What Is Animation

Animation Notes #1
What is Animation?

Animation precedes the invention of photography and the cine camera by several decades. It is an art form in which a world of dynamic image and sound may be synthesised completely out of nothing but a thought (see Peter Greenaway quote, right).Animation is 100% artifice, and as such, the synthesis of movement through the sequential use of small fragments of time, which gives rise to this wondrous illusion, is open to manipulation in extraordinary ways.Animation is the most nimble of mediums. It has survived the mechanical ‘persistence of vision’ toys popular in the 19th century; found expression as an art form in cinema; it was the means by which to experiment with time-based art and cinematic forms to present new visual vocabularies; it was brilliantly positioned to pioneer the use of computers to create moving images from numbers; it has demystified complex processes; visualised scientific phenomena and provided simulation models to help us understand the world; it has become an essential ingredient in multimedia content; it is imbedded in the control interface display of multi-million dollar jet fighter planes, it is integral to the computer games industry; it increasingly underpins all special effects in motion picture production; and it has provided content in an ideal form to distribute across a bandwidth poor networked environment.Animation is an art form which can come from anywhere and which can go to anywhere – from a large production team working in a highly specialised studio or a lone individual working out of a bedroom, to an Imax Cinema screen several metres wide or a mobile phone screen a few centimetres across.Animation can be as intimate and personal as a stick figure doodle jiggling in the corner of a dog-eared school exercise book cum flip book, or as expansive and public as animated laser lights splashed upon a cityscape (see Hong Kong’s Harbour ‘Symphony Of Lights’ project – Lloyd Weir, Art Director, Laservision NSW and AIM graduate 1996).

Laservision’s Hong Kong Harbour ‘Symphony Of Lights’ project. Art Director, AIM 1996 graduate, Lloyd Weir.

Animation has the capacity to: entertain, exaggerate, simplify, abstract, reveal complex processes, clarify difficult-to-understand concepts, visualise data, be a vehicle for humorous writing, sell product, be an art form, create slapstick sight gags, be a vehicle for insightful social comment, portray the human condition, and tackle difficult and uncomfortable subject manner.

‘Hello’ – a multi award winning animated film by 2003 AIM graduate, Jonathan Nix.
ANIMATION IS…

The amplification of an idea through simplification and abstraction; a sight gag timed to perfection; a visual poem; a moving painting; extraordinary sublime moments in the orchestration of moving image and sound; throw-away sick slapstick humour designed for the moment; stories that remain with you forever; time-based imagery that can be fantastically surreal because of its unique process of realisation; a journey through the human body and other datascapes; the invisible made visible; informative dynamic graphics that monitor critical processes; an animated neon sign. At its best, animation is an exquisite character performance synthesised at the end of a pencil, or increasingly through the sweep and click of a computer mouse, that would otherwise win an award for best acting.
Little else compares with the thrill of breathing life into characters that might never have existed but for your imagination, or to move a large audience of strangers to laugh out loud at their antics, or to keep a person interactively engaged with them and the worlds you have invented, for hours on end.

Almost anything can be brought to life and be imbued with personality, twigs, clay, drawings, objects, computer meshes, and, of course, anything becomes possible in the world of animation. It can entertain, explain and fascinate. In all its wondrous forms from the traditional ‘bonk ’em on the head’ cartoon styles, to TV commercials, sophisticated narrative works and simulations, to experimental, digitally composited, special effects driven and art films, animation is a powerful vehicle for ideas.

Annemarie Szeleczky used sticks of macaroni and torn paper (left) and the Aussie breakfast spread, ‘Vegiemite’ for the experimental animation in her research project – “The Development of Experimental Animation Techniques Using Mixed Media, Spatial Layering and Gestural Artwork.”

Whether expressed in linear, interactive or real-time forms, the Centre for Animation and Interactive Media embraces the broadest of definition of animation. Animation is timeless, nimble and future proof – and is currently, very ‘hot’.

‘Symbiosis’ by AIM research candidate, Mark Guglielmetti. An immersive stereoscopic virtual space. Co-recipient of the ATOM award for “Outstanding Virtual Experience” 2002 for the immersive digital art installation.

Read on….

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