Friday, 15 February 2013

Specialist Study 2

Raising Teachers Awareness of Animation 


From my research it appears that schools and education professionals are not using animation as a teaching tool. There are certain restraints preventing the use of animation, such as time and cost issues as well as the difficulty of learning animation itself. However with the right guidance and advice such as the Reading Toolkit, I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. To increase the take up of animation, there needs to be more teachers who have an interest in animation who then in turn can pass on their learning to teaching colleagues as well as to pupils.

I have found a number of beneficial reasons why animation should be used in education whether as a resource or merely as skills to develop students learning and cognitive abilities. Animation is such a broad subject and has a number of different elements and strategies. However skilled animators who don’t necessarily know how to teach, are more involved in professional corporate work such as film making and advertisement need to be more involved with education. I think a key issue is filling the gap between teachers, animators and education. Although separately each individual wouldn’t necessarily show any beneficial enhancement with the use of animation in education, combined or simply making each other aware could have huge potential.

Studies, support and lesson plans have been created for teachers to use animation in education, however not enough teachers are aware of the rewards. I am fully aware funding may play a significant part in the limited use of animation in schools. My first hand experience has shown that animation can be used to effectively as a teaching tool to deliver the national curriculum. There is huge potential for animation in education if promoted and used effectively.

My aim for this animation will be to produce a short advert clip aimed at teachers. I will promote and make awareness of using animation in teaching techniques. Although we need to take very seriously the use of animation in education I will try to include humour and a sense of entertainment at the same time. I will use humour in order to increase its appeal in the hope that it will increase its uptake on the basis that if its fun as well as serious it is more likely to be used. 

'JOIN THE REVOLUTION - SUPPORT ANIMATION IN EDUCATION'


What I will need to know

As this is my final and most crucial animation I need to consistently show a wide range of ideas and understanding of the particular stop motion style I intend to create. I have narrowed down quite a particular style which involves a person in the stop motion, promoting and constructing a number of props showing the benefits of animation in education. The main focus will will be on the movement of hands of the person in the shot. 
 
January
Come up with a concept and an idea that reaches a professional level


February
Get a broad understanding of my AOP and target Audience
Blog work
March
Begin Story Boards set design and the building of props
RVJ
April
Multiple tests ensuring animation is up to professional standard
Filming
May
Feedback and editing



 My Inspiration and Examples 

As an example this short video demonstrates how I intend to shoot ay advert, however on a smaller scale:

'Proteigon' by Steven Briand


During his two-month internship at Partizan, animator Steven Briand was able to create this simple, yet marvelous stop motion piece. It involves a man, sitting in front of a desk, and what appears to be pieces of paper made into different shapes and patterns. The music goes well too. Together, they collectively present a great audio-visual piece.

Audi 'Cardboard Car' Advert



The clever Audi advert set to American folk singer Woody Guthrie's "Car Song", the minute-long spot was directed by Aaron Duffy and Russell Brooke. The advert features a illustrated character who carefully reconstructs a cardboard box into the Audi shape and eventually turning into its real form. The advert shows just how robust and easily manipulated cardboard can be which was a good incentive to use this particular material.

I enjoyed the fact he used a number of different types of cardboard and I will defiantly take that into consideration when designing my own props. 

Helmans Cardboard Chicken



Although this advert mainly consists of film I really enjoyed the brief but very well made chicken out of cardboard. This just goes to show once again cardboard can very easily be made or manipulated into a number of shapes and sizes to give a great comical effect of the intended prop.




Guinness Advert-A Short Film Called Hands



This advert is a great example of just how simple and effective the look of hands can be. My main aim will be to concentrate on the cardboard aspect of my animation however, it is defiantly important to watch films like this to get a feel for hands under the light of camera. 

I really enjoyed the way the animators played on realism and manipulated the hands in order to give a desired affect of hands doing whats hands are not supposed to do. I think with films like this one and mine which include quite simple but effective objects it is important to add things that make your audience smile and want to see more of whats is to be offered.

My next stage will be to look in depth into more films using a similar style and break down exactly what makes a perfect and professional in this particular way. As I will be using people in my film I will have to take into consideration how difficult it will be to produce a smooth well timed animation.  

Target Audience

My target audience is primarily aimed at teachers, however any educator would benfit from viewing my animation as it will show the benefits of using animation at any age or learning level. Professional animators from the industry will also be able to take something from the animation as they link in to the success of this project. This is a section of my dissertation explaining this:


If animation is used in education it needs to be utilised correctly to give its maximum benefit. Lowe mentions, “Guidance is lacking about how to design animations that are specifically educational and that depend on effective perceptual and cognitive processing information. The main concern for animators who work for the entertainment industry is obviously to entertain; they are unlikely to consider their role to be one of helping people build coherent understandings.” This is a very valid and vital observation meriting further consideration.  One clear answer would be to educate animators to work with the educational system.

