Friday, December 19, 2014

The Spark of Creativity

My Youngest Son is taking a class in animation at school. He is in Grade 11 and this is the first class of this type he has taken.

Last night he showed me the stop-motion project he has been working on for about two months. It is just under three minutes long and if he hadn't explained different challenges and the time involved in making it as he went along, I can hear myself nodding and smiling and saying, "Wow! That is great!!" and walking away thinking I had done an effective (enough) parenting job. Simply by watching.

In fact, that is almost what happened.

I was running out the door and he said, "It's only three minutes - do you have time?" I wanted to run my errands and get back home as soon as possible so I just said "No, not now".

I knew I didn't want to rush through watching his production because I had a vague idea what it took to put this piece of work together.

We watched it together. He asked if I had any questions or any comments at all, so I asked if he could start it over again and tell me about the video as it progressed.

I think we spent at least a half hour together as I listened to the process of creating this little masterpiece.

Their assignment was seemingly simple. They had to create a model and give this figure the impression of movement by repeatedly stopping and starting a camera and putting it all together in the form of a video clip. It had to be thirty seconds to a minute long.

First of all, he had to come up with a concept. He designed his character and then made a movable model out of blocks for the head, body, hands, ankles and feet. These were attached together by drilling a small hole into the blocks then gluing twisted wires into the holes to create the movable arms, legs and neck. Then this was meticulously painted to correlate with the character he had chosen.

Then he created a story line and wrote a script. Each word his character would eventually say, would be correlated with a frame of this animation. His wood and wire character's body language and actions would have to match up with the script.

Then came the actual 'filming' of this character. The process of taking frame by frame pictures to put together into a format which would become a moving picture is beyond my comprehension. He added his own hand as a 'character' within the plot which made the process even more complicated.

His model kept coming apart and I cannot quite remember how many shoulder and ankle replacements his character underwent in the process of making this film. Not to mention the neck adjustment which he didn't notice his character needed as the wear and tear on the neck joint eventually became apparent as filming progressed.

Once the 'film' was finally complete, he added his voice to the character's motions to match the words with the movement of his animation.

Then there were the sound effects. He explained how he simulated the sense of hearing things from a distance, when his character walked away from the camera. He told me how he created the thud of his character walking into the camera. He showed me how he changed camera angles so he could remove his hand out of the scene without affecting the integrity of his storyline. Then again, how he moved the camera to simulate the vibration when 'the hand' hit the platform on the set.

Last, was the addition of music. Self-created music to go with the ebbs, flows and development of the plot. Yes, the music was an original score. He enlisted the help of a friend to create the exact mood he was after. He tried to create the music himself except he realized he doesn't 'have a beat' and when he put his own music to a metronome, his timing was all off. Who knew music writers had to think of such things as timing!?? I thought the timing was a natural part of the creative process. This was beginning to sound a lot like math.

He worked with his friend, telling him the feeling he had inside of his head. He pulled his own music out of his head with the help of this friend. He knew the mood he was looking for and he explained the effects that you don't even consciously hear because the music fits seamlessly into  story.

After he explained the whole process to me, he critiqued his work. Shadows where there shouldn't have been shadows. His hand made it into the bottom of the screen once because he didn't see it during 'filming' due to the toolbar on the bottom of the screen. His character's head becoming crooked before he noticed and gave him a neck alignment.

He explained the finer parts of the dialogue which went far above my head because I had never heard of this Marvel Comic character (which is coming to a theatre to us someday year soon). Then the music, sound effects and dialogue which was still part of the story-in-progress as the end credits rolled across the screen.

I was in awe of the multidimensional creative process to put this three minute animation together. What an exercise for the brain! It wasn't just creating a moving character. It was a scripted storyline, musically scored cinematic production of the Grade 11 kind.

I am certain I am still missing some of the finer nuances of this project. Even so, I am in awe of the process of putting the spark of an idea into a reality others can enjoy. It is that which one doesn't see, the creative process in motion, which intrigues and inspires me. When it all comes together in one seamless, fluid line called 'a song', 'a book', 'a commercial', 'a painting', 'a recipe', 'a monologue or speech or conversation', 'a movie' or any multitude of things we call art, my heart swells just a little.

To take a spark and turn it into something that may make one other person feel something, feel anything ... these are the ways we change our world. One Grade 11 student at a time. One person at a time. These are the ways we all impact the great big world around us.

If each one of us takes our own individual spark and ignites it in their own unique way, we could light up the world.

May you sparkle and shine today. When you don't feel sparkly and shiny, try to find that-which-makes-you feel a little sparkly inside. Laugh, cry, watch and feel your way through the day. Stop and listen to the music of your world. Sit still and gaze into the light which you are drawn toward. Follow the lead of your heart and let it take you where you most need to go.

 That said, I just realized that my favorite Christmas song of the year has subconsciously infiltrated my thoughts. "Here's to love, let us sparkle. Here's to love let us shine. If one by one, each spark would ignite, we'd sparkle with shimmering light." ~ Andrea Menard - Sparkle


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