Monday, 14 November 2011

The magic within animation

Hello blog readers!
Welcome to the first post by me, Stina Boberg, an animator-to-be currently studying in Sweden. This post will be dedicated to my view on animation, coming from a very active music background. I have played classical piano and upright bass for over 15 years (participating in more orchestras, bands and ensembles than I dare count).

I like to compare classical music and animation. There are many similarities, such as the ambition to tell a story and inviting the audience to an experience they will hopefully never forget. There are also many differences, 3 minutes of magic on a piano takes maybe a year to animate... it's hard to keep the feeling of magic up when you're staring at the same 4 seconds of animation for a week.

Recently I've been pondering exactly that. How do you keep the feeling of magic in your animation? Is there anything music can teach us about magic? I think there are some things to learn, but before I continue I would like for you to watch this TedTalk (01:17-03:20 is the part I'll discuss below) (although you should totally watch the whole video)

I consider myself to be around the 8-year level somewhere. I know my tools and my basic principles (although still learning), I can create solid animation. But I'm nowhere near the stage of the 11-year old. Somewhere in the mess of tracking arcs, fixing the spacing, double-checking silhouettes, the pure magic that is supposed to mesmerize the audience is just... forgotten.

And that's not very surprising. Animation sometimes seem to be all about the details and not so much about how it works in general. What does Benjamin Zander say about music and magic? Reduce the impulses. Feel how the melody travels, sometimes far away, sometimes home.

I want to think of animation like that. I want to reduce the impulses to the bare minimum required to tell the story. The poses should feel like they belong together and tell the story of one single character. The day I can confidently do that, is the day I think I will find the magic within the animation.

You should of course aim for clear story-telling poses in your animation, there's a reason why Disney has been so successful. But if you're just going pose-by-pose, making each one fit to the dialogue with no consideration of personality or state of mind, it's gonna look a lot like the 7-year old's piano playing. Or maybe like this:

Live long and prosper,
Stina Boberg


  1. Cool article Stina. I studied music my whole life up till starting to learn animation. I often found myself comparing the two throughout my learning curve.

  2. Great post. I love ted talks! I wish I was musically inclined but sadly I have to enjoy my life as a patron of that art instead.