As I’ve spent a good part of this week unable to do a lot of work (thanks to a recent bout of the flu) I’ve decided to put the time to good use in further developing my thoughts regarding the nature and exploration of my animation.
I’ve been reminded that the medium is not the technique. “Medium” is a pretty broadly defined word, but for me I needed to narrow it down or run the risk of getting mixed up. The medium of our expression as animators is not pencils, paper, puppets, or pixels. It’s animation. Whatever we say, however we say it and whatever it looks like visually we do so through the persistence of vision as sequential images and sound unfold. Animation is our medium.
All the different ways of making animation are techniques. Whether we draw it, paint it on glass, do cut out paper, use stop-motion puppets or use a computer- all are merely techniques, not the medium.
While most animation is made by sequentially filming the manipulation or display of physical elements (drawings, stop mo sets and puppets, cut paper, etc.) this does not equate these physical forms to animation as medium, at least not the way I’m narrowly defining it. A puppet of Wallace is not animation. A drawing of Bugs Bunny is not animation. An oil stained sheet of glass is not animation. These are just the physical artifacts of different techniques for making animation. Film is not the medium, no more than television or computer screens, paper flipbooks, zootropes or digital projection. These are merely storage and delivery mechanisms. The medium is animation itself.
Like music, animation cannot be stopped and still exist. Stop playing the instrument and you no longer have music. Stop running the projector you no longer have animation. If you record music that recording is merely a container. A CD is not music. Similarly the film reel (or hard drive) is not animation, it’s just a container. The data on the CD must be temporally projected aurally in order for music to exist. The film must be visually projected in sequence in order for the animation to exist. You cannot hold music. You cannot touch animation. You can manually grasp the instruments of creation, but not the creation itself. No wonder the earliest pioneers in animation combined their work so closely with music- the two share exact natures.
CG is different than most common methods of animation in that it is utterly lacking in innate physical form. CG has nothing material like a stack of drawings on paper. It has no innate physical expression to define its look. The end result is that as a technique CG is limited primarily to emulation. However in this area it excels. It can convincingly doppleganger aspects from a number of other techniques that are based in the physical realm with great facility. Thus inviting the next thought.
Previously I had started to develop the idea of CG animation as being akin to a temporal collage. Collage is not a medium- it is without innate material form. You cannot go to your local art store and buy a box of collage. Collage is a technique that takes all manner of objects and images (inputs) and arranges them visually to express an idea. Collage is materially agnostic. CG animation shares this nature. The key difference being that in CG animation one must digitally mimic, recreate or capture the inputs that collage can use immediately in the physical realm.
By reducing CG (and all other ‘kinds’ of animation) from medium to technique I find an interesting mental pattern emerges. I find my thinking liberated from being driven by any sense of medium-ism or a puritanical frame of mind. Since the medium is animation and all forms of it are merely technique then we are free to mix techniques to achieve the desired end result. If one wishes to master any one particular technique and exclude the use of any other in making animation that is a self directed imposition- not one inherent to the medium of animation. The ability to combine visual elements from different techniques- whether material or immaterial- opens doors for a myriad of end possibilities. We can make our animation out of any combination of techniques and visual signatures- so long as we artfully and skillfully use them. The need to be purely CG, purely hand drawn or purely anything is totally arbitrary.
Of course this isn’t ground breaking stuff. Examples of all of these conclusions abound. This is merely a travelers guide to my thought process as I seek a new mental framework from which to operate. As noted earlier I have realized that the problem of my literal mindedness in regard to CG animation hasn’t been a lack of technology or abilities in CG, but instead a lack of open minded thought on my own part. That is why such a pursuit of a new framework of thinking about how I make animation has been a vital personal exercise. I feel ready to move forward without concern over adhering to any pre-conceived notions about the proper use of a technique or “right way” to do anything. The first thing I need to do is shed the label of being a “CG Animator”. I don’t wish to be defined by a technique. Such a one is nothing more than a technician. Whether I use CG exclusively is irrelevant. Indeed it would run counter to most of my recent conclusions to do so. When the label goes, so do the walls. The locks are turning.
From now on I am just “Animator”.