Saturday, September 24, 2011

Animated Thoughts: Thistle Threads Goldwork Class

Well, the Goldwork Master Class project for Thistle-Threads is officially over. This project started back in 2008 when Dr. Wilson-Nguyen approached me about creating an animated zig-zag/ladder stitch for a museum display. The video was so well received that she came back to me a couple months later and asked me if I'd be interested in creating another twenty-seven animations for an 'online university' that would be hosted on her website.

So, what did I learn from creating twenty-nine animations of 18th Century English gold-and-silk stitches using Adobe Flash? Tons about creating and manipulating masks in Flash. But one of the most important things I learned during this multi-year project was how important it is to make a schedule and stick to it. One of my mentors from R.I.T., Carl "Skip" Battaglia, once told me that you should always leave the last drawing on your desk unfinished, that way you would know exactly where to start the next day instead of wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.

Following his advice, I broke the project down to two stitches per month, then separated them further into their component parts--the work to be performed in a two-week period along with checkpoints for each day. Working this way, with a series of checkpoints and checklists to mark off when each stage had been reached helped me stay on task for each stitch--some of which would vary greatly in scale and complexity. It also allowed me to work ahead when time presented itself. If I could finish a simple stitch in one week, I did so, then identified another simple stitch that could be animated in the remaining week or I worked ahead on a more complex stitch (which would invariably give me three weeks for a more complex stitch rather than just two). Then, as Skip suggested, when I was done working for the day, I would identify exactly where I needed to pick up on the stitch the next day, and then shut the computer down. Whenever I deviated from these practices, my animations suffered for it. I was still able to complete the stitch animations, however, sticking to the schedule provided me the necessary time to solve problems, polish animations, and even fit in an extra "bonus" animated stitch (the original project called for twenty-six animations).

Another thing worthy of note is the value of templates. Once I identified the parts of the Flash animations that were identical for each stitch animation, I created a template that would be used for the basis of each stitch animation file. Not only did I not have to duplicate work each time a new stitch was started, but I also was able to maintain a high degree of visual consistency between each stitch animation.

So. Where do i go from here? Well, apparently Doc Nguyen has another idea for a class that will need a whole lot of web development and another nine to twelve stitch animations... Time to apply those lessons learned!