Making of the props

Calculator

The calculator was probably going to be the trickiest prop to build primarily do to its size. The reason I didn't want to make it as big as the brain box or the television was due to the fact a small object ballooned out to such a ridiculous size to its original may have looked silghtyl absurd. The size of box I picked I think was the right choice, however still this was going to be a delicate job. I began by measuring out six dials al to very precise measurements as well as the calculator screen. A problem I ran into was making sure none of the connections between each button tore or damaged in the process. A solution to this was to stick a chopping board through the middle of the box allowing a more sturdy and protected cut with the stanley knife.     



The next stages were very time consuming as I needed to print a number grid which fitted my exact measurements I had cut on the box. this took a number of trial and error prints however I got there in the end and was happy with the outcome. I then cut out five removable flaps which were to be removed when the dials were pushed in the animation. the tricky part was getting them to stay in place. This involved me glueing two separate pieces  of card inside the box keeping them supported and no chance of sliding down. 



I was pleased with the final out come of this prop and in the animation I feel was the most successful prop when shot.



Television

The television was exciting prop I built the original design on a number of different old televisions. It began as a flat pack then slowly bit by bit became a full sized television. I originally was going to make it 2D but decided this realistic design would be considerably more effecting and pleasing to the eye. A problem I ran into was trying to fit the screen to the rest of the tv. As this was a different type of cardboard and a much thicker piece normal glue just didn't work. After a trail of different glues and sticking methods finally a strong worrk glue managed to do the job. I could have just left an empty space where the screen was, however televisions dont have holes in the front of them so not only does it make it look more realistic it gives another layer and texture to the prop.     


Finally I fitted some antennas and ajustable dials so mich turned and were able to become a part of the animation. The trick for me on this prop was to build layer upon layer just as and old television would have looked. 




Brain Box

The brain box was devised to appear to almost have a time machine feel to it. This was a prop that came off the top of my head so the design was up to me. I began by ordering a number of different sized boxes and received them flat pack. This was good as it gave me the opportunity to manipulate and add items to the box. I began by measuring and cutting out the main hole in the front insuring I left enough space to add dials and nobs. I decided to allow some of the nobs to turn manually as I wanted some interaction whilst animating. 





Finally i constructed the box by using two sided velcro attachments. I decided not to use glue as this may have become brittle and broek n in the future when animating. this proved to work very successfully and maintained its structure throughout animating. The name really says it for itself a brain in a box. Finally I cut out a cover to put over the front whole so as I could swap the sponge and brain without the viewer seeing. I originally had a piece of cardboard which matched the box however later changing the material of the cardboard to give it a grill effect. this different texture worked well and gave the brain box another exciting element.






Tests

First Test

video

My first test was literally a test! I wanted to see what my props would look like when filmed and when the speed was increased. From this it was clear that there were already a few problems evident such as props were not fully built and in some scenes did not even appear.   These were just a few of the problems after watching this first filming attempt.

When I first came up with this story I was never quite sure what sounds such as the background music, etc were going to feature. However from this clip it was clear that not only was background music going to be needed but a number of sound effects and narrative was going to be crucial. 

The narrative was important to accompany the props as both were needed to tell the story. Although the props were good or going to be in due time, the animation alone would have been confusing and hard for the viewers to understand. In my early story boards I was going to produce a great deal of written visuals in order to skip a narrative. After some thought it was clear that viewing writing wouldn't be as effective as I first thought and I decided it would be an improvement  to have visuals and props which would make it far more interesting. 

Although all of this seemed simple enough, I still had the big task to improve the look of the animation. This first test showed me that it was still very far from the animation I wanted to end up with. I decided to put the sounds and narrative on hold until I had sorted the look and feel of the film. 

                                                           
                                                                 Second Test
                         



video



In my second attempt I focused on timing and execution of the props. What I learnt from this shoot was both how difficult and important the placement and preparation of each individual prop was. I discovered not every prop could be positioned or manipulated as smoothly as  others in terms of speed and how they had to be placed on the shoot.

I ran into problems such as in the 'pizza' scene, where the slices became difficult to attach and align. Similarly placing the camera at the right hight to ensure only the animator's arms came into shot and not the whole body. 

This second test was designed to build on the first set of improvements and refine it. I wanted my final film to look as professional as possible so in terms of visual aspects I preferred two people with the same clothes and similar looking arms for a consistant visual and attractive feel. I think in this version you can see this problem and small details like this can distract the viewer.

Although the props appeared well enough detailed to the naked eye, I learnt from viewing this film that some became distorted. Also it was apparent that professional studio quality lighting was necessary to enhance them. This opened a new set of problems. So my next problem was to reconstruct a new set and consider some form of lighting for a more professional finish.

