Digital Tools for Artists: Conference Project Post-Mortem — An Exploration of Animation Techniques

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At the beginning of my final semester at Sarah Lawrence, I realized that digital animation was a form of art that I was mostly unfamiliar with. Since my sophomore year I’ve taken three oil painting classes, and one sculpture class… It was important to me to take advantage of these creative courses while I still had the time.

It took a few weeks for me to get the hang of the Adobe Creative Suite, but once I knew the ropes of the programs I took vantage of my lack of experience. Throughout the semester there wasn’t any one thing in particular that came to mind for what I wanted my conference project to be. Nor was there a specific artist that I was following with my creative method. At a certain point I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use most of the techniques I had learned in the course and explore them almost individually for my conference work. Angela and I spoke in conference and she told me to stick to the abstract, and that helped me fulfill these videos. With these final four videos, I aimed to show my growth and understanding in this class with Adobe After Effects in a minimalistic way.

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My four conference videos consisted of: a 1 minute video of a 3D tunnel centered on a vertical plain with a text fading up and out; a 2 minute video synced to the beats and happenings of an electronic song; a 1 minute video of a green square morphing into origami style shapes and animals; a 2 minute video of the masking evolution of a square. With these videos I purposefully chose not to have any specific direction, and allowed the Adobe program and my intuition to guide me alone.

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In a couple videos I struggled with the preciseness of some movements of position. In the tunnel video I really wanted the text to be perfectly centered coming into the screen and out of it, but didn’t succeed in doing so manually. One frustrating moment was when I was working on my morphing origami video… Later on in the video I had too many pen points from previous shapes that I had to delete a few to make the following shape easier to make. This resulted in those points deleting themselves from all previous keyframes. Consequently I had to go to the beginning of the video to add more points to complete the shapes I had already made. Another difficulty I faced was choosing the right color palettes. Well, “right” isn’t exactly the appropriate word. I mean to say that I like the color schemes I chose, and they pleased me, but in once instance the color contrast made it hard for the audience to see the animation well.

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I am very proud of my conference video that I synced up to a favorite song of mine (“Girl” by Jamie XX). This video was completed only after my conference critique, in which I showed two shorter videos. It was lucky that I waited to make this one, because I wouldn’t have struck such inspiration without having watched a couple other videos from the class. There were some specific effects I noticed other students had used and they were very appealing. It worked to my advantage that they went well with the animation of this video. One student used an effect called “fractal noise,” which I took to animate an otherworldly chorus in the song. I was also reminded of the use of particles, and how their constant movement would be great to animate ambient sound. I used another early technique, the repeater, to animate the bass in the beginning of the song… Making the repeater circle move from the center of the screen outwards in motion of the beat. Lastly, in the Girl video, I used the effect CC Scatterize to animated my mutated circle. With this effect, the object in question is manipulated to scatter into tiny particles, which I used to animate the final echoing beats of the song.

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Overall, I am content with how these conference videos came out. I believe that they show my creativity and growth from the class very well. In the beginning of my work on these videos, I had intended to make six individual ones consisting of a minute each to meet the conference project requirement. However, I reached a point where I realized I could show a lot more evolution of thought if I made some longer videos. Which is why two of my videos were extended to two minutes.

Author: Sophia Concha Huusko-Pattison