Technology, Innovation, and the Future of Animation

I’ve recently come upon three separate quotes that, to me, speak to the need for animators to continually strive to innovate with their work in regard to contemporary creative technologies. Using a digital camera, and working from an NLE or animating in Flash or After Effects is using modern technology…but is not in itself innovative. I’m talking about innovation beyond form, style, method, or technique. What I find in these quotes that inspires me and makes me want to explore through my own work is that the content, themes, or ideas driving animation (or television or film or books for that matter) is not evolving much at all. Everyone, to me, is just recycling at this point in history.

Quote number one comes from Eugenia’s posting on the topic of what television should be like in 2008 and beyond.

“If I was to give an analogy for what I want, is the online massively multi-player version of a computer game rather than a single-player PC game played by just one person. I am not sure I can make it clearer than that. It just has to feel “bigger than life” by taking place in a believable new universe. Heck, why else would I watch TV? If I wanted to watch reality TV, or traditional TV series, I would just record my own life during the day and watch it at night. I would probably be less bored.”

SOURCE: “How TV shows should be” by Eugenia Loli, Accessed 2008-10-21

Quote two comes from ASIFA Magazine’s article on the CGI film “Beowulf” and motion capture technology to create animated characters.

“The Impressionists founded themselves upon the new medium of photography, using the camera as a reason to redefine painting and produce an era of work now documented in the history books. Therefore, it would not be absurd to assume that animation fueled by the onslaught of motion capture, will seek to redefine itself, producing cartoons whose main function is to convey the idea that they are cartoons. This competitive discourse is the means by which new forms of established systems are created.”

SOURCE: “The Myth of Beowulf” by Chappell Ellison. ASIFA Magazine Vol. 21 No. 1 Summer Issue 2008 Page 47.

Finally, quote three is from a video interview with Peter Greenaway. [Transcribed while listening to the video online so this text may not be totally accurate.]

“In my pocket is a pencil. This is an amazing object, a tool. And in a way all the modern technologies are really doing the same such thing as this. They are a catalyst of getting me and my imagination to some form of communication. But I do sincerely believe that every artist in the last thousand years, certainly since the Renaissance, has always used the current technology of his or her time.” … “The current tools that are available to artists have always been part of the vocabulary of anybody who has anything worthwhile to say. So, I think you are obliged if you are a contemporary artist to use the tools of today otherwise you’ve immediately become a fossil.”

SOURCE: “Peter Greenaway talks technology” Video interview regarding b.TWEEN 08
Accessed 2008-10-21

The almost primordial-mythic-soul that animation can convey with the interactivity, complexity, and serendipity of non-linear, online virtual environments…that is what I want my projects to be or at least “feel” like.

If you are an animator, how are modern technologies informing your ideas, you approach, your themes, your narratives – not just the tools you are using which are most likely digital at some point, but the interaction or experience you intened to provide to your viewers/users of your animations projects?


2 responses to “Technology, Innovation, and the Future of Animation”

  1. Hey Grant,

    I like some of the ideas you are touching on here, but I don’t know where you are going with this. Maybe I should say I don’t know how to move in that direction.

    Modern technologies are just tools, the same as a pencil is a tool. I think what I get from this is you want these modern tools to influence or liberate the creative product in new ways. To allow the creation of new “forms” for lack of a better word.

    How often do you watch a film or video and say “there is no way that could have been done without non-linear editing” or without digital image capture?

    Yes it allows more iterations in a faster time frame, gives you more choices to select from, but in the end does the viewer know the difference?

    Is a digital camera that much different than a film camera? The obvious incremental improvements of speed, cost etc aside. It still gives you the same result – an image.

    It’s almost like the whole process is confined and restricted by the need to follow the conventions of story telling. Story telling seems to be the corner stone of film and animation that has not been touched by modern technologies. I can see the possibilities with interactivity to change the story form with multiple endings or story threads. I just have never seen it work yet.

    Some part of me agrees that there should be some new forms springing up from all these modern tools – It ‘feels” like it should happen, like it has to happen.

    I just don’t grok it yet.

  2. Thanks Mark. I don’t have a specific answer myself. I’m brainstorming out loud so to speak. 😎

    To summarize it a different way, I am talking about the *content* of creative works being directly influenced by the impact of technology on the creator and society in general. I suppose it borders on the idea of Filmaking 2.0 but so far most information that I’ve found on the that topic seems to be obsessed with the obvious…digital technologies, online distribution, social networks, etc.

    I have yet to see any recommendations or considerations about the evolution of *content*. Just lots of talk about the evolution of tools and new techniques. But I ran across a video on YouTube which illustrates the idea with at least one tangible idea. I’m going to link to it in the next post.