Lighting and Set


I decided a to use two different types of lights to light my set. These were 800w Redhead kit - 2 head and a 2KW Blonde kit - 2 head. I think for the style I was going for, these best suited the film. I had one pointing towards the background to light the background and bounce back light onto the props. Then the more powerful light I placed behind the camera to shine directly on the main prop which was being filmed.
 












For the set I originally had a background sheet that had a number of creases in it which was a problem because of the shadows that it cast. I resolved this by hiring a more substantial stand and a number of hours tweaking it to the best of my ability. This was successful and clear to see in the next video.



Test three


By this stage I was now aware of production and visual faults and I knew which areas of my animation had to be improved. I now had to work on the final look, sound and ensure the message I was trying to get across was clear in my animation. 

With all my props built and a large amount of cardboard cut, glued and constructed it was now time to start shooting the final animation. The more professional set I designed was a step up for me and took a lot of different testing to get the lighting just right. This involved using dimmers, covers and changing the lighting positions. With more equipment in the space, it meant that there was less space for the props so they all had to take turns in the shooting as it had become slightly chaotic with so much equipment in the same room.






  


video


This test was close to the finished product. I had shot a number of scenes each with their own number of problems and kept improving it until I felt it was correct. The lighting showed a huge beneficial difference giving the props a much better quality of light which ensured all detail was on show. 

I tried a number of different background music styles and decided this one fitted well as it had a happy uplifting feel to it. This was important as the message I was portraying was a positive one. 

The sound effects came last as I was unsure whether they would be needed. After a number of tests I felt they were needed and actually were crucial as they tied in the action better.

Narrative

One more aspect needed refining and this was my narrative. I took a long time writing and re-writing it as this was the most important part of the 'pitch' or selling the message in my advert, like a product to the target audience. The voice or narrator was also a consideration as it was important to me to get the right tone so that the audience felt comfortable with it. Planet earth is a prime example of how this works with great visuals and amazing filming but also has a narrator to match this with David Attenborough. His voice alone has an important role in ensuring a complete finish to the film. I tried and tested a number of different people and found a suitable voice to match my advert.    

Below is a scene by scene narrative of my story:


  • So how do children learn, well there’s no one answer to that but lets take a closer look. 
  •  I’m sure you know children’s brains inhabit a world of imagination and a variety of learning, however some children learn in a way that might not always work with your technique of teaching.
  • For example certain children may not always understand the method or technique you choose to use, even though you’re using the correct tools and teaching it the correct way.
  • If this is difficult for you then can you imagine what’s going on in your student’s brains?
  • As a result you have unhappy students and an unhappy teacher all of which makes for an unhappy learning experience.
  •   I’m sure when you think of animation you think only of seeing it on your television!
  •  However studies have shown pupils who use animation develop team building skills, creativity, narrative skills and show significant cognitive learning.
  • Don’t be put of by animation as it’s as simple as using a camera, tripod, computer and some willing students
  • The result - happy students and a happy teacher achieved through animation. Now that’s what   I call learning.
  • In our free start-up pack we provide a number of tools including a web cam, a mini set, the latest software, plasticine and a lesson plan to get you started.
  • So what’s the solution! Well its simple, try our new start up pack and you are on your way to a new exciting way of teaching


video


Nearly There!


I had completed the narrative and was pleased with the outcome. However after some feedback the ending didn't deliver a clear message. I decided to cut the final scene which included a start up pack entering the shot. The prop was a cardboard start up pack and which was unclear and not visible. I decided to to add contact details and a direct line to ordering the start up pack. This changed the feel of the animation and gave it more of the intended advert look.




As this was an advert I thought a name would not be suitable and decided a catch phrase would suit it considerable more. I wanted something short but catchy and decided on 'Bringing teaching up to speed'. I wanted to be careful not to insult or push my message to bluntly and this seemed the right slogan to match.



 The Outcome

As a final project this helped my with my chosen career path. I am committed to animation in education and fundamentally believe it provides the opportunity to develop a variety of skills which I hope I demonstrated in my animation.

I believe I have constructed a professional outcome that reaches the criteria and have a clear message and precise target audience. I hope the advert will not only support the awareness of animation but be a starting point to a new exciting way of teaching. In the future I plan to take my animation skill set and kwoledge of the benifits and proceed the push my point across my career as a teacher.

Does it Work   

Fortunately I have had some experience and links to schools which gave me the chance to show my advert to my intended target audience. I showed it to both a primary and a secondary school and had some interesting positive feedback.  

Both schools were very imprssed and thought it pushed a very strong point. They were impressed with the idea of a start up pack which included the the lesson plan, which they said in hand would be vital for all beginners to teaching animation.

The secondary school Hibury fields thought this would be a great opportunity for summer schools and after school events expressing in small groups this would be a great way to try a new style of teaching.

Im really pleased I got the chance to show my animation to some teachers and am overwhelmed with all the positive feedback. This project was a real eye opener to me and has confirmed the career path I want to take. I hope this is the beginning to a great future ahead of me.





 

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