Our second assignment for Comm Lab: Animation was to create an animation using After Effects. For this project I worked solo. This is the first thing I’ve done at ITP all by myself (well, besides some ICM and Physical Computing weekly assignments). My evaluation of the experience is: I prefer to work with others, especially when learning new skills. I had never used Photoshop or After Effects prior to this assignment and I think the process would have been more satisfying if I’d been working with someone who could bring a little bit of knowledge of the programs, or at least another brain with which to puzzle through the possibilities.
I started this project by looking for materials that would become my assets. I knew I wanted to do something that used real materials, like books or photos, instead of something created digitally. I have a great book of animal skeletons and I decided to use that as my starting place. On each page there is a simple black and white photo of a different animal’s skeleton: a bat, a giraffe, a penguin, a cat. In continuing my search, I found I also had a number of books about or containing penguins. The best one by far is a coloring book. So from there I developed a simple story about a penguin who turns into a skeleton.
I thought a penguin would be an easy asset to create: scan the pages, color them in, cut them out. That did turn out to be the easiest part. Creating the world that this penguin lives in for thirty seconds was much harder. I started to play around with water, sky, clouds, icebergs. I needed to bring some color in somewhere, but I’m not very good with design and I know that color can get out of control, so I kept it monotone: the sky and water blueish would be blueish, everything else black and white.
Then I began to bring my assets into After Effects. Marianne advised us to work in very short compositions and to layer compositions within compositions. This sounds reasonable enough but I had no idea what it would take to do this until I started working. I started really small — I made a penguin on an iceberg move a little bit. Then I did that again. And again. I figured out how to put the background in a composition. I did my best to make positioning consistent between compositions. I decided I wanted something else to go on. I went back to the coloring book and found a little leaping penguin. I made that guy into an asset! It was good but not enough. I needed clouds! I needed changing directions! I needed lightening! I made that stuff and kept working, nesting compositions in compositions and trying my best to keep meticulous track of positions and timing.
The result was a very amateur piece, complete with jumpiness, misalignments, and confusion. But I showed it in class anyway! After all, it was the best I could do and I had only learned the program one week before, right?
I got some good feedback from the class and we were all given another day or so to make changes and turn in the final file. In that time, I was able to refine the piece to make it a little more smooth and understandable. It’s still not perfect by any means, but I think it’s a pretty good start!
Learning about the integration of the Adobe Creative Suite applications has been hugely helpful. Using Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere together for this project was seamless and made the production and editing so simple. I’m looking forward to working more with these programs and getting to know them really well.