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5 Tips for Animation Success

5 Tips for Animation Success

Joel Simon is one of Ireland’s most successful and award winning animators. Joel started the Flickerpix studio a number of years ago winning an IFTA award for the brilliant ‘Horn OK Please’ and the group are currently adding the final touches to a special Comic Relief animation to be aired during this year’s fundraiser on BBC 1. Joel takes us through his top 5 tips for animators.

It’s been 13 arduous year since I first had this ‘eureka’ moment which left me no choice but to throw myself headlong into the amazing world of animation…

Before I adopt my stance behind the lectern and impart entirely subjective advice on how to become an animation ‘pro’, I have to confess that I came to animation, like so many before me, by accident, and by just playing around (with a Super 8 camera, a tripod and some clay models, on a ?20 budget).

1. Have a Go !

This is the best way to tackle any art form, any medium, any creative technique… the best way to figure out if animation is for you is really to dabble in the medium and to be playful and open-minded, not to be put off early failures, unsatisfactory results, crumbling models. Everything seems daunting at first, nothing works. remember to keep your tasks simple at first and enjoy the little tasks, the small movements.

2. Try to make what you already love watching

In other words, if you are particularly drawn to computer animation, explore what it takes to make these kind of animations. Or is it Wallace & Gromit that gets you excited? Family Guy? Or something more experimental?

Whichever technique you are particularly drawn to as a viewer will be better for you to ‘dabble with’ as you will become more critical in analysing what works, and doesn’t, in other people’s work. It will also make you more aware of what is out there already.

May seem obvious, but many animation students create work in a vacuum, unaware of what is out there, what is possible, and there is nothing wrong with ‘borrowing’ heavily from artists you admire. Hey, we all do it..

3. Love the function not the result

Animation must be one of the most time-consuming, painstaking ways of making a film, even with the extraordinary leaps in technology; which we have benefited from in the last 2 decades.

With animation, you tend to build a film, bit by bit, over a prolonged period, and usually the more planned and prepared the easier the process.

But what makes it all the more bearable is to actually enjoy the bit you are doing: the building process, be this drawing, modelling, texturing, shooting…

Usually the resulting film is exciting to view at first, especially with family & friends, but after the tenth viewing, I‘m afraid it’s all down hill…

Soon your early films will look shockingly amateurish, compared to your hottest new release.


4. Draw, Draw, Draw

No matter what your chosen animation technique, or particular skill; being able to draw will ALWAYS be your advantage and set you apart from other animators.

I continuously receive showreels and CV’s from animation graduates, eager for a job. Sadly, some of the lesser animation degrees out there fail to give their students this all-important training, concentrating more on the technical aspects of animation.

However, being able to draw characters well (and understand human anatomy from life drawing classes) is a strength which manifests itself in whatever you do, and any animation studio will spot this skill a mile off, when viewing your student showreel.

5. Any Experience is Good Experience.

Finally, and this is standard advice for any budding artist:

In art, practice is everything, unless you’re an art critic.. No academic grades, qualifications, fancy titles or recommendations can change that.. Sheer practical experience will make you a better artist, more confident, original and ‘relaxed’ in your chosen medium..

That’s why the opportunity to do work in a professional environment (no matter how lowly the pay) should never be missed. And if trainee gigs are hard to come by (they are in animation studios these days), the next best thing is to animate your own projects, with whatever means you have, this is pretty much the route I have chosen, 13 years ago when I couldn’t get arrested for an animation job anywhere..

With tons of ambitions but no money; an experienced, well-known cinematographer told me “sometimes in the desert you gotta make your own rain”. That became my mantra to this day.


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