Another Year Another QAS Animation Lockdown
Every year I participate in the Quickdraw Animation Society’s Animation Lockdown. This annual event is usually held over Victoria Day weekend in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 2020 was the first time it had to be held remotely with video chat replacing the normal shoulder to shoulder work environment. I still managed to end up pulling my regular all-nighter to see things over the finish line. This year we saw about 21 films submitted that didn’t exist before.
Members enter the Lockdown for various reasons. I joined QAS specifically for the opportunity. Once you finish school it can be difficult to complete projects, especially on your own time and on your own dime. Seeing a bunch of other artists all excited about animation, working towards the same goal of completing their films on time, while simultaneously creating very different pieces of art, is such an energizing experience. I really needed it when I first participated in 2016. There was a project I wanted to make but my recently-diagnosed ADHD was getting in the way of putting it together. So I brought it to QAS and, with the encouragement of others and looming threat of a deadline, I made Bottled Spirits, my first complete film. Was it perfect? No. Was it everything I wanted it to be? Again, no. But I got it in on time, realized how my own process works in a compressed timeframe, and came away feeling energized to deliver bigger and better on my next projects.
I made some good friends, relaxed away from home, and enjoyed browsing QAS’s library during my downtime. In the following years I’ve used Lockdown as an opportunity to meet up with my girlfriend, take a fun road trip together, and both of us would get away from our everyday lives for a bit. Every year is a little bit different and the challenges (both external and internal) change, but every year I seem to remind myself I can deliver. It’s very reassuring to realize you do actually know what you’re doing. You may be exhausted at the end and your finished film may look nothing like what you thought it was going to be in the beginning, but that’s ok.
Each year Lockdown focuses around a theme to give contestants an idea to work around and to make sure nobody pulls a finished film out of their pocket. This year that theme was “spectrums”
It’s 2021, the world is no longer defined by opposites. Nuances and the beauty in the subtle variations is what makes living so worthwhile. So put your eye to the pyramid and gaze upon the SPECTRUM!
Working within dichotomies is too simplified. We get it; keyframe 1 and keyframe 2 are great, but in-betweens move us with the grace of (say it with me) ease-in and ease-out. There is so much life and story to be had between A and B, Life and Death, Black and White, Happy and Sad, Up and Down, Left and Right. To follow one direction completely is to arrive blind (said someone, sometime?)! So, bask in the in-between, show the journey, or break down the subtlety in the whip pan!QAS Animation Lockdown 2021 Theme
During the premier screening awards and prizes are handed out. As production has had to adapt to current situations, so has the theme, which has expanded to include key requirements to insert into the shorts. The key expanded this year to match other film competitions going on in other locations. This all pushed the announcement of the official screening further out than usual.
The screening will be held Tuesday, June 15th online. RSVP for the event here. To quote the listing:
“Doors” will open at 6:45pm, with the screening starting at 7:00pm. Join us for brand-new films, vote for our audience choice awards, and see who our jury has selected for our prizes:
- AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD: top-scoring film, weighted 1 (ok) to 5 (amazing)
- AUDIENCE CHOICE RUNNER-UP: 2nd top-scoring film
- AUDIENCE CHOICE HONOURABLE MENTION: 3rd top-scoring film
- DAVE RATZLAFF BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM AWARD (SPONSORED BY CAOS): $100 cash prize, selected by a jury of experienced animators and curators.
- JURY SPECIAL AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING FILM
- JURY SPECIAL MENTION
- JURY BEST USE OF TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS AWARD
To attend this screening, you’ll need to register in advance to get your link to the online event. The link and additional login info will be sent out once you’ve registered for the event through Showpass. Registration is free for Quickdraw members and a suggested donation of $5 for non-members.
As a bonus, here’s another daily challenge image, a screencap of my entry out of context:
Lessons Learned from Lockdown
1. Step back, find some quiet, and re-center
I was in a production funk right before Lockdown started. Honestly I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The global situation for the last year+ has been very stressing, partly from all the unknown and partly from dealing with other people through everything. (Leave it to humans to take an already frustrating situation and make it worse) At the moment I’m not engaging with FB. There’s so much negativity there with people jumping to conclusions, airing grievances, not to mention the bad actors simply looking to stir up trouble.
So many different things had been pulling at me from various directions: Career, finances, living situation, plans for the future, constant changes, second-hand hostility — all ruining my ability to sleep, concentrate, or get anything done. At one point I got frustrated with the concept I was working on and gave myself most of the day to try starting over. Nothing new was coming to me so I stepped away, sealed myself into the podcast studio in the office, and let my mind quiet.
2. Stop thinking about what you can’t do. Figure out what you can
Once I accepted new ideas weren’t coming in time I focused on what options were available. I’d spent a good bit of time on a thumbnail storyboard. So I took that and enlarged it to full screen-sized panels. Once those were done I worked out the rough timing for each sequence. The next day I came in and cleaned up what I’d already drawn. I added details to background and repeating elements. I wrote out placeholder credits and a title card. I started animating.
3. Trust in your abilities and what you know
I’m not the best animator. Fortunately I don’t have to be. I only have to be me. Other people are going to see my short, yes, and I am competing for prizes. But here in my studio I’m responsible for me. You never know how any of the other films you’re going to screen with will do. Maybe they’re all masterpieces. Maybe they’re all train wrecks. It doesn’t really matter because the project you’re working on is the only one you can control. Your job is to complete something that you’re proud of. The more you do competently the more you try to do.
Years past I would animate in rough colored sketches before cleaning up my line art on another layer. This year, in an attempt to speed up, I stuck to animating in black. Tweening was handy for stylized and monotonous motion. There were a few cycles I had to check reference for then adjusted to fit the scenes. I often fix stuff blind, moving frames around, adding drawings, trusting my sense of what’s happening before I press play to see how it looks. Of course I try to keep this to limited areas at a time, making sure a sequence works before moving onto something else that could confuse me.
4. When it works, animating feels like what I was put on this earth to do
This universe has been around a long time. Our planet is considerably older than humanity. Even considering that, generations of artists have lived and died wishing they could see their creations move. When motion pictures were finally developed and animation started getting made it was time/labor intensive. Animators of the Golden Age had to contend with expensive and complicated equipment. Cartoons took small armies of people to make and were only possible if they could turn a profit. Filter down through the decades with digital advancements. I know I’m very fortunate to be living in a time and place where I can make my work happen. When I’m working on a film of my own design, making it how I want to make it, even though it can be an incredible amount of effort to achieve all the steps, it’s so very fulfilling.
I was animating one character whose motion didn’t originally have much to do with the scene. As I added drawings I stumbled on a pose that unlocked their state of mind for me. Suddenly I understood their motivation and their movement reflected that. I had an idea for an action they could do that felt a little over the top but I went for it. Next thing I knew I was nearing the end of their frames. I started to feel sad I wasn’t going to be drawing this little character any more. I’d just started to get to know them and our time together was already up. I’m not sure if viewers will pick up on the personality I put into them for the duration they’re on screen. For me it’s an experience I’m going to think back fondly over.