In the past few days I've been following and contributing to the comments for a post Kevin Koch made on his awesome blog, SynchroLux. During that conversation I had an idea..... read more.


frank said...

Hi Ian.

I think a skill level "thermometer" graphic on each post to an education animation link would be a nice basic start.

As an animation educator and experienced in working in the industry, I think you are the obvious style of animator to take on the role and development of guiding us students through the swamp.

A system a bit like the chilli grading system on the take-away Indian restaurant menu. Beginners start with one chilli and more experienced diners can go for 5 chillies!

It's a simple visual add on to each post.

Initially subjective, as judged by you. But as you discover similar systems on other animation educator blogs and sites a more objective system can be developed by consensus in discussion with other animation educators.

Don't get paralysis analysis and overthink it.

Start putting the chillies on the posts. Start the BIG BANG and let evolution take it from there.

Dana said...

I like the idea Ian, it'd be really useful. I also liked the synchrolux post on animating from the gut and getting into the "zone"
I agree that as a student I find it hard to get into the zone with my friends around me. Then again, I don't really have much of an animation zone yet, needs improvement (getting better though, I think those animation work-outs have been helping with that)
I like Franks idea with the animation grading system thing, it'd be easy to use and you could go up anyother level when ever you felt like it.

Fear the hypnotic power of Deviantart that looms over all of us!! Well....mainly 1st years..I don't know how many 2nd years have DA accounts

Ian said...

Thanks for the input Frank and Dana, my two most regular commentors :)

I'm not sure if a rating system tacked onto the blog as it is will do the trick though. I think its seeing the order that is important, a rating is pretty subjective.

This could easily be leading nowhere, but I'm thinking of a more fundamental shift. Something that visualy lays things out in a recomended order so you can work your way along a list and say, "Yeah I know that, that, that, ooh not so much about that, I must be up to there."

I think it can be bad for a student or discouraging for them to focus on complex things when they still have work to do on more fundamental things. If blog posts were rated, I don't know if people would not read an article based on wether they thought they were up to that level or not. More likely they would base the decision on the tilte and pictures.

I'm not precious about the ARC, I just want it to help as much as I can manage.

Sam said...

It's a great idea which would take some planning, but would be awesome if executed in a way that's easy to understand, and is able to scale up so that it's still as easy to navigate when it inevitably triples in size. :)

The first step would be to gather all the articles you want in front of you (which will be epic in itself), then try to form some system for categorising that seems to work for everything.

Eg. At the top level it could be divided into Beginner/Intermediate/Expert. Then below those could be sub-categories like Acting/Workflow/Polish/etc. Or it could work the opposite way with top level categories like Acting/etc being subdivided into Beginner/Intermediate/Expert. This kind of thing can be tough with lots of questions like "does X need its own category or do I include it with Y under category Z".

Once you have all the articles in front of you (possibly even printed out so you can shuffle them around) you'll be able to get a clearer sense of the big picture, and with a bit of reshuffling the clearest method of grouping the articles should start to emerge. It'll need to be robust enough to accommodate everything, from articles on video reference to lateral thinking, alongside the core animation principles.

I find the best way to see if your system is structured well is to look at it from two user's perspectives:
1) The person who comes looking for something very specific - is it obvious where they'll find that article?
2) The person who comes with no real agenda - can they browse around or follow a clear linear progression without being overwhelmed?

I do enjoy planning these things (the boffins call it 'information architecture'). I've probably got a lot more to say on the topic so if you see me online (outside work hours) feel free to bounce ideas off me.

frank said...

The chilli idea, or maybe they could be "Ollies", was just to get the process started. Something that would keep the spark of a good idea alive while it was fanned into a flame. A prototype, rather than overthinking the idea and not doing anything.

Sam has already stepped it along nicely and a bit further. His descriptions reminds me of the layout of some of the key animation reference texts.

Maybe just looking how The Animator's Survival Hit or The Illusion of Life designed their layouts will suggest a starting architecture for an animation ramble map?

But then a "ramble map" is an oxymoron, I guess?

Ian said...

The story I have heard about how the Illusion of Life came to be in the format it is is interesting.

Apparently Frank and Ollie wanted to write a book for animators, the ultimate animators reference book, I guess it would have been like Richard William's Survival Kit only better, because he was mainly recounting in his own words what he had learnt from some of the nine old men. The problem was that the publishers didn't think there would be a big enough market for a book like that so they pressed Frank and Ollie to tell stories about the Walt Disney Studios and the animators who worked there. To be able to keep the information they wanted in the book they had to thread the information about animating in amongst the stories about the studio. The information in there is the best you can get, I bet the best animators in the world still use the information in there now. But if you want to be sure you have all of the info from it you virtually have to read it from cover to cover, if you are trying to use it as a reference then it can be increasable frustrating. Some times you have to scan one chapter for information about something, then go to another chapter and start scanning again for what comes next, I was working at Disney when I read it so I had inside info on the things they were referring to, but I doubt that a novice reading it ever gets a complete picture in their head of the process.

Richards book has its issues too, I think he plunges into to much detail at first. His chapter on walks is my favourite example. I think in the first few pages he covers the mechanics of a walk better than any other text, so much better than Preston Blair who just seems to say, copy this and you have a walk. But the mas of visual information that follows in that chapter is so daunting, I'd rather he spent more time focussing on balance and weight issues within the walk rather than trying to cover every possible variation. To this day after 13+ years in the biz within a variety of contexts I'll fess up and say there are still moments within a walk where I'm not sure if the character should be on or off balance, I've herd animators I respect say the character should not be off balance for a single frame and others say that walking is the art of constantly falling over without hitting the ground (I presume that means off balance), and many variations in between. In the end I just have to go with my gut and practice, practice, practice. I've animated hundreds of walks and haven't had any complaints in my commercial work, but in a short piece I made for my reel some years ago, my friend Matt (an Animation Mentor Student) suggested that he could see some problems in the body mechanics (I think in the walk) so I probably still have more to learn.

I should point out that I have nothing but respect for these texts, they are so much better than I could do.

Out of the two options you have sighted Sam I probably favour the one that has things categorised by their place in the process, then breaks them up based on complexity, that's where the Ollie's could come into play Frank :)

Thanks to everyone so far for there input, I'd love to hear more.