5 Things I Learned from Animation Bootcamp

Posted Jun 12th, 2015

I love learning. I think most people do. But learning on your own can get lonely and unmotivating fast - especially as a freelancer. Over the last couple years I've been struggling to get better at the craft of animation. Even though I studied animation in art school, that was many many...ok, let’s not get into specifics here...but many years ago. The point is, I've been feeling rusty and out of practice. I needed a solution to learn and improve quickly, without the long term commitment or financial set back of going back to school. Thankfully we live in the age of internets and there are endless online options for learning.

Enter School of Motion. I’ve been following Joey ever since he released his 30 days of after effects tutorials last year. Every tutorial he produced over those 30 days was super high quality, incredibly useful and well taught. He is an amazing teacher and possesses a unique talent of teaching with crystal clarity and motivating his audience with high energy and a positive personality. He understands his students not only because he listens really well, but just like his audience, he has had to learn animation from the ground up.

When Joey opened a 6 week Animation Bootcamp, I was thrilled to hear it and immediately got my name on the wait list. This was exactly what I needed to push me to improve. I could really use a refresher on Animation Principles and it would be useful to learn them with the modern tool of choice: After Effects. I learned so much in the condensed 6 weeks of training, but I've outlined my top 5 take aways from the course.

Learning the “What”, not just the “How”

In this technical day and age, its so easy to solve animation problems with some kind of plug in or script. It still amazes me that you can actually animate an entire piece through automation. Many of these scripts and plug-ins are useful and save time, but if you don’t understand “what” these tools are doing, things could get dodgy. Especially when client or production requests come in and the script won’t make the custom change for you. Animation Bootcamp helped me discover the fundamentals of animation so that I have a better understanding of what is going on with each key frame.

When you understand the “what”, you can create something unique, without plugins and scripts. Joey explained types of movement: easing in and out, linear movements and how to make animation “feel good”. Control over your keyframes was the significant takeaway here and it turns out this is the key to building my confidence in this craft. I was learning what I was doing by adjusting every key frame intentionally, affecting the timing and speed. I was “getting my hands dirty”.

Brainhole from Sandra Tournemille on Vimeo.

Feedback Loops

I believe the key to success for this course is the one on one feedback each student receives from pro bootcamp Teaching Assistants along with the weekly webinars. Throughout the course we were assigned to a Facebook group where we could safely post our finished projects. We received incredible feedback from our assigned TAs who left detailed notes and sometimes even posted screen grabs of our graph editor and keyframes. This customized feedback is crucial to getting better. On top of that, the weekly webinars were a fantastic way to see how the pros would approach each project and what they would do differently. As a lonely freelance animator, this virtual mentorship has been huge for my own personal development.

A Proper Language

Along with receiving feedback from the TA, we were also strongly encouraged to give feedback to our peers. Articulating why something appears to work or doesn’t work requires learning a particular language and this is precisely what the exercise encouraged. Carefully inspecting my peer’s work I learned to share that a particular move felt good because the “spacing and timing worked together to create the appropriate ease” or something didn't feel good because “there was not enough overshoot” or the “oscillation didn't continue long enough”. Practising this language not only helps animators communicate ideas, but it also helps us see and understand why things work or don’t work. I found this incredibly useful.

Barney's Pool Noodles from Sandra Tournemille on Vimeo.

Community - Networking & Interaction

For 6 weeks a group of us worked in the trenches of this bootcamp. It was frustrating and challenging, trying to complete all these assignments on time and to a quality we were happy to share. When my classmates posted their work, I was inspired and it pushed me to do better and try harder. Although we were scattered all over the world and we were communicating over a Facebook group, I felt as though we did develop a camaraderie. As I struggled with learning the speed graph and graph editor, knowing that my fellow classmates were also fighting to learn and understand the same thing gave me that extra motivation to push on and get the project done. The students that come through this particular bootcamp are hard working, focused and incredibly talented. The opportunity to learn, interact and network with other animators of this calibre will also continue as every student “graduates” to the alumni Facebook group where the conversations and networking continue.

Available Resources

Yes, the teaching videos are of the highest quality with detailed lessons and instruction. But Joey also includes a massive amount of resources for students to access. He’s included in-depth interviews with successful animators (such as JR Canest and Sander van Dijk) who offer very specific advice to beginners, numerous diagrams and reading material along with extra teaching videos. He even takes the time to offer some learning “hacks” to prepare our brains for success over the full 6 weeks of intense learning and over the long haul. I really feel as though the course not only offers a well rounded animation course, but it also supports the students as growing artists with constant encouragement and motivation.

Ministry of Eye Control from Sandra Tournemille on Vimeo.

In Conclusion...

I'm not going to lie. This course is tough! It is not for the faint at heart. And if you are like me, juggling full time work, clients and family, you have to be ready to commit to the time and schedule out the work, in order to receive the full benefits. But I cannot say enough positive stuff about this experience. Joey has not only created a course package that will guarantee improvement, he has also created a wonderful  community of animators and safe, encouraging environment to learn, fail and then get better. I would highly recommend beginner animators, “rusty” animators, and even accomplished animators to take this course.

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