So this last Thursday I give my first guest lecture to the animation students at Southbank Institute of Technology since leaving as a teacher and rejoining the industry. On the whole things seemed to go pretty well, and thankyou to all the new people I met and old friends who came along. I used the occasion to announce my student animation challenge. TAAADAAAA!

That's right! Sounds crazy don't it. Produce a minimum of 2 seconds of animation 6 out of every 7 days. But stay with me please there is logic to to my madness (I hope).

You see for all the great blogs, all the great books and all the great teachers, lecturers and mentors there is still one great reason why many who study animation never reach an employable standard of work. They simply don't produce enough animation, my new mantra has become, The Learning Of Animation Is In The Doing Of It.

As a student of animation how often do you go home at the end of the day not actually having done any animation? Courses have to meet criteria and jump through legislative hoops that mean they usually can't just have class after class of animating, and maybe that wouldn't be a good thing anyway. I'm talking about you taking on the responsibility to pick up the slack. If you have classes in a day that will involve you producing some animation then you're covered, but on other days you need do something about it.

Every single day there should be time set aside to practice the use of timing and spacing (maybe some posing too). These things are a wonderful never ending riddle and every moment you can find to explore them is precious. And why did I make it 6 days a week? Well just because I want you to know this is bloody serious people, yes I want your weekend time too! (grin)

Of course I can't accurately quantify how much this will improve your work or employability, but just think about it for a bit. Apply it to anything really. If you do something for at least a couple of hours every single day for a couple of years you will get better at it. Its so simple. You still need to learn new stuff of course, but just as much emphasis has to be put on putting things into practice and an unavoidable fact with animation is that this is going to take some time. All I'm asking is that you make the time.

There have been a few things that have led me to this idea, one was seeing how my own skills kicked up a notch as soon as I was back into production, another was watching what happened to some of my better students who graduated last year over the past few months. Unfortunately the economic crisis means that no matter how good they are, it will be a while before there are jobs around for them, those who have kept animating are continuing to learn and improve while others are sadly fading from view. And there was this youtube clip I stumbled across, its from a blog called Awake @ The Wheel, its a bit cheesy in a self help kind of way and he is talking about business ideas not animating. But the principle is universal I think. If you want to be an animator you have to start being a productive animator TODAY!

So on the rare occasions when you don't have some animation to do set by your teachers, what kinds of things might you animate I wonder. Well I might put some ideas in the comments of this post some time this weekend. Why don't you put some in there too :)


Frank said...

Hey Ian.

When I wrote my post: Thinking vs Planning and Doing, I had found some good quotes in my student note book that you encouraged us to use for 3D classes. I think it is safe to reveal who the animator who used to say, "The learning of animation is in the doing of animation." That is because you are still saying it.

I think a good thing to animate is 2 seconds from a favourite animated film, be it a physical action, or an emotion. Why not test yourself against the animators that you admire? is my thought. (Just don't get sucked into watching the film instead of animating).

Alonso said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alonso said...

(oops, silly blogger mistake)

I think this is a brilliant post! I've read every animation book out there, and the entire internet, and I KNOW that I would be miles further along if I had spent that time just DOING it! It's easier to keep searching for the perfect tutorial, the perfect workflow, it's more efficient to just discover it yourself. Theres a difference between knowledge and applicable skill.

Ian said...

Hey Frank - Great idea. You could even rondomly pick a scene (from any movie) using the fast scan and pause button and animate what is in that scene.As long as its nothing too epic.

Hey Alonso - Thanks heaps for your comment. Great to have some back up from another experienced animator. The fact that you can relate from all the way over on the other side of the world just goes to show how universal this thing is. I really value that you take the time to chime in every now and then :)

Ian said...

I think I'll post ideas over the weekend as they come to me, but here are some for now.

They could be done with a free rig in Maya (best for industry relivance), with a stick figure on paper or with a tablet, or with some simple presetup think in Flash. As long as you are using timing and spacing for an effect its not a big deal.


- A tree falling.
- A car speeding off.
- A bird landing.
- A plane crashing.
- A character getting angry, for that matter any and all emotional changes.
- A character being hit by a ball.
- A character throwing a ball.
- A character throwing a heavy rock.
- A character slumping into a chair.
- A character standing up.
- A character getting a fright.
- A character seeing a spider.
- A bag of microwave popcorn (being heated)
- A fish out of water.
- A frog in a sock.
- A ginade landing and exploding.
- A character diving for cover.
- A phone ringing.
- A character answering the phone.
- A character agreeing with what they are hearing, or disagreeing.
- A giant stomping on a house.
- A giant falling over.
- A character bursting out through a door.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great talk and post,Ian, and for the guidance on subject matter re: THE challenge. Good idea, Frank.

Ian said...

Hey Michelle - Thanks so much for coming along and commenting. Commenting from students is rare and very much apreciated so I know I'm not just ranting into the nothingness of internet space.

Ian said...

How about...

- A character clutching its head in dispare.
- A character slapping it head as if it just said something stupid.
- A character threatening to poke someone in the eye.
- A character who has just taisted something disgusting or delicious.
- A character who thinks it is smarter than who it is listening to.
- A character swelling up with pride as it recieves some praise.
- A character watching a scary movie.
- A character trying to take operate a complicated DVD player.
- A character doing or failing to do a rubics cube.
- A character trying to catch a fly with chopsticks.
- A character falling out of its chair.
- A character leaning on something only to find that it gives way and falls over.
- A character who is a burgler trying to carefully remove a painting from the wall.


Frank said...

eye blinks.

Even the most worn-out-after-a-day-at-animation-school student could find the time to animate a few of these before bed.

C'mon all you need to set up is a facial camera or two simple eyes in Flash and there opens a portal to a world of different meanings in the timing and spacing of eye blinks!

I think Shawn Kelly, in his animation tips and tricks, has written one of the best eye blink references.

In it he talks about using video reference, filming yourself (maybe with just a webcam) as you have a conversation. Then study when, why and how you made your eye blinks AND animate them.

If that is not enough, move on to eye darts.

Ian said...

Oooh thats a good one Frank, and it has spurred some more ideas from me.

A casual glance.
Noticing something amazing.
Noticing something disgusting.
A burp
Remembering something amusing.
Remembering a past love.
Starting to say something but then forgetting what you were going to say.
Observing something cute.
Trying to remember where you put something.

Cassie said...

Hey, what about the character doing an action and then being distracted while doing the action :P Nice post Ian.

DJ Nicke said...

This is great advice that we should all put into ACTION immediately.

Andrew said...

Sweet Jeebers, that's a good post!

Thank you so much. I sincerely hope that one day (after much of the 'doing') i'll be in a similar position to help people as much as this has helped me.

If we just look at the same thing froma different angle a whole new set of experiences can open up - much like talking to other people i guess...

Again, Thank you.