Get started with animation
Animation is an optical illusion of movement. It is a quick display of a series of images, drawings or photos.
It does not require much technical knowledge or expensive equipment to make animation. It requires that you have a camera and a laptop / desktop computer / ipad. In addition, materials in the form of paper / clay / wax can be used to create figures and landscapes. You can also use dolls and other objects to animate with.
The technique you work with is called ‘stop motion’ – the same technique that has been used to make the cartoons ‘Cirkeline’, ‘Benny’s Bathtub’ and ‘South Park’.
The process behind an animated film can look like this: Idea, Research, Synopsis, Storyboard, Figure and background design, Animation, editing and sound
A good idea
Every film starts from an idea of wanting to tell something to someone. An experience, a feeling, an opinion, a performance or whatever it might be. The idea can arise in yourself, shared in the class or you may have been given an assignment where you have to animate a story, for which you have to find the form and frame narrative.
It is important that you find out what you think is important to talk about. It can definitely be seen in your final film.
When you have an idea for a story, start writing it down, rewrite it, and be critical of your story. Walk away from it a bit, and come back and look at it with new fresh eyes. Is there anything that needs to be changed? Make a synopsis and then move on to the storyboard process.
A storyboard is a kind of cartoon of the story, and it is an important work tool when you get started with the animation itself.
The story and its structure are clearly shown in the storyboard and therefore you must relate to these 3 important elements in the storyboard:
- The good story
- The good picture
- The film language
If you draw the storyboard on post-it, it is easy to move around and replace the pictures.
Start where it’s easy! Maybe it’s in the middle of the film, and it’s okay. Work on from there, the other pictures will come easier later.
Often the total pictures come first, when you draw. They are easiest to draw and go to. Put close-up pictures along the way.
A small tip is that the action most often happens in a total image and followed by one or more reactions, which happen in close-ups. Thus, there is a shifting movement between total and close-ups. It creates a good dynamic and rhythm in the film.
Character and background design
- Deliberate character design enhances the film’s expression and narrative.
- Create the character in accordance with the character description that has emerged during the work on the synopsis. Is it an evil person or a good person, tall or short, etc. Round soft lines express something nice, pointed angular figures are not so pleasant. Adjectives are used in the character structure.
- The figures must have movable joints. It is e.g. a good idea to see in the storyboard if the character needs to be able to move the legs and arms.
- Do not make too many characters for a film. 3 characters are better than 10. They all have to be moved, and it takes time.
- Do not make the characters too small and do not make too many details. The height of your hand is a very good measuring ratio.
- Make eyes and mouth separate from head so they can be moved. Then the characters can blink and change expressions, thus giving even more life to your animated film.
- Make larger shapes for close-ups
- The colors of the characters must stand out from the background colors otherwise the figures may be difficult to see in the film.
- Deliberate background design helps to substantiate the action and support the characters.
- The backgrounds are the good images and they must support the action and content of the film. Is there e.g. talk about a garden belonging to an evil person, it must be barren and bare.
- The composition of the background should create space to direct attention to the characters that appear.
- Always make sure that the backgrounds are firmly fixed with sticky tack before animating. Do not glue or tape.
- Always make the backgrounds larger than necessary. Crop with the camera.
- Never glue things on the background, as it is often difficult to judge the image cropping without the camera. Use Sticky Tack instead.
- Never use the bottom line as a floor.
- The action must take place approx. in the middle of the image.
Animation is the move with the characters that are recorded in individual images. When the images are played back as a film, it will look like the characters are alive.
- Use 2 hands when moving the figures.
- Hold the character with one hand and move with the other hand.
- Move only one character at a time.
- Attach the characters that do not need to be moved with sticky tack.
- Watch your film continuously so that you can always relate to your story and your animation. Does it fit together? and remember to judge the speed of your film when you see it through, so you can be sure that there is room for speaking.
Here are some simple animation rules for how to move your characters:
- Short moves give a slow movement
- Large moves give a quick movement
- Here it is a matter of gaining experience, so that the distance that is moved gives the expression that one would like to have.
- Always start a movement up slowly so that the distance can be increased gradually.
Down before up and up before down
For example, if a figure is to jump up, then the figure must first go down on its knees and then jump up.
One thing at a time
Only one thing can happen on the screen at a time. The audience can not perceive any more. Think about how impossible it is to catch two balls at once. So if there are several characters in motion in the picture, the audience gets confused and does not know where it is important to look. This is not to say that there can not be several things in motion at once, but then it must be built up quietly.
Pauses in the movement are just as important as the movement itself. It provides clarity and gives time for any dialog.
The pauses are also an easy way to get a longer film.
Every time something new has to happen, there has to be a pause, and when a movement is done, there has to be a pause as well.
Pauses are made by taking pictures / filming many times from the same position.
It is difficult to remember making the pauses, so it is important that you help each other and use the storyboard in the process
The sound is a very important co-player that can completely change the mood of the animated film.
We often work with sound on 3 different levels:
- Speech (dialogue / a monologue)
- Foley sounds
Speech (Dialogue / a monologue)
The speech points forward towards the next action, not what is going on. If you see a character picking up a stone, you should not say: “Now I pick up a stone”, but instead say “now I want to hit him right in the neck with it”
Music can be used in the intro, outro and to create a certain mood during your film. You can either make music for your animation yourself, perhaps with the help of a music teacher or you can download CODA-free music online. You may NOT download copyrighted music online. This will mean that your film cannot be shown in public.
Foley sounds are sound effects, and something that is fun to make yourself. Foley sound is the recording of the door going up, one going up a stairs, the kettle boiling, the TV running, the cars making noise in the cityscape, etc. Give yourself time to play with finding the sounds in the surroundings.
They can also be found on the internet, but it can quickly take quite a long time and require some technical skill.
Start the sound already in the previous clip and never stop the sound right next to the clip. Let the sound fade in and out. It makes the film more enjoyable to watch and listen to.
Work with the sound on the mentioned 3 levels. The levels can be included at the same time. There should preferably be no silence in the film for long periods of time unless it is a cinematic grip to emphasize a mood or action. So manage to fill the film with speech, music or foley sounds.