Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Thus concludes my first foray into the wild world of 3D animation (well, I'll be back at it in a few weeks for my MRP, but alas). However, for the purpose of one of my MA classes (Media Production Lab), this journey is over. I can't wait to never look at that 20-second reference footage again!
As I've been moving through these assignments while concurrently self-teaching myself iClone 7, people have been very curious about how I've coped with such an immense learning curve. The most common answer I give to these questions are a) It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be! and b) It's also a lot harder. 3D animation is not easy - whether it's through a program like Blender, Maya, Unity, Unreal or a more self-contained software like iClone 7. That being said, it is accessible. It's accessible for a user like me who has absolutely no training in animation, let alone the visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.) And that's the beauty of these forms of virtual production- they have the ability to, potentially, lower barriers of entry to the art of media production. Throughout this process, I have been so impressed by the breadth and scope of what creative tools are available to users of this software; be it through character design, building assets, customizing set pieces, or filming/animating a scene. Yes, of course, it takes time to learn all of these skills and really understand the interface but at the same time programs like iClone offer really helpful tools for self-education, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and accessible tutorials. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that you have the willingness, the drive and the passion to keep pursuing it throughout all the confusion, bad outputs, and frustration that comes from being a novice in an artistic field. However, if one chooses to see it through; the affordances of 3D animation and virtual production pipelines for emerging creators are immense. You can see your dream film become a reality without having to spend a dime on film equipment, sets, costumes, cinematography etc. I'm so excited for what the future holds for these artists, including myself.
One of the things I was immediately struck by when I joined 3D animation virtual communities was the fact a lot of the creators using iClone, Unreal, Blender, etc. weren't "professionals". They are hobbyists. They are emerging and/or novice creatives who, like myself, are teaching themselves a new skill, and I find that to be a beautiful thing. Even when some of their outputs could be seen as "amateur", "low budget" and sometimes even "cringe", it must be remembered that they are making something! They are making art - and this art is so unique to their own creative identity; it has its own style, aesthetic, and personality. So although some people may laugh off these outputs as "unprofessional" or "incompetent", I find them really beautiful.
Just like I find an off-tempo, cover song by an Elvis Impersonator on YouTube beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G00i0seqyeg
Or an original outsider artist beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sch9FGd4HHc
What a shame it would be if only "professionals" were allowed to make art! And I see programs like iClone and, broadly, 3D animation as just another accessible, innovative avenue for creators to create.
So, on that note, I'm proud of what I've done here! It's the first step, not the final step, in my 3D animation process and I'm excited for what's to come. Typically, I'm the type of person who prides myself on excellence; and if I don't pick up on something quickly, I'll quit early on. So this exercise (and not to mention documenting it through a public-facing blog) feels very antithetical to the creative identity I've come to cultivate. But growth is good! So is trying, failing, and trying again. What I've learned is that it's okay to show your work in its early stages; that it shouldn't be a shameful process that instills feelings of guilt, anxiety, and embarrassment. It's just part of the creative process. I think that's why I find "outsider" art so fascinating and why I'm really taken with any level of independent production; I'm drawn to those people because I too long for that artistic freedom without any reservations. Woe is the perfectionist's complex.
I don't think my outputs are perfect but I'm also trying not to compare them to the work of animators who have been in the field for years. That just wouldn't be fair. But, at the end of the day, I can say that I've learned a lot and surprised myself by how well I was able to adapt, absorb and execute 3D animation using a self-education model. And something I constantly have to remember is that I'm not going to get any worse- I can only get better.
I look forward to the day when I can look back on this process and see how far I've come.
"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."
- Kurt Vonnegut