Monty Python to Augmented Reality: Animation Evolves
I was a young boy when Monty Python was aired in America for the first time (Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One, with 45 episodes running over four series from 1969 to 1974 and appeared on American Public Television around 1974), so naturally I was a huge, nerdy fan. Aside from walking around imitating RJ Gumby, much to my parents’ embarrassment, later to shout “Ni” upon odd occasion as if I was suffering Tourette Syndrome. I’m still proud of my fan association with that comedy troupe.
Most of all, I was a huge fan of their American member, Terry Gilliam and his animations. Cut out, hand-tinted, Victorian wood cuts, modern photos and airbrushed illustrations all melded together for something never before seen.
As I headed off to Arts and music camp for the summer, I packed up every Dover clip art book I could find, every Playboy I could steal from under my father’s workbench and every irreplaceable family photo of long-gone ancestors so I could do Gilliam-type animations, become famous among other tweens and eventually be allowed to touch a girl’s boobie.
The work of finding odd images, hand-coloring them, cutting out elements and the final steps of moving the images a eight of an inch for every few frames clicked off with the movie camera made me question if a boobie was worth all of the toil and trouble. I’m happy to admit it was but my eight-week summer produced only three minutes of insane movements all ending in explosions… like most of Gilliam’s animations. Lesson learned.
As years went by, I was invited to several animation studios to watch how they created animated cartoons and commercials. The equipment was more sophisticated than the super 8 camera on a tripod, pointed down at pieces of paper on top of a box that I had used in camp. One of the most fascinating was the three-dimensional 2D technique that Disney used in the film, “The Rocketeer” for the Nazi animation on jetpack troopers.
Another recent piece of motion graphics that uses retro styling was the end credits of “300.”
The art of animation is also known as motion graphics and while it was certainly around long before Monty Python ever aired. Simply put, motion graphics is the principles of animation with graphic elements used to provide movement.
Take a look at the motion graphics for two famous spy shows/movies. From the 1960s, here are the opening credits for “I Spy.”
And here are the opening credits for the James Bond movie, “Casino Royale.”
Similar for graphics produced forty years apart, made different only by the technical ability added by computers. Had I the technology available today at camp those many years ago, I would have been able to produce a body of work that would allow for many, many boobie-touchings over the summer and perhaps I would be a better adjusted adult? Some would argue that but aside from my family and close friends, few know me well enough to say that with confidence. Having known many animators from “Ren & Stimpy,” “Disney/Pixar” and “The Simpsons,” I think I turned out a lot better then they did!
As a younger designer, I was privileged to meet and get acquainted with Saul Bass, who some refer to as “the father of modern motion graphics.” People applaud his work as groundbreaking for the 1950s and 1960s. Keep in mind that all of this work was done with old animation techniques, much like summer camp but with a bigger budget than the tuition my parents paid to get my boobie-lusting hands out of the house for eight weeks.
Thanks to the work of Mr. Bass, Mr. Gilliam and others, along with technological advances in computer generated animation software; motion graphics have advanced and will keep advancing into augmented reality and 3D holograms.
Done in the style of Bass, this Star Wars titles sequence is charming…
As is this homage to Bass with a Batman opening…
This tribute via the opening credits for Titanic is mismatched with the jazz music but hilariously fun…
Although highly political, the technical application of this animation is staggering…
So, how is this all done if you’re not dealing with cut out pieces of paper? Here are some tutorials on making some animated gifs. A gif is a looping piece of animation that can be used as an avatar (with some sites but, unfortunately, not Facebook. Grrrr!). It’s good start to learn how to pace animations and, unlike super * film, you can adjust frames as you go or go back and readjust as needed:
- Creating an Animated Gif in Photoshop CS5
- A Quick Photoshop CS5 Tutorial to Create Animated GIFs
- How to Make an Animated GIF from a Video in Photoshop CS5
- Quick Tip: Create an Animated Banner Ad in Photoshop CS5
Why would you want to create animations, especially animated GIFs? Well, I can’t say it will allow you to touch boobies but it will help your business. Creating animated banners and smaller GIFs draws attention on your web page. When someone clicks onto your site, you have an average time of ten seconds to grab their attention and convince them to stay.
Great animations are shared across the internet and will help bring traffic to your site. Having viral elements that can be shared or spotlighted in articles on business or design blogs brings in further traffic. A good example is the political motion graphic above. While it may seem a bit over the top, talking about plans for world war 3, global conspiracies and Illuminati, the animation was so amazing, it was highly viral and brought the studio that produced it a lot of business… turning them into capitalists who now vote staunchly republican.
Getting into motion graphics requires more software knowledge than creating animated GIFs although the principles of animation remain. Here are a few links to tutorials about creating motion graphics that will help you get started…
- The Ultimate Motion Graphics Tutorials Round-Up
- Best Tutorials for Cinematic Visual Effects
- After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics
- Top 28 Best Motion Graphics Blogs and Resources
If reading tutorials isn’t your thing and you prefer hands-on experience, do some research into local colleges, universities or art schools that offer these courses. For a few hundred dollars, you will have access to the latest software, personal attention from the teachers and expose you to other people with similar interests and tip sharing you won’t get sitting alone in front of your computer.
Part of motion graphics is the new technology that keeps evolving. If you haven’t heard of Augmented Reality, you need to explore the possibilities, as it will become the biggest thing in digital communications.
Here’s a sample of Augmented Reality and its capabilities…
What can it do for your business? Well, look at this AR business card and just imagine how it can make talking ads for all your marketing material (see more examples on the “Augmented Reality” link above)…
So, animation holds more than just the promise of weird tween sexual satisfaction. For business it is a valuable tool that needs to be learned and used. If you can’t find the images you need, rather than cutting out pictures from a magazine, which are copyrighted and can lead to lawsuits, just use some handy stock images that have low cost and flexible usage rights. Give it a try and start with making animated GIFs. You’ll love what you can create and be ecstatic to keep it going!