In the second guest blog in our Aardman Academy student diary series, Certificate in Character Animation student Evelyn Ross shares her experiences of week 4-6 of the Aardman and NFTS flagship course…
For week four we were asked to animate a character lifting a heavy object. Between the stop-motion and CG students we gave ourselves the options of lifting a paint bucket, a barrel, a cannon, a couch, and a basket full of bottles. One thing I noticed in animating a heavy object is that it involves A LOT of tiny incremental movement, so if you happen to bump your puppet out of the position, be prepared for a lengthy time in trying to re-position the puppet back into place. Also, I noticed weight is much more readable if the character slowly struggles to pick up an object and then slightly tosses the object up in the air and then catches it dramatically. The weight is easily seen in the quick drop of the arms after the character catches the heavy object. For the fifth week we animated character walks. This, to me, was an exciting week where I really got to see the depth of creativity among my peers. We had someone animate a zombie walk, a sexy villain walk, a baby walk, and a walk where a character was trying to steal a monkey! I decided to animate a snake and had my character walk nervously around it. Everyone seemed very confident in their animations this week because of our previous walk studies from week three… We must be learning! For week six, we animated running scenes with impact. We also had the option of using some of the newer puppets from Aardman’s latest feature ‘Early Man’. We had Hognob, Treebor, Asbo, and a couple of football players to choose from. We learned this week that you can really get away with a lot if you’re animating a fast movement because faster movement involves less frames therefore the audience has less frames to visually digest. For example, a typical run cycle is usually eight frames per cycle whereas a normal walk is 12 frames. Since the run involves less frames that are farther apart, it ends up being easier to animate in comparison to the walk cycle.
Lastly, and probably the most memorable moment on the course yet. We all had the honor in meeting the animation master himself, Richard Williams, who was the lead animator on ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, ‘The Christmas Carol’, ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’, and the author of ‘The Animators Survival Guide‘. He’s basically an animation god walking among us. Here is a photo of everyone probably being just as starstruck as I was.