Taking the computer out of computer animation

Many of us are enjoying the art form of animating on the computer. No longer are expensive cameras and stacks of drawing paper needed to complete a vision of animated character. For a few hundred bucks we can strive to join the ranks of Pixar or Disney and create our own animated film. With this freedom however we often forget that the computer like everything else that appears to save us time can create as many problems as it solves.

As easy as it is to find a cheap and suitable animation package, it’s just as easy to set a few keys frames. I see many young students and animators who’ll set two or three keys then call home to their mom and say “Hey mom, I’m an animator.” With that being said we simply state SETTING KEYFRAMES DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ANIMATOR. Animation is the study of motion and emotion. It’s creating a convincing character that the audience loves or hates. The computer allows animators to do this very well as evidenced by some of the great computer animated films and characters that have come out in the last few years. But not surprisingly the ease at which artists can make characters move is creating a lot of animation that lacks those necessary qualities that makes animation great.

As many of you know, when we set keyframes in our animation software the program interpolates the actions between them. Basically, the “computer” is acting as an in-betweener. This sounds great doesn’t it? We can set a few poses then hit the render button and everything is moving around. We’re animating right? Not so fast.

This is where the computer starts to take control over the decisions WE should be making. The machine wants to create those in-between poses, but it’s not considering things like physics or motion and it is certainly not smart enough to understand human emotion. It’s basically doing what computers do best… it’s finding the fastest way to solve the equation. It’s moving our characters from point A to point B as well as it knows how. This more often than not isn’t the result we are looking for.

All in all, the general rule to animating effectively on the computer is that it is better to set MORE than LESS keyframes to create something that will come alive. This is not to say that you need to go crazy and have all the controllers or joints of your character keyframed at every frame. We are simply pointing out that in order to create animation people will respond to, be conscious of what YOU can do to create that believability. Be vigilant in your approach to keyframing. By the time you are finished with a scene, all of the choices in how your character is animated are controlled by your own decisions. Once you begin to implement this approach into your animation you will begin to create characters that even your mom would be proud of…. and then and only then…. can you call her and say that you are an animator. After all these information, if you want to know more about professional animation and visual effects, click here. Good luck.

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Tips for Book & Film Distribution-Pre-production

Movie director holding a clap board

Series on Production, Packaging, Marketing and Finding a Distributor

This is the first part in a series of articles offering tips for writers and independent film makers on preparing their product for optimal distribution and marketing opportunities.

Selina Yoon, consultant and founder of Master Communications, Inc., breathes a deep sigh as she dials the phone for a tough call. The independent producer she is calling has submitted a high-quality DVD, but the title isn’t marketable for a variety or reasons. To prevent more calls like this one, she’s willing to offer some tips she’s picked up after years of working with TV, consumer goods, publishing for international and North American markets.

Target your Marketing Audience

When a distributor asks a client what age group they plan to target, often the response is, “My product appeals to all age groups.” This is a a big, red flag, according to Yoon. It’s untrue and hinders marketing. Some of the greatest works of all time cover a wide age span, but nothing appeals to everyone. Can you imagine a group of preschoolers sitting and listening to The Chronicles of Narnia? Or a theater filled with single adults all eager to watch The Velveteen Rabbit? Knowing your target age range streamlines your story line and delivery. It also helps with packaging design and marketing strategies.

Analyze Writing and Video Marketing

Consider the marketability of your product and make sure that your interests match the market’s needs. Perhaps you have an obsession with all topics related to the Civil War. Check out the titles already on the market related to the Civil War, especially in the age group you targeted. Don’t forget to look at upcoming releases. Make sure your idea has a unique spin that will make it stand out on a crowded shelf.

If you are a filmmaker, consider making a film based on a popular book. Yoon notices that this type of film tends to sell well. If you are a book writer, check out important events coming down the pike. If your book highlights the nuances of language, write it in time to have a release during literacy month. Books with releases that coincide with current events grab a buyer’s attention.

Book and Video Production Mediums

Think carefully about your medium in relation to your product’s targeted age range and your own budget. If you plan to create a book, consider whether you want to make a picture book, graphic novel or novel. Do you want cloth pages or pop-up images or other special features? Think about your competitors. How will your product stand out?

For filmmakers, animation is a tough medium. To gain an edge with an animated title and bring your movie to the forefront in an over-saturated market, you will most likely need a vehicle for merchandising and a savvy marketing agenda, with some help from a motion graphics company. As you determine your medium, don’t forget to consider licensing and costs. In filming, live-action costs less than animation. Some independent producers like to combine live-action and animation. You can learn more about this with VFX LA.

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