My animation journey continues as I begin a new class focused solely on this medium. The task for this first week was to make three separate GIFs using a variety of methods. As you continue reading, I will provide a summary of a new book I am reading, some examples of GIFs that I found inspiring, and my own projects at the end.

Reading

Picking up animation once again can be daunting, but I do enjoy it and find a lot of value in having this kind of knowledge. As an amateur, the best way to get back into it is to find a resource that can guide me through the process in the most efficient and effective way possible. This is why I bought the book Animated Storytelling – Simple Steps for Creating Animation and Motion Graphics by Liz Blazer.

Blazer provides a brief introduction to her book before diving into the ten chapters (or steps) that will help us create the animations of our dreams. She mentions that skilled animators are becoming higher in demand and that in order to become a successful animator, you must know the story you are trying to tell through your piece. Blazer also points out that this book is not only geared towards those looking to get into animation, but is also for those with an interest in motion graphics, as they are both very similar in their techniques and thus any lessons that are brought up in this book are beneficial for both fields.

Chapter 1 is all about pre-production and Blazer highly recommends taking this stage seriously if your animation has any chance of being successful (I’ve been using “animation” to describe both motion graphics and animations just to keep things concise). The three steps that she discusses include “Concept Development,” “Previsualization,” and “Asset Building.”

Concept Development can be described as figuring out everything about your story before doing any building, drawing, or animating. Blazer strongly suggests writing out a few things in order to fully grasp your story, including a creative brief, your “Big Idea” with some smaller ideas that fit under that umbrella, an elevator pitch and a tagline. When making a creative brief, you want to answer questions such as “what is your piece about?” “Who is it for?,” and “When is it due?” This can help you get a better idea of how your story is going to turn out. When you write out your Big Idea, you are deciding what your story is about. Once your write your idea, Blazer suggests writing everything you correlate with that idea and following that up with circling the five most compelling ideas that can tell a story. Once you have that, you can move onto writing an elevator pitch, which is a one-or-two-sentence summary of your story that includes the tone, plot and theme. The final step for Concept Development is creating a tagline, which is a simple but powerful phrase that describes your entire story.

Previsualization (or Previs, for short) and Asset Building were not as deeply described in this chapter as Concept Development are, but both are still a vital part to pre-production. Blazer describes Previs as getting the “look and feel” of your piece correct, whether that is by having simple sketches or full renders of characters. She also recommends looking online to see what other animators make their films look like and saving a few for reference, as studying animation design can be more effective than going out all on your own (and if any of you have followed my Content Creation journey through learning Blender, you’ll notice I could’ve used this advice). Asset Building involves all of the, well, assets, that you’ll need before starting your animation. Any logos, live-action sequences or SFX are all considered assets and it’s a good idea to have as many of these as early as possible so once you start animating, you can fill in these assets when necessary.

Research

Before making my own GIFs, I needed to get inspired and see the work other people have done. Below are five GIFs that absolutely blew me away.

This GIF just blew my mind when I first saw it. There’s so much going on at once and it’s not clear as to what the start and end points of this GIF are. I think having it loop so seamlessly as well as being a GIF about random shapes moving through space is really enchanting.

For a very similar reason, I find this GIF to be really effective. It is made of 3D models which I find fascinating, and the way Lucas way able to animate the eyes to make them follow the laws of physics is really notable.

https://tenor.com/embed.js

This GIF doesn’t come from GIPHY, which is why I was unable to import it into my post, but I found this one so cool that I had to include it nonetheless. It is a GIF of a Game Boy seemingly being built but it’s all by 2D shapes. I’m a huge Nintendo and video game fan so any animated GIFs that reference gaming in that way are so cool in my mind.

https://tenor.com/embed.js

This is another GIF that did not come from GIPHY, but I wanted to highlight it too. This one shows a lion made of fire bursting into even more flames. It is running and after a second the camera rotates so we can see a little bit of the front of the lion’s face. It’s a very short and simple GIF but the animation quality is high and is an fantastic example of what you can do with 3D creation.

This GIF attracts me for most of the same reasons as the first one does. It loops so seamlessly, and it has a very abstract vibe. This GIF not only has a great example of colors but has a little bit of 3D manipulation as well, where the wave splits into two pieces when it curls up in the middle.

Creation

As I have mentioned earlier on in this post, I have created three different GIFs for this week. All three of these GIFs are made completely differently, so I will show you each GIF, explain my process and what I think of them as a whole.

A cat opening and closing her eyes.

I needed to make a cut-out GIF using Photoshop exclusively, and I was struggling to come up with ideas. I found this picture of my girlfriend’s cat with her eyes closed and decided to work with this one. I then grabbed a picture of the cat with her eyes open. I brought both images into Photoshop and got to work. I first selected out the eyes in the picture with the open eyes, and brought them into this picture. I had to duplicate the eye since only one eye was visible from the previous picture. I then resized, rotated, erased, and perspective shifted the eyes until I got as close as I could get to it feeling like the cat’s eyes were actually there.

