Thursday, October 23, 2008

Creativity Takes Work

Lately I've come to realize just how much taking time on the creative process and the preparation stage before delving into the actual project can really make a huge difference in the end result. And it applies to all of my classes - just one more of the ways I'm (unexpectedly) finding my fine arts and computer art classes overlapping and complementing each other.

So what do I mean by that? Well, composition is huge for painting, drawing, and planning an animation scene. In Maya (our 3D program) it's easy to go back and move the camera, but then if all your character's animation is directed toward the previous camera, it'll all need to be changed as well. To plan out a scene before animating, you want to really have an idea in your head of exactly what the character will be doing and then thumbnail out those poses - thumbnails are like mini storyboards with really loose, simple drawing. If you don't love a pose, you can try out a few more and find what works better. You don't start animating till you've got those poses pretty well established. With painting and drawing, you should already know in your head what line or brush stroke you want on that paper, before touching your medium to canvas or paper. Sure, you can go back and change it, but if you already know what you want, you'll have to do a lot less work once you've put all that down.

Now, with still lifes and a model in front of you, there's not as much creativity involved (although you do need to interpret what you're seeing). But when you're faced with creating a short story in animation; or taking dialogue and not just making your characters lip synch, but creating an interesting story/gag as well, the mental creativity road blocks go up pretty quickly. It's even worse if your classmates are using the same audio clip and in dailies show how great your clip could have been! That's been my wake-up call, and I keep hearing it makes all the difference on a demo reel.

So what do you do when you have no creative juices flowing? Well, I just came across this article, and even though it's written for illustrators, it's applicable to most any creative medium. I'm proud to say that lots of this I do on a regular basis - scanning the internet for interesting ideas and just to see what others are putting out there. I have folders on my computer for visuals and bookmarks and tutorials that I like. But I love that she has a physical process that you can go through as well - starting with words and moving to visuals from there.

Sometimes you really have to take a step back and say, what is the audience looking for and what am I trying to get across? And then brainstorm. I've found that in our classroom dailies (where we show pieces we're working on to get class feedback), when a few of us are commenting, we tend to come up with lots of ideas and run with them. We've gotten some great ideas that way, that I never would have come up with on my own. I also have made use of my husband's vast movie and video game experience to help me brainstorm ideas. I think sometimes it's easier for him to come up with ideas because he's not considering the practical limitations of how to make that story work, which always linger in the back of my mind.

Take what you will from the linked article. I usually find that if there's even one little tidbit that I can use, I store it away and at the most crucial time it'll come back to me. Especially when dealing with that elusive creativity, having someplace to start is always helpful and one of the toughest hurdles to get past.


laidlaw said...

"if all your character's animation is directed toward the previous camera, it'll all need to be changed as well."

I bet you they never have this problem on South Park. lol

Jillian talks about having an idea folder on her desktop, I've found more luck with two non digital alternatives:

1. A scrapbook - I have shit from postcards, photos, magazines, books, etc in here. Whenever there's something that catches my eye in any medium, it usually goes into there.

2. A Mood board - Kind of like a focused scrapbook, except I don't really start putting it together until after I've started a specific project. For example, a current project I'm working on is a fashion jewelry website. My mood board was full of clippings from cosmo and prada catalogs.

Don't know if either of these applies to animation, but they both help a bunch for web design.

Chelc said...

It's funny you mention South Park, because we were just talking about how they line everyone up flat to the camera when it's completely ridiculous in reality! But it works for South Park. What's funny is how sophisticated their software is, and how they have to work extra-hard to make it look like paper cut-outs and stay flat!

I love your non-digital ideas. They remind me of when I was planning our wedding. I did keep a scrapbook and it was great to flip through. I thought about a board, but had no place to put it (still a problem in our little house, unfortunately). I never thought of using them for other things. I love the idea of the board, though, because you do get more of a feel for it than just digitally. Plus, there's always something great about being able to physically touch things!

Thanks for the ideas, Mark!


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