Project Diary

My IATL project aims to encourage wellness specifically for the black community. By using the Adobe Animate software, I intend to create two videos which give an insight to the kind of world black women live in. When I proposed this project, I had a keen interest in animation and graphic design, but I had never done an animation before. So, I knew this would be a challenging but fulfilling project.

Starting the project was a bit frustrating because I anticipated gaining access to the adobe software many months earlier. I was super relieved to finally gain access on June 28. Despite the relief, I did not realise the pent-up fear that had been building up, since I didn’t have the chance to start when I was ready and supposed to start.

In addition, around the same time, I also received the opportunity to participate in a two-and-a-half-week summer school in Germany and I didn’t want to miss such an experience. I was in a panic. It dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing and how big this project was going to be. Even though, I was ecstatic about the summer school opportunity, I knew it would be difficult to schedule time to start learning how to animate. Just before I set off to Germany, I confessed my doubts to my tutor, and she gave me some advice that helped me to set more feasible goals.

During my summer school, I found pockets of time to watch explanation videos and started watching short tutorials provided by the adobe animate software. The videos frequently advised having a very clear plan of what my story would entail even before I get practising. So, I started drafting a script. Fast forward, exactly one month later, on July 28th, I finally finished the word count for my first animation script. I was thrilled that I finished because I struggled to get started for a while. Now that the script was complete, a flood of feeling reassured rushed back into me and the following days consisted of watching tutorials from YouTube and the adobe animate software. After many tutorials, I learned that I needed to create a more detailed plan as to what my story would look like.

On the 13th of August, I started drawing my storyboard with a pencil to capture the full perspective of the trajectory of my animated story. The next day, I finished the visual storyboard and finally started to make an animation. I started to animate a tutorial that I had been watching to get practising because, with no experience of animating, I couldn’t just leap into creation. I was quite nervous but very hopeful.

On the 22nd of August, I realised just how long it was taking to recreate what I was learning because I needed to write notes and execute what I was learning in real-time. It was very challenging to begin with because the YouTube “teacher” did not explain every single step in detail. So, with the gaps in the learning, I researched answers via the online adobe community, to see if anyone received answers to problems that suited mine and, at other times, I had to struggle to figure out the solution myself.

A week had passed, and I realised that I finished only 20 minutes of the video I was watching. I felt very panicked because I had been working on it for about four-five hours each day! The next week, I decided to increase my work rate. To my surprise, as I started entering a flow state more frequently, I realised that animating is not as difficult as I imagined it to be. Okay, no, it is difficult, but I thought it would be excruciating.

To make things even clearer, animating is like learning all the positions to swing a golf ball for the first time. You need to straighten your back, poke your elbows out, and swing firmly but softly. Then, once you’ve finally mastered the positioning you realise you are on a running track, and you mastered all the positions for the wrong sport! So, you need to sprint the 400meter track and then all the way to the golf course. After all that running, you need to catch your breath and you are shattered by the time you get to the golf course but, all you need to do now, is, repeat everything that you have already learned from golf once again. That is animation.

As I adjusted to the software, I started to resolve some technical issues independently. For example, the speed of my bouncing character was too quick to see the different facial expressions, so I worked out how to slow my entire animation down. I also learned that the order you place layers affects the positioning of these layers on your screen. It sounds very intuitive, but this took me four days to resolve because I was focused on trying to reveal a covered image, rather than considering what position the image was placed to begin with.

There is a lot of Physics in animation. As I was learning the different principles of animation, I wrote notes on what velocity is and why squashing and stretching images affect how the mass looks. I’ve always loved physics in school but struggled with maths anxiety, so it feels amazing to be revisiting Physics through a different focal point.

On the 8th of September, one particularly stressful moment occurred. I was on the last stretch of adding colour onto my practice animation but when I opened adobe animate, I didn’t see my practice animation in my recent files. So, I used an alternative route that led me to an error message that popped up, informing me that my file didn’t exist. I couldn’t access what I had been working on for so long. I broke down and cried bitterly. I was so close to finishing, and I desperately wanted this practice animation as evidence of my first completed animation. I then emailed for help and posted my query onto the adobe online support page that I had been using so religiously. It turned out that someone had the exact issue as me! So, I tried to download the application they suggested and just accepted the feature to make changes onto my computer and somehow it worked! The file was recovered but I didn’t even complete the remaining steps in the solution. I emailed my university IT services for clarification, and I’ve been encouraged to autosave manually, a practice I will start to keep up from now on.

If it’s not one disaster, it’s another.

A couple days later, I had an ear infection which delayed my progress yet again. I was absolutely gutted but, I needed to prioritise my health so I requested for an extension because I would need much more time to complete the two animations.

After recovering, I finished my practice animation. I was pleased that I had completed my first motion picture but instead of a sense of pride, I was quite embarrassed that it had taken a month to make just 4 seconds of work. I know this is my first time with no prior experience, but I was just scared of how I could possibly finish two animation movies in the next two months. I have just decided to focus on one animation because this will be just over 3 minutes long and as a beginner, I greatly underestimated how time-consuming drawing so many frames of work would be. To clarify, a frame is a drawing along a timeline and to animate one second of video, you would need twenty-four frames of drawing. To make the workload easier, animators occasionally animate on every second frame (so on twos) meaning they would only need to draw twelve frames for one second of motion. I am drawing on twos, but it has still proved to be extremely time-consuming. I remember earlier mentioning that I thought that animation would be excruciating. I would like to retract that thought because- with hindsight- sometimes, animating can be! To capture how much time is needed to create a few seconds of motion, I have been recording my laptop screen and I will include a sped-up version in my video explaining the process and reveal just how many hours something that looks quite straight forward has taken. I have also been recording myself during this process so I can incorporate real-time emotions of this journey into my progress explanation video. Finishing the progress explanation video, proved to be much more emotional than I anticipated. I thoroughly enjoyed editing and creating another visual aid of learning by capturing the details of my emotional rollercoaster. I finally finished my animation a week before my deadline and created a thought-provoking ambiance with sound effects and music. Thank you for joining me on this process.

By Bili