Play and Abstraction
Abstract animation is an animation genre that I have never explored or experienced enough. It is something that is harder to understand for me. I have never tried to grasp the concept behind abstract animation, hence, when I read that abstract animation is all about creating an experience for the audience to interpret, my interest was piqued.
I enjoyed Sara Petty's Furies as it is essentially exploring the movements of cats. There is no narrative behind the animation, just pure character movement. They are so fluid and smooth that they transition and morph throughout the whole film. I like the way it is presented too. The traditional art look gives a different vibe to it.
Then, I watched Opus 2 (1921) (https://youtu.be/RwahxVC3rDY) on Youtube. It plays with light and shadow, as well as the relationship between shapes. I was inspired by the look of this piece of abstract animation. I am not sure about the production and this is only my assumption, but it looks like they have used camera recordings during the editing. That's what inspired me to use real-life objects to create an abstract animation. The fact that I wanted to step away from my computer for a while might also aid in the decision of doing a stop-motion like abstract animation.
This animation is my first take on abstract animation. It is different from what I used to do. Without a narration, I didn't have a certain plotline to follow when creating the visuals. It forced me to think about what emotion or experience the shapes, colour, and lighting would form in the mind of the audience. Abstract animation is interactive in a way that allows the audience to have their own interpretation every time that watch the animation.
To start with this week's response, I decided to use a different workflow when creating. Instead of brainstorming visuals directly, I started with selecting a piece of music as the experience of watching an abstract animation is similar to the experience of listening to a piece of music.
I listened to the music a few times to get a grasp of the emotion I could exploit in the visual. With the music melody going ups and downs all the time, I feel like it fits the theme of 'floating' really well. I then started to brainstorm about the visuals.
As I mentioned in the CONTEXT, I was inspired by Opus 2 to create a stop-motion like abstract animation. I also wanted to step away from the computer, at least at the beginning of my production process. That's why I used Stop Motion Studio (a tablet app) to capture images from my room. I played with a few items in my room and eventually decided on using the shelf and the wall as background, and a circle paper cut-out and the shadow of my clothes hanger as my main imageries.
After finish taking footages for stop-motion, I transferred them to AE and started heavily editing them. I then played with a few different ways to composite the footages together during my time of production.
I created an abstract animation called 'Floating'. I was trying to recreate the feeling of floating on water and floating in the emotional state at the same time.
To start my exploration of the week, I read the article 'Content and Meaning in Abstract Animation' written by Pamela Turner. It is a useful reading to get me a basic understanding of what an abstract animation is. I think the most distinctive difference between an abstract animation and the animation I used to create is that there is no story to follow at all. However, as mentioned in the article, abstract animation still has meaning or content despite not having a narrative to build on. It allows the audience to focus on the visuals and the music and experience them as a whole on their own. 'The purpose of this imagery 'is' not to depict but to express. Its subject 'is' experience'. (Turner 2003) Everyone will have their own interpretation and the interpretation might change each time they watch the animation.
Brainstorming for the imagery of a non-story based animation is difficult, but the aspect of constructing and delivering an experience to the audience is something I'm interested in my exploration of play. Also, to be playful and open-minded during the process of production, I tried to use random visuals that I could find in my room. In the end, I used a mix between random objects and paper cut-outs for the stop motion.
As Paul Fletcher said in 'An Artist's Appreciation of The Potential of Animation and Abstraction', 'abstract impressions from light, colour, visual forms, nuances of movement... are as important to 'the audience's' experience as any carefully crafted spoken words or written text'. (Fletcher 2014) That's why I tried my best to focus on the colour, visual forms, and the nuances of movement when creating. However, out of the three criteria, I focused on the movement of the imagery the most. I wanted to create an experience of floating, so what better movement is there besides going up and going down? The editing in AE also allowed me to play with different compositions and timing for the imagery. To enhance the emotional connection between the imagery and the audience, I explored the possibilities of either using greyscale or colour. After playing with the setting for a while, I decided to go for a separate colour tone for the imagery, e.g. a warmer tone for the imagery when it goes up to bring out a more positive emotion and a cooler tone for the imagery when it goes down to bring out a more negative emotion. For the visual forms though, I wanted to go with something smoother. That's why the main imagery in my abstract animation is a circle. It also looks like a ball floating in a pool. I avoided using triangles as it's sharp edges will create unnecessary tension to the experience.
It is fun to create an abstract animation, though I'm not sure if the audience will experience what I anticipate them to. But I guess that is also part of the fun! I just hope that I could be in a studio setup and gather feedback from peers to improve my skillset in creating abstract animation.
Turner, P. (2003). Content and Meaning in Abstract Animation. Kinetic Imaging Publications and Presentations.
Fletcher, P. (2014). An Artist's Appreciation of the Potential of Animation and Abstraction. [Online]. [Accessed 3 October 2020].