create anything you want! I was a bit clumsy at moving about within the program, having never have used it or a tablet before, but some of the creations around the room were fantastic, and in such a short period of time!
I think we all wished that we could have had more time with ZBrush and the chance to work on one character and build it up over a few days. We did have the opportunity to see some work that current Animation students were doing and the detail on those models was phenomenal! They’ll spend a couple of months working on a character in ZBrush, and then bring it in to Maya to rig it – attach handles or manipulators for each articulation on the figure in order to facilitate animation. You can definitely see the effort and the skill involved.
All in all, I found this week to be inspirational. I haven’t spent much time drawing over the past several years, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it. It was also fantastic to be able to get an introduction to so many basics in animation, as so much of the software is so expensive, and therefore difficult to acquire to just play around with in your spare time. I could really see the possibilities and what kinds of things you can get into if you were to pursue animation. I also met some cool people from all over the world, all there for similar reasons. Now I want to make little characters to animate. To the drawing board!
Thanks Lindsay – sounds like it was an incredible week!