When I started making my own animation work a few years back I made a choice to work in 3d. For me this seemed like an interesting creative medium which had heaps of potential yet to be explored.
However, I personally feel that 3D animation has been stuck in a stylistic and directorial route for many years. Standard workflows have been established that risk its ability to be creative. As a result it seems to have lost some credibility as a medium for the independent film maker. Sometimes I hear people say “I don’t like 3D animation”, but what I think they are really saying is, “I don’t like the visual style of Pixar films’.
For me there is absolutely no reason why 3D animation must look like this and it’s a shame that people have come to think of this style alone as ‘3D animation’. This is what has driven me to write the “A Manifesto for New Three Dimensional Animation”.
I see 3D books and schools teaching a workflow that only lends itself to a certain style of filmmaking and a generic cinematic camera direction. Over the last few years there have been relatively few stand out 3D animations, and its a real shame.
So I present to you “The Manifesto for New Three Dimensional Animation”. These are my thoughts on Three Dimensional film making.
On a personal note, I would hope that people don’t see it as an instruction for how it should be done; these are just points that I have personally been aspiring to and (admittedly) have not always achieved. But I think they are ideas that may strike out against the established order of 3D, and would create a more diverse and exciting collection of 3D work. This in turn I hope will speak to wider animation work (not just 3D) and the whole animation community.
And of course it should be noted that these too should be taken with A Pinch Of Salt. Everyone has the right to make whatever they want, this is the definition of art and creativity. I just, as an audience as well as a filmmaker, personally wish there were a greater visual range of animation out there for me to watch.
In the next few weeks I hope to do a follow up post of some of the films that I feel adhere to some of the Manifesto’s points. If you think you might have, or know, a film or you actually liked what I said pleaaaase get in touch. I’d love to hear ideas and watch some films. Also please get in touch if you know of any.
NB: A note on terminology; I have opted for the term Three Dimensional Animation, as opposed to Computer Generated Imagery. As computer generated fails to describe for the z space design aspect. Much 2d, and even stop motion animation these days is ‘ computer generated ‘ to some degree (a lot using 2.5D). To be clear my use of the term 3D does not refer to the use of stereoscopic technologies, but animation that is built in a full XYZ environment
The Purpose Of 3D Animation Is To Be Other Than Live Action Film
Animation is designed film and thus should not be constrained by cinematic mimicry. The presence of a 3D space and a flexible camera should not impose a live action cinematic style of direction.
Rage Against The Digital Marionette
Character animation does not have to adhere to working with digital puppets. The tools of 3D are highly accommodating to character creation beyond bones and rigs. The digital marionette is the restrictive status quo for 3D character animation. It is however possible to create images frame by frame, unlocking access to more stylistic techniques, such as smearing and stretching, without using additional technical tools. Manipulating the image directly is also possible.
There Is No Standard Workflow
A common misconception of 3D animation is that it needs to adhere to a workflow of modelling, rigging, animating, lighting and rendering, and all are different technical disciplines. Outlining, timing and colouring are all that is really needed to make an image or animation that can look like anything.
Frames Not Systems
Bones and IKs are not required, nor particles and cloners. By dealing with frames not systems, using polygons as drawing tools, and colour choices as lighting, the artist only need be concerned with the output of each image and therefore becomes far closer and connected to their work.
More Than An Aesthetic
3D should try take advantage of its unique ability to show its potential beyond the purely aesthetic in order to develop and advance its own sense of direction. Producing work that would not be available to to live action, or 2D, therefore exposes 3D’s flexibility and creativity.
(PDF to print out and put up in your local library ect)
I present the biggest thing I ever made
Some Words about LNWC.
Those that know me know I obsess over animation. I know others are the same, but it’s always nice to be reminded of how much passion we have for the medium. Ghost Stories arrived yesterday and I popped along to see it playing in London, which was admittedly a far more rewarding experience compared to watching it in bed at 7.30 am like I nearly did. That kind of work deserves a dimly lit bar and a beer in hand.
(still from Charles Huettner’s film)
This is - simply - the best animation project I have ever seen. Not just because of the quality of work that is on show here (which is unbearably good) but also because I have never seen a group project of this sort before ever. It’s a sea change, a new way of producing and releasing work. It seems strange given the world we live in, to think collaboration and self publishing are so easy. Independent games production has blossomed over the last few years with a real scene cropping up around it. Take the Ludum Dare project for example, a group project where each member has 48 hours to create a game that contributes to the whole. I am not sure if animation lends itself to the same level of fandom, as animation can be such a solitary process, but Ghost Stories definitely feels like something created in that vein, a love letter to the medium by all those involved. Built out of motivation, I can more than empathise with this approach. And it feels as though it’s the way forward.
I find the Ghost Stories project pays testament to its online conception. It’s a project that was made possible through the web, a totally modern phenomenon, one that’s incredibly exciting, and it pays its dues by debuting on the medium that made it all possible. I’d highly recommend reading Scott Benton’s interview on Cartoon Brew on this matter here. I’ve recently realised that releasing my own work on the internet is a lot more rewarding than taking the traditional route of following the festival trail, and I hope that continues to be the case.
I won’t go in the particulars of what I liked about each film, but will just say that each has their own unique voice and beauty. Watch them. For me over the last few years short -making has always been a bit of a solitary activity. I carry it around in my head all day, everyday. LNWC’s work is a refreshing reminder that we are not alone. We are those who work late.