Saturday, November 13, 2010

Animation Workshop: Pixilation

On the weekend of April 10, I drove to Toronto with my friend Jonathan to attend an animation workshop presented by the Toronto Animated Image Society. In keeping with my 'more time animating' mantra, I've been trying to take every available opportunity to learn and practice new animation styles and techniques as well as visit with other animators--whether they be in workshop groups or independents that are tooling away on their own films. Here in Michigan, we animators are spread out over a large distance with no real opportunities to meet up together outside of the yearly ASIFA/Central meeting or occasional ASIFA/Central meet-and-greet where a couple of us hook up to do something animation related. It's this sense of community that I really miss (and think that we are really missing out on). Yes, yes, I know "you should build your own community in Michigan." I'm working on it (more on that at a later date).

So, back to the TAIS workshops. Since I've been enjoyed the works of Norman McLaren and had never learned much about Pixilation--even though I've really enjoyed the works of PES and Oren LaVie--I figured that it was time to learn a new style of animation. Enter Bryce Hallett of Frog Feet Productions. Bryce is an independent animator who studied animation at Canadian powerhouse Sheridan College before striking out on his own to create Frog Feet Productions. In the past, Bryce also created the illustrations for Ellen Besen's book "Animation Unleashed".

Bryce demonstrating the art of pixilation.

As a member of TAIS, Bryce was kind enough to give us a brief history of the pixilation technique, show us examples (explaining how the animators performed some of the trickier sequences), and then provide us with a list of his own tips, tricks, and things to watch out for when we attempted our own pixilation movies. And then we were off to the parking lot with cameras, tripods, props and human puppets.

Despite the limited time we had during this two day session, everyone had the chance to work both in front of and behind the camera. And we all had the opportunity to see an idea of ours played out (mine was the butterfly animation above--an idea shamelessly stolen from an animation test that Jessica Bayliss performed while in college). Some of us worked through simple ideas designed to learn technique, some filmed one-cut gag films (like mine), but one group made an entire vignette about a boy and his ball which included multiple scenes, all filmed without having to delete frames from the camera and re-shoot.

By the time the workshop ended, not only had we all learned a new technique, but we had also had the opportunity to do two things that are so often lacking when working on client work: play and experiment. The TAIS workshops are like one big sandbox where you can play with your friends and nothing you do is wrong so long as you create, edit, revise, learn, and create again.