Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Animated Thoughts: TAIS Workshops in the time of COVID

Because of the lockdown, the Toronto Animated Image Society had moved all their workshops and courses online--with many of the workshops offered free to TAIS members. While there's nothing like an in-person workshop at the TAIS offices (and an "animation tour" visit to Toronto), taking a couple workshops online was a very cost-effective way to learn some new skills.

As I was in the middle of  the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival, the timing of this TAIS event was very fortuitous as it provided a very nice break from the screenings. As much as I enjoy screenings and panels, sometimes you want to get your hands dirty and interact with the subject matter.

My current workspace

This particular workshop was really interesting and rather unique. Titled 'Stop-motion in Small Spaces: Setting up a home studio', Neil Burns ran a session dealing with the challenges of stop-motion animation production -- not of making a film on a limited budget, but of having a limited space where you could animate. So, in the preceding week, we all sent in photos of our home studios (or the spaces that we had to work with) and then Neil helped us come up with solutions that would allow us to best utilize the space that we had to film a stop-motion production -- both using a downshooter setup as well as using a 3d set.

Over the next three hours, Neil provided some excellent critiques of our workspaces based on the films we wanted to produce, the animation techniques/visual styles we were going to use, the equipment (and software) we had available to us, and the lighting issues we would most likely face in our setup. Unfortunately, while he had some good suggestions for (re)organizing my workspace, there was one issue none of us could solve during the workshop: my carpeting is really soft and plushy so it tends to make tripods, lights, and sets move slightly when I'm navigating a stop-motion set and animating.

A lot of workshops I see (and attend) deal primarily with filmmaking techniques: storyboarding, scriptwriting, animation software, and animation styles (2d hand drawn, replacement, etc). However, not too many deal with some of the peripheral (yet still very important) production issues, like financing your film, managing production assets, and--in the case of this workshop--designing an efficient workspace that meets the needs of your production. Workshops like this one hosted by TAIS helps fill in some of the gaps in our filmmaking knowledgebase. While trial-and-error can work, and the internet is a vast well of information, it's nice to talk to someone who has actually been there and can provide hands-on experience directly to your personal situation.