Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Rachel Yonda, animator

An animator's dream: Comic Con 2011
My name is Rachel Yonda, and I am an animator. I am so excited to be doing a guest post here! I thought I might use this opportunity to explain what its like to be an animator and show some examples of how different the definition of 'animation' can be these days. 

One fact people might not generally know about animation is that, like puppetry, it is acting at its core. You might be surprised to know that in our classes, we watched and analyzed just as many clips of live action footage as we did animation. Segments of Singing In The Rain taught us about beautiful character interactions, choreography, kinetics. In a sequence from a film made early in Marilyn Monroe's career, we studied the subtle transformations in her face from one emotion to another to help us understand  how to convey a thinking character. Silent movies and mimes taught us body language and strong silhouettes. To animate, you need to know how to effectively convey an action, thought, or feeling in the most universal, readily understandable way possible. The communication has to be instant. 

Like I said before, these days, 'animation' is a pretty loose term. Now, in addition to the traditional cel-style animation we all know thanks to Disney (plus the other familiar medium of stop motion) we also have CG, motion graphics, visual effects and compositing. 

Now to show you some examples! Rudimentary and embarrassing though it may be, here's the film I made before graduating from NYU in 2007, which would fall into the 'traditional' animation category:

Hopefully, I've come a long way since then, but I still have a soft spot for that lonely little girl and that friendly, soft-headed ghost. 

The name of the game for animators these days is adaptability. No one's really animating on paper anymore, so in addition to the artistry, the term animator is now pretty much interchangeable with the term "computer geek". Flash, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Maya…you get to know these complex software programs well if you are an animator!

Animators are primarily lone wolf freelancers, we wander from project to project. I was lucky enough to get gigs on shows like Adult Swim's SUPERJAIL!, Disney's Little Einsteins, and The BBC's 3rd and Bird, but now those projects are a comparatively small part of my portfolio as I work on more and more commercial projects. Shows are great because they offer a bit of job security (for a year or two at a time- thats LONG for animators), and you get to stick with one narrative and characters that you grow to love (ATTN Children's Media people: lets make more shows! That's what we animators love to work on!). On the flip-side, freelancing keeps you on your toes, you tend to get more challenging/exciting assignments, and you can expand your horizons very quickly by hopping around from studio to studio.

What would a freelance animator typically work on if its not a show or a movie? If you've ever taken a flight on Virgin America, you may have seen this already. Here's one of my most favorite commercial projects I've ever gotten to take part in:

This next piece here, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, goes to show another variation on what the term 'animation' has come to define these days. It is one of my favorite motion graphics projects that I've ever gotten to work on:

One last thing I'll mention, is an attitude in animation that I believe can extend to any of you who might be potential creators/writers/storytellers/artist - if you have a project in mind, don't wait for some network exec to buy the idea. Just do it! Seek out artists that can do what you can't, collaborate, and create a Kickstarter if you have to! Last October, my friends and I raised 5k to make a pilot of our own idea for a show called Muffin Buds, and I'm happy to say it is nearly finished, slated to wrap by the end of this month. 

If you'd like to keep up to date on some of the most exciting projects in animation, be sure to check out sites like Motionographer.com. Readers here are probably well acquainted with the animation happening within the scope of children's media, but like I said, there is a lot happening out there- it's a great site for keeping up on the latest and greatest!

Thanks for reading and feel free to say hello on Twitter! @rachelyonda

Editor's note: I hope you've enjoyed Rachel's piece as much as I have. In addition to her work, Rachel is currently fundraising to secure her place on a marathon team for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. To support Rachel and her great cause, head on over to: http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/rnr12/ryonda

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