I then opened the timeline. In the tutorial video, the professor claimed that it made more sense to work with the video timeline rather than the frame animation timeline, so of course I worked with the frame animation. It wasn’t hard for my GIF. All I had to do was decide how many frames I wanted in my GIF in advance and I would choose how long each frame would stay up for.

What do you think of this GIF? Personally, I feel it may be too subtle for a cut-out GIF, but it gets the job done. The only reason it feels unnatural is because the eyes just cut out immediately instead of cropping itself shut to simulate an eye closing. I think it is acceptable for a first crack at Photoshop animation.

Sprinter racing at a track meet.

This next GIF, believe it or not, was the most fun out of the three for me. I had to draw an animation frame-by-frame and use a technique called “onion-skinning” (a feature that allows the animator to see their drawing a few frames behind their current frame to have a better gauge at where to draw next) to make it feel more natural.

I also used Adobe Animate to make this animation. I really want to learn more about animation in general so I felt that getting exposure to this program as early as possible will only benefit me down the road. Because this was my first time using it, however, I did struggle to find a lot of the features and functionalities, even after viewing a few tutorials and taking a tour upon launching the app.

For my background, I used a combination of the pen tool, paint bucket tool, shape tools, and brush tool to get the look of a basic track setting. I then used the brush tool to draw my stick figure. To animate this figure, I had to create a keyframe on every frame of the animation, and on each keyframe, draw my stick figure a little differently each time. I did this for 48 frames, or two seconds.

I think the animation looks very smooth for someone using a trackpad to draw and using Adobe Animate for the first time. I did want to add a gunman at the starting line and animate his arm to raise the gun and have smoke come out to indicate he shot the blank, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to animate his hand. I had already forgotten how to tween and key framing was not working, but by the time I figured out my problem it was getting late and I wanted to start my third GIF. Either way, though, I am proud of how the runner turned out.

My name in various shapes.

This third GIF was actually inspired by the fifth GIF you saw in the “research” section of this post. That is where I got the idea to make this color wheel and spin it around. Since the first GIF was cut-out using Photoshop and the second GIF was using frame-by-frame onion-skinning in Animate, I figured it only made sense to try the third technique, tweening, in Animate as well. Tweening is essentially what most video editors call “key framing,” where you define the properties of an object at the beginning and end of a certain amount of time, and in-between that time, the object will animate on its own as it goes from its starting state to its ending state.

Despite taking a tour and learning how to tween in the program itself, by the time I started this GIF, I had forgotten what to do. I knew I had to make my object a graphic symbol, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with the timeline to get the tweening to work. Soon enough, I figured out that you need to have your cursor on the first frame of your project when you convert your object if you want to tween the object at all.

Once I got over that hurdle, I started with the background, which is made through various pen tool shapes, converted, and rescaled enormously so none of the shape’s edges passed inside the frame. I then worked on my letters, which were all made with either a shape tool or the pen tool. Once they were made I needed to animate them. I started with the B because for the first 24 frames, the B is actually animated frame-by-frame. That’s because I wanted the B to follow the green-yellow border as it slid down to its spot in the middle of the screen, and I figured tweening that would be too unreliable. I did tween the B’s descent at the end of the GIF. Next was the star (or A), which I tweened the scale and rotation coming in, and its perspective shift on its way out. I think that looked pretty cool. Then I did the G and E at the same time because they are practically the same shape, so I thought it would be clever to have them enter together and leave the same way (getting caught on one of the borders and sliding out of frame). I tweened their position and rotation coming in, but used frame-by-frame to get a more accurate animation for their way out.

Overall, even though this is not my favorite GIF of the three I made, I do feel that it is the most complex, as it incorporates a little bit of everything. While it is a bit colorful and abstract, that was the tone I was going for, and I believe each letter’s movements reflect that tone too, even if it also reflects my basic knowledge of Animate thus far.

Having this type of exposure into Adobe Animate this early into the course is going to be very beneficial going forward and I cannot wait for the opportunity to incorporate this program into more projects as I get more and more comfortable with it.

About the Author Gabe Walerysiak

My name is Gabriel Walerysiak, and I am a graduate student at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. I graduated with my Bachelor's Degree in Film, Television and Media Arts, with a minor in Mathematics in June 2020. I am currently pursuing a Master of Sciene in Interactive Media and Communications and will graduate with my master's degree in May 2021. I recently interned at GlucoseZone this past summer, where I edited and helped film a bunch of promotional content for their social media pages. I have a hobby of capturing and editing video-game footage for a YouTube channel that I started in the Seventh grade, and that channel is the primary reason I chose to major in Film, TV, and Media Arts. I am also a passionate runner, and even though I am no longer on a team, I run to keep in shape because I know how important that is in today's world. I am looking forward to be more fluent with technologically enhanced creative programs such as the Adobe suite, productivity tools such as Microsoft Office, and any other creative tools I can get my hands on to further improve my work as a creator.

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