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A book to inspire potential computer game designers

If you are a young computer games enthusiast who is thinking of taking up games design as a career then The Computer Game Design Course: Principles, Practices and Techniques for the Aspiring Game Designer will help you decide what area to specialise in. It is packed with screen shots and illustrations from computer games. The book is nicely laid out in short sections and it is not over laden with text.

It begins with the history of games, then delves deeper to give an insight into the process that makes a great game. It includes step-by-step tutorials covering their design and development. A customer review on Amazon  said “If you’re wondering whether to specialize in a certain area of games development then this book will definitely help you to find what interests you the most about video games because it covers all the basics of each key area very well.”

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Animation A Handy Guide by Sheila Graber book review

LOOK INSIDE is on the Amazon website.

Sheila Graber sent me a copy of her latest book Animation A Handy Guide with a request to review it. The book came at an opportune time, as I was just off on holiday to warmer climes, to escape our cold winter weather. It made excellent holiday reading.

The book comes complete with a DVD. When I got home from holiday I popped this into my computer player and was amazed to find, not only the complete book reproduced page by page, but now the pages were interactive so that many of the examples in the book could be brought to life and the movies mentioned were there to view. More on this later.

Early on in the book Sheila Graber tells us of a valuable concept she learned at teacher training college. It was that everyone can be an artist in their own way and it was her job as a teacher to provide an environment in which the individual could find their own level. This is a philosophy she has followed through out her teaching career and follows in this book.

Sheila writes about animation from three different perspectives; the history of animated film making, advice for the student animator and Sheila’s own experiences as an independent animator. They are grouped together in a way that brings the subject to life and makes it relevant to the budding animator of today.

For example, in a section on animating to music Sheila starts by illustrating the way a 1933 animation by Oskar Fischinger, showing marching cigarettes, was similar to the 1979 animation of marching hammers, for Pink Floyds Another Brick in the Wall. She then sets a couple of exercises designed to demonstrate how visual sound patterns can be interpreted and that abstract scribbles can represent emotions. Finally she explains, with words and illustrations, how this approach helped her animate a film about the artist Mondrian set to boogie music. The resulting animation runs to this day in the Mondrian museum in the Netherlands as an educational introduction to his work. Sheila’s Mondrian movie is on the DVD that accompanies the book.

A screen shot from the interactive DVD showing scenes from Sheila’s Mondrian animation.

Sheila took up animation as a hobby as well as a means of encouraging her pupils to express themselves in an artistic way. Her early films won awards in the Movie Maker magazine 10 Best competitions and her later films won many professional awards, from the London Film festival to Cannes.

For a while Sheila worked at the FilmFair studio in London, animating drawings for the Paddington Bear TV series. These drawings were then traced, coloured, cut out and mounted on card to be combined with the stop motion puppet animation of the bear. However, I get the impression from the book that Sheila is happiest when working on her own creations.

The book describes how she has used many techniques over the years. She embraced the use of computer animation as soon as it became within the budget of an independent animator. Sheila shows how one of her recent animations produced on a computer, called Tyne Cargo, was very similar in style her 1976 cel animation called Moving On. She concludes that whatever materials you use your own style will emerge.

As mentioned earlier, the accompanying DVD is the book brought to life. This triples the information given in the printed book. There are such extras as Student Stuff where extra pages of practical advice are presented in a comic format. On the history pages there are buttons to Dave’s Data. This opens extra pages where David Williams expands on the historical facts and gives Internet links to even more information. There are buttons labelled Graber’s Guide that lead to instructional movies. There are buttons labelled Big Movie and Small Movie that lead to clips from the movies discussed in the book. There is also a built in program called Flip Book. This is a simple drawing program that allows you to create your own animations, frame by frame, play them back and save them to your computer.

Not only does this book tell the story of a remarkable independent female animator it serves as an inspiration to us all to get animated.

Animation: A Handy Guide LOOK INSIDE Animation A Handy Guide

Animation books available from the Amazon Kindle Store

The Amazon Kindle is a software and hardware platform for displaying e-books and other digital media delivered by wi-fi download. It has free wireless delivery so you can start reading books in less than 60 seconds from ordering. The screen reads like real paper, with no glare, making it easy to read in bright sunlight as well as indoors.

The screen is in black and white, which is great for reading novels but not so good for books that have coloured pictures in their printed format. However, you can download some free software from Amazon to view Kindle books on your PC or Mac in full colour. That way you have the best of both worlds, an easy portable version for when you are travelling and a colour reference when you are at your computer.

