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Book Summary ICM504

Animated Storytelling: Chapters 5-6 Summary

Let yourself get creatively weird, and lead with sound.

Continuing the same trend from the past two weeks, I read a few more chapters in the book Animated Storytelling that I’ll be summarizing here. Reading these chapters came at a great time, as I am currently working on a short stop-motion film, and Liz Blazer’s book continues to give solid advice. 

Chapter 5: Weird Science

In chapter 5, Blazer encourages us, the artists, to get weird, experiment, and make “bad” art. This chapter is all about creativity for the sake of creation. So much of what Blazer said in this chapter resonated with me and how I can push my skills to a new level—something I’ve felt “stuck” in for some time. Here are some of Blazer’s high-level points of advice.

Create and explore without self-judgment or expectations. 

Blazer explains that “When you relax and stop worrying about what people are going to think, you’re at your most creative and inventive.” She suggests you take a scene from your animation and break all of your standard rules. Use odd color combinations, add a million effects, and turn things upside-down, knowing no one else will see it except for you. Along the way, you’ll learn something new and gain creative insight. 

When you relax and stop worrying about what people are going to think, you’re at your most creative and inventive.

Animated Storytelling, page 74
Take side projects and do the work you want to get hired to do. 

Personal projects give you a chance to build your own style and cultivate your own unique, creative point-of-view. This will take time, but will also pay off. By taking on personal projects you’ll be able to tell the stories you want to tell, the way you want to tell them. What sounds better than that?!

Work on the edge of your skillset and create an Experimentation list. 

Recognize where your weaknesses are and invest time in improving them. There is no shame in admitting what you don’t know or what you need to get better at. That’s human, and all of us—even the best of the best—have skills we can improve on.

An Experimentation List is a document of skills or techniques you may want to experiment or improve on. Keep track of what these are and your progress on them. These experimentation ideas don’t need to pop out of thin air. Use inspiring work from other professionals to guide you and what you want to learn. Pay attention to the work that is out there and what appeals to you about it. Write all of this down in your Experimentation document.

As someone who recognizes I want to improve my skills but wasn’t sure how to approach it, chapter 5 has given me many tips and advice I can quickly put to practice. I appreciate that Blazer’s suggestions for elevating my skills don’t require money or fancy tech. All she asks is that we put in the time and effort to making our skills better. 

Chapter 6: Sound Ideas

In Chapter 6, Blazer discusses the significance that sound plays in animation. There are two distinct types of sound to pay attention to next time you watch a film: diegetic and non-diegetic.

Diegetic sound is sound you can “see” on screen or that comes from the film’s physical world. For example, a dog barking, people talking on screen, or a musician playing the violin. The sound makes sense in its environment and has a clear connection to the visuals.

Non-diegetic sound is more surreal. It’s sound that isn’t present on the screen or implied by what you are watching. But, even if it may not make logical sense, it enriches the film and your experience watching it. The narrator in the TV series Jane the Virgin is an example of non-diegetic sound. He doesn’t exist in the world we are watching, but his presence enhances the experience of watching the show. Honestly, he is one of my favorite characters in the entire series!

No matter what type of sound you incorporate into your film or animation, Blazer makes a few suggestions:

  • Sound should be a primary part of your story, and you should consider it early-on. Sound impacts the story’s overall quality and should be considered just as thoughtfully as your theme, visuals, and color. Blazer challenges us “to not only consider your soundtrack at the same time as writing and design in your production timeline but to lead with sound, using it as the primary compass for your storytelling.”
  • Timing and delivery of sound are as important as the sound itself. Make sure each sound effect, song, voice-over, etc., works to elevate your story and does so at the exact right moment. 
  • Don’t rely solely on the plethora of free sound and music resources available to you. If you have something specific in your head for how something should sound, don’t be afraid to record it yourself.

Having no prior experience in sound design, I feel much more educated on its significance and impact in motion graphics. Next time I watch a film, I can already imagine myself deciphering the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound and how music, narration, and voice-over work to improve my watching experience.

Resources

Animated Storytelling: Simple Steps For Creating Animation and Motion Graphics. 1st Edition. by Liz Blazer. https://www.amazon.com/Animated-Storytelling-Creating-Animation-Graphics/dp/013413365X

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