Sunday, February 28, 2010

Long time coming

Creating animation is less difficult and more time consuming than most studio courses, at least that is what I tell my students in the VCOM 363 sequential media class. Going through the process of selecting a narrative (story, joke, etc) that is visual in nature, creating a storyboard, planning the making process, and executing the animation, not to mention the refinement process is more than one student seems to be able to handle in half a semester. At least it seems as though the final results don't reflect the efforts it take the students working at it.
The first problem is efficiency; students have a great deal of difficulty modifying the work they do to plan or refine projects. Even though they are forced to plan out projects and write out steps, benchmarks, goals and time management plans the still want to short-shift this process so they can get on with "making". The planning process is also inefficient because they do not take time to think about the process to making, or how they will proceed to making, or how they will legitimately cut time by reusing materials that they have already generated, backgrounds, characters, props, etc. Because they have not thought about it they commence with making and the endless discard, remake, discard, remake cycle begins. One the one hand they are not so committed to the work that they don't know when to through out an idea but on the other, they discard so quickly that they toss potentially good work. This can also be part of their inability to analyze and determine when something is valid and use it, while discarding the stuff that is superfluous.
The second problem is seeing quick results; I have found recently that I get more traction with students if I can demonstrate the practice quickly to them and have them attain an small amount of success early in the process. For example, using foreground, middle-ground, background principles a scene can quickly come alive with good results from small amounts of time and effort. It is critical that I follow up with the deeper more extensive explanation of those results, coding, principles, or theory that underpins the overall effect. Then the student is most likely to learn and achieve the deeper concerns I want them to attain. Some retain the information they have learned and others do not because of the first problem of inefficiency, the time laps between the demonstration and the need to use it is so long they have forgotten the success they had earlier.
The third major problem is interest; no you will not be an animator however, you may not be able to hire one, or you will avoid it because you can not do it yourself. This is the basis of my first book which could be titled "You think your kid is so smart! The electronic thumb generation". Yes our kids and students born in the 1990's do plow through a ton of information. Most of it is useless or forms some kind of tacit knowledge at best. This is ok but not what school is designed to do nor should be modified to accommodate. Knowledge needs to be explicit and formal for students to be prepared to the working world... Interest wains when we move from quick results to deep learning because of their inability to focus and maintain interest or seek out what is of interest in a given subject because they have a tendency to reject.
Two months in we are soon to wrap up the first of the projects. I don't see better results than when I made this a 4 week project. It is not apparent that they have learned any more about process either. Rethink this project again.