Here is our pick of animation books from the Kindle Store.

Animation from Pencils to Pixels: Classical Techniques for the Digital Animator

Award-winning animator Tony White brings you the ultimate book for digital animation. Here you will find the classic knowledge of many legendary techniques revealed, paired with information relevant to today’s capable, state-of-the-art technologies. White leaves nothing out. What contemporary digital animators most need to know can be found between this book’s covers – from conceptions to creation and through the many stages of the production pipeline to distribution. This book is intended to serve as your one-stop how-to animation guide. Whether you’re new to animation or a very experienced digital animator, here you’ll find fundamentals, key classical techniques, and professional advice that will strengthen your work and help you become a well-rounded animator.

LOOK INSIDE Animation from Pencils to Pixels

Timing for Animation

Written by two internationally acclaimed animators, this classic text teaches you all you need to know about the art of timing and its importance in the animated film. This reissue includes a new foreword by John Lasseter, executive vice president of Pixar Animation Studios and director of ‘Toy Story’, ‘Toy Story 2’, ‘A Bug’s Life’ and ‘Monsters Inc.’ He sets the wealth of information in this classic text in context with today’s world of computer animation, showing how this is a must-have text if you want to succeed as a traditional drawn, or computer animator.

LOOK INSIDE Timing for Animation

Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation

To make great animation, you need to know how to control a whole world: how to make a character, how to make that character live and be happy or sad. You need to create four walls around them, a landscape, the sun and moon – a whole life for them. You have to get inside that puppet and first make it live, then make it perform. Susannah Shaw provides the first truly practical introduction to the craft skills of model animation. This is a vital book in the development of model animation which, following the success of Aardman’s first full-length film, Chicken Run, is now at the forefront of modern animation.

LOOK INSIDE Stop Motion: Craft Skills

Animation: The Mechanics of Motion

Learn the key skills you need with this practical and inspirational guide to all the fundamental principles of animation. With extended pieces on timing, acting and technical aspects, Chris Webster has created the vital learning tool to help you get the most out of your animation and develop the practical skills needed by both professionals and serious students alike. By encouraging the readers to ask themselves questions about the various proposed tasks the author helps to move them towards self-reliance. Throughout the book, he makes reference to traditional techniques, and to C.G.I. Its written in a clear and engaging style, and the illustrations are excellent.

LOOK INSIDE Animation: The Mechanics of Motion

How to Make Animated Films: Tony White’s Complete Masterclass on the Traditional Principals of Animation

Become Tony White’s personal animation student. Experience many of the teaching techniques of the golden era of Disney and Warner Brothers studios and beyond.all from the comfort of your own home or studio. Tony White’s Animation Master Class is uniquely designed to cover the core principles of animated movement comprehensively. How to Make Animated Films offers secrets and unique approaches only a Master Animator could share. Includes hands-on Tutorials, demonstrations and final sample animations. . Whether you want to become a qualified animator of 2D, 3D, Flash or any other form of animation, Tony White’s foundations bring you closer to that goal.

LOOK INSIDE of How to Make Animated Films

Basics Animation: Stop-motion by Barry Purves book review

Oscar and BAFTA-nominated animation director Barry Purves has written a book that teaches the skills required to develop as a creative stop-motion animator or articulated puppet maker. Basics Animation: Stop-motion explores how all the elements of film-making camera work, design, colour, lighting, editing, music and storytelling come together to create animation.

LOOK INSIDE is on the Amazon website.
The cover image is taken from the film Madame Tutli-Putli, 2007, discussed in the chapter on puppets.

Barry Purves has packed the book with tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your own stopmotion films, accompanied by full-colour illustrations and case studies demonstrating how film-making masters through the years have used it in feature films, short films and TV series. Animation students will learn to use and exploit the particular types of movement, characters and stories that characterise stop-motion. Basics Animation: Stop-motion also examines the evolution of stopmotion, from its almost accidental beginnings to a much-loved form of storytelling in its own right one that continues to push boundaries.

Co-director of DreamWorks Animations Oscar-nominated Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osborne, commented: “To say this book is a perfect companion for anyone interested in stop-motion at any level is a tremendous understatement. Even by taking just a cursory glance through the pages, you will find that the wide range of photographic examples alone make this book a must have … As someone who has previously been a teacher in the medium, I am very excited to find a book that would make for a perfect textbook should I ever teach again.”

