TAIS has helped my career a tonne and it's a great networking resource. I actually got my start in TV animation through a director I met while I was doing a stop-motion workshop there. From that one contact I went on to work on music videos, short films and TV shows. It was a workshop I was certainly glad I attended. Oh yes, and I actually learned a thing or two about making stop-mo puppets at that workshop - a skill I use almost every day.
The society offers workshops on other animation mediums such as 3D, classical, Flash, ToonBoom, cameraless and more. You can also learn storyboard techniques and how to produce your own animated films. TAIS has a well-equipped studio where you can shoot your film, edit and make a DVD. What's more is that there is always someone on hand to help you with your project.
A number of prominent animators have visited Toronto because of TAIS's sponsorship. From Ray Harryhausen to Bruno Bozzeto, you can hear these legends of animation talk about their work and MEET them!
Anyway, I can't say enough good things about this organisation. It's made all the difference for my journey in animation and I guarantee it will help your animation, too. Also, the Toronto Animated Image Society is a lot of fun!
Here's an update on my film's progress.
Well, I have six scenes left to shoot and I just blocked out the first of those scenes today. It always takes me a while to do this as I know the whole scene hangs off where you place the camera, prominent props and characters.
Anyway, I think I've got the camera angle I like. Now it's just the small matter of dressing the set. Oh boy.
Since this is a wide shot of a new exterior environment and I'm introducing an important prop, I really need to do this set right. After this first "hero" shot the following shots can be a little more cobbled together as I've already established the environment. These following shots will be about the actions of the characters and they'll be tighter shots. I like tighter shots - less set to dress - especially when the film is set in a weird forest on another planet. Why can't I ever do anything simple?
On another topic, some of the animation in my film was supposed to be 3D (computer generated). However, due to a problem with the 3D animator I had to abandon that possibility. Now those scenes are being done as classical, hand drawn animation by my wife. I am very lucky to have such a talented partner who is yet again saving my ass.
Here's how we're creating traditional animated footage with digital technology.
First of all, Hana laboriously draws each frame of each scene... on paper... with a pencil. She doesn't have an "undo" button. Instead, she uses an eraser. She never has to worry about losing her animation if her computer crashes as she's not using a computer - in this respect she curses very little.
The one thing I love about working near a classical animator is the whirr of the electric pencil sharpener. Being the slave-driver that I am, I always know she is working when I hear the pencil sharpener - or so I think.
Classical animation is a long, tedious affair but the results are so fluid and organic that, as yet, I haven't seen any computer animation that looks similar. However, computer technology is really useful for simplifying the classical animation process.
When Hana is finished drawing a rough version of her scene, I scan her drawings at a low resolution to make the workflow go faster. I then import these scans into the Final Cut editing application at two frames per scan at thirty frames a second and make a timeline. I then add a background and any relevant stop-motion footage to the timeline. Sometimes I need to change the speed of the animation or re-size it - all very easy things to do in Final Cut.
Now is the fun part. Hana and I stare intently at the computer as we watch her animation. Sometimes it works out just right, other times it needs tweaking and sometimes it doesn't quite work and, literally, it's back to the drawing board for Hana.
If the animation works okay then she takes the drawings and "cleans them up", meaning that she re-draws the lines so that they are nice and crisp. The drawings go back into the scanner where they get scanned at a higher resolution for quality.
Here's the part where I go to work. I put each drawing into Photoshop where they are coloured. It's a long process but it's way easier then in the old days when an artist would paint each frame by hand on a piece of celluloid.
When I've finished colouring in the drawings I put them into Final Cut and make a Quicktime movie. I then import the Quicktime into the timeline of my entire film and make sure everything cuts together well. Then I hit the save button, twice, because I am paranoid.
So far the marrying of stop-motion animation and classical is looking really good. I've definitely learnt a thing or two about classical animation and I'm so happy with the work Hana has done for me. Viva la old school animation!