Animation provides a great medium through which an entrepreneur can easily showcase key concepts about his or her business. One of the most fascinating things, in my opinion, about animation is how the barriers to entry are slowly eroding. Think back to elementary and middle school art classes, where your teacher tried to explain the finer points by making it look and sound easy through examples, only to discover that it’s significantly harder to do when you actually put pencil to paper.
I’m starting to learn, however, that there’s more than one way to create animated content to support your startup— and some are more accessible than you’d think!
Rather than getting into which tools and methods work best, it makes more sense to start by looking at the building blocks needed to create an animation in the first place.
As a novice, I’m not the best person to break down the mechanics of what constitutes good animation. Fortunately, I have been staying in touch with Amanda Kopacz, a former classmate of mine from Juniata College, and current student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she studies Film and Animation with a concentration in 3D Animation.
She was happy to offer advice to someone that’s just getting started, talk about some of the more technical aspects of creating animations, and explain how beginners can learn the basics.
As a student pursuing a terminal degree in Fine Arts, Amanda’s learned to use a myriad of Hollywood-grade tools and functions to complete her work.
“I’ll use programs like Photoshop, After Effects, and Autodesk Maya to create my animations,” she told me. “These tools have so many different functions that I feel like I’m always learning. It takes me anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to start to get the hang of them.”
But Amanda got her start by sticking to the fundamentals of animation and working her way up to the more-advanced tools she’s using in her classwork today.
“I started out using basic techniques, like the classic pencil and paper, or creating stop motion animations with a cell phone camera,” she explained.
Stop motion is the term for animation created by taking a series of pictures of a physical object as it makes tiny, incremental movements to form an action sequence. Think about any famous claymation video — that’s stop motion.
When using pencil and paper, one of the challenges of creating each frame is remembering where the previous one left off. For this, Amanda suggests that beginners use a technique called onion skin, where you lay new paper over completed drawings to use as a reference point.
“The trick requires you to put the paper down and have the light shine through so you can see your work clearly.”
Advances in technology and software are not only creating more possibilities for professional animators, but they’re also making it easier for beginners to use advanced techniques early on.
“I worked for a STEM camp this summer called MY TECH LEARNING,” she said. “I taught animation, and used FlipaClip to help the students learn.”
FlipaClip is a basic animation tool available on iOS and Android that makes it easy to start animating as a student thanks to its support of multiple-layer drawings, storyboarding, and straightforward interface.
“I also have enjoyed using Animation Desk,” she mentioned. “It is super-helpful for someone starting to learn the basics of animation. There are different brushes to play around with and it’s easy to duplicate frames. It even supports onion skin, which allows you to see the frames in front of and behind the one you’re working on.”
Promoting Your Startup
My personal interest in animation came when I wanted to explore its usefulness at helping me convey some of the core functions of my startup’s app.
We released the AssureTech Mobile App just over a year ago to help people with severe food allergies — like myself — travel safely in foreign countries. The app offers a number of different translation and emergency tools that can sometimes be difficult to explain in a succinct way.
One colleague suggested that I look at something called whiteboard animation. Even if you don’t know the term, you’re probably familiar with the finished product: a video with terms and workflows drawn out in a logical procession. They’re all over social media and are one of the easiest ways to bring complex or abstract ideas “down to earth.”
“The artist uses a white board to do an animation,” said Amanda. “So you can start with an image, take a picture, and then add, subtract, or change it in some way; take another picture; and continue to do that to illustrate a point. Once you have all the pictures, you put them together to create the animation.”
I’m still getting the hang of this, but I think it’s a good — and frankly, quite fun — way to design marketing material for my startup!
For Aspiring Artists
Amanda and other aspiring animators or creative entrepreneurs — even if you’re just starting out — can use their skillsets in a number of different ways to build a professional portfolio and create opportunities to earn additional income.
“I’ve enjoyed working as a freelance artist,” explains Amanda. When she’s not teaching animation or attending class, she’s creating opportunities for herself by offering her photography, video — and, of course — animation skills to businesses looking for support.
“I started working as a freelance animator for Kdan Mobile this past spring,” she said. “That’s when I was first introduced to Animation Desk.”
Amanda was hired to create promotional animations for the company’s 8th Annual iAniMagic Contest. The Contest is held for animators — from first-time learners to professionals — and offers cash prizes, professional recognition, and more to artists with the top submissions.
Whether you’ve got a startup that could benefit from quick-and-easy content, or a creative looking to add to to your portfolio, I encourage you to give animation a try!