Final year Animation student Jack Tytherleigh, reviewing the book on Amazon, said: “If I had read this book 3 years ago, I can’t begin to imagine how much stronger my work would be right now. Although focused on Stop motion animation, this is an essential read for animators from all walks of life. It’s difficult to describe exactly what this book is, it is not just simply a reference to various techniques and skills, it is more a recording of over 30 years of experience. Barry Purves delivers a personal look into not only the advantages but also the drawbacks of each style of animation, offering advice and tips from writing to filming and from designing to modelling; there is always something more you can learn page by page. Broken up into sections for quick reference, you will not only develop your skills as an animator but also learn the history of the trade as well as being given practical and imaginative exercises to try out in your own time.”

In a review on Amazon, Hywel P Roberts said: “This book is a treasure to behold, animator or anyone with an interest in stop-motion. Structured in a practical manner, it allows easy access to a wealth of expertise; from someone who has brought an unprecedented amount of life to this art form. Barry gives an insight to the origins of stop-motion and uses a wide range of examples from animation to theatre, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of the different process available in the making of a stop-motion animated film, thus allowing the reader to decide on the most suitable approach to bring their story to life.”

Basics Animation 04: Stop-motion LOOK INSIDE Basics Animation 04: Stop-motion

Animation by Preston Blair – learn how to cartoon

Preston Blair’s Animation was one of the first books that I added to my animation library many years ago. It is said by many industry professionals to be the best “how to” book on cartoon animation ever published. He went on to produce two more books and all three have been combined into a 224 page book called Cartoon Animation (Collectors).

In the introduction to Animation Preston Blair said: “The art of animators is unique. Animators bring life to their drawings, creating an illusion of spirit and vigour. They caricature the gestures and expressions in the drawings, give them a fantastic array of character and personality, and make us believe that the drawings actually think and have feelings.”

He continued: “This book was written by an animator to help you learn how to animate-how to make a series of drawings that create a sensation of movement when viewed in sequence. The pioneers of the art of animation learned many lessons, most through trial and error, and it is this body of knowledge that has established the fundamentals of animation. This book will teach you these fundamentals.”

Here is a sample illustration from a page entitled The Dance Kick.

Page from the 1st edition. Click picture for larger image.

I was interested to learn that when Blair put the book together in 1947, he used the characters he had animated at Disney and MGM to illustrate the various basic principles of animation. Soon after publication the rights to use some of the characters were revoked. He redrew most of the MGM characters, replacing them with general characters of his own design for the next edition. Pages from the first edition can be viewed on the ASIFA website.

Preston Blair’s animation course is still available in printed form. The book Cartoon Animation (Collectors) has 224 pages and brings together the contents originally published in three separate books. By getting the printed book you can have all the information in one high quality volume.

You can see more sample pages from Cartoon Animation on the Amazon website.

LOOK INSIDE is on the Amazon website.

Animation can also be viewed at onanimation.com.
Cartoon Animation can be viewed at freetoon.com.

Classic cartoon animation techniques are timeless


Model sheets from The Battle of Wangapore.

The basics of classic film animation remain the same whether you are creating a flick book or computer animation. Much can be learned by studying cartoon films frame by frame. Things to look out for are:

Anticipation – before a character moves forward they will make a small movement in the opposite direction.
Squash and stretch – this is best demonstrated by a rubber ball bouncing.
Cycles – a series of movements such as walking that can be repeated several times.

When it hits the ground it will flatten slightly. When it bounces up it will return to the round shape and then go elongated. The same effect can be used on cartoon characters when they go through fast moves.

More techniques are discussed in the article ‘Open Letter to an Enthusiast’ that appears in Animator’s newsletter issue 4. In it animator Ken Clark introduces a beginner to cartoon animation.

Also Ken clark tells how an amateur group solved the mammoth task of animating ‘The Battle of Wangapore in The Grasshopper Animators.

One of the modern masters of animation, Richard Williams, has written an excellent animation manual entitled The Animator’s Survival Kit. The book is subtitled A Working Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Computer, Stop-motion, Games and Classical Animators.

Richard Williams learnt his craft from one of Disney’s “nine old men”, Art Babbitt and was the director of animaton on Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

His book is packed with hundreds of drawings to illustrate the theory and technique. It is an essential book for beginners learning animation or students studying on an animation based course. It covers the history of animation, how to draw, timing of animation, from the basics- stationary figures to walking, running jumping and skipping, to flexibility, weight, anticipation, dialogue, acting, emotion and directing. With this bible you won’t go wrong.