The Nerve Centre Summer Animation School: a student's experience

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  • Last week saw the launch of the Nerve Centre’s much-anticipated Summer Animation School in Belfast’s Ulidia Resource Centre. Eagle-eyed students who were quick enough to book their space in the school were lucky to be taught and mentored by renowned animator Joel Simon. We were fortunate to receive a guest piece from Emma Noble, one of the Animation School’s keen participants about the programme. Check it out!

    2D animation; Photoshop, After Effects, Stop Motion animation and a history lesson - all in one week! I nervously approached the Nerve building, having had no prior experience in animation - but I was excited to soak up all the information I could within five days. My nerves were quickly eradicated as the chairs filled with other young people eager to start the course.

    On the first day, we met course instructor Joel Simon and Nerve’s Jennifer McAllorum. We introduced ourselves and told everyone our favourite animations, which sparked some friendly debate straight away! Joel’s passion and interest was immediately evident, as he talked us through different forms of animation. We watched plenty of videos, from the 1914 Gertie The Dinosaur animation to household names like The Simpsons. We analysed clips together, and this really helped when it came to forming ideas for our upcoming animation tasks!

     For the next two days, I sat with my notebook in hand and pen at the ready, writing down all I could manage as we started a fast-paced tutorial in 2D animation on Photoshop. With tea and coffee throughout, the quick pace allowed us to learn the basics whilst leaving time to develop our characters.

    Having basic drawing skills, I was nervous being asked to sketch. However, there was a great atmosphere of support and kinship between both the participants and the staff which allowed me to participate without fear. We used key frames in After Effects - moving our characters inch by inch to create natural movements, having been taught how to adjust all of their limbs to replicate human movement.

    Within two days we had a moving character! Even though our animation was only a few seconds long, it felt like a massive achievement, having started with no prior knowledge of the technology. We laughed as our character’s arms flailed and celebrated together when the movements were executed exactly how we planned. This intensive but exciting process brought the group closer together, as we laughed about our mistakes and stared in awe at the talent of our peers.

    Joel then showed us the development in plasticine models, from the original rough characters to the modern smooth detailed figures. We even got the opportunity to see an amazing professional monster model from one of Joel’s projects.

    We proceeded to make our own models using plasticine and wire for the body frame. We used an IPAD and the ‘Stop Motion Studio’ app to create our animations. It was amazing to learn how to use technology that produces great results and is affordable for teenagers. The Nerve centre even had green screens!

    Starting the course with no background in animation, I was able to create a dancing monster against a starry sky. We had a whole variety of short films; from a cat stealing cookies, to an alien who was searching for a pair of shoes! In five days, not only did we learn basic forms of animation, but we also received career advice from Joel and Jennifer who were willing to answer all of our questions. It was great to meet new people and gain experience from an industry professional. We learned so much in a short space of time, and my only wish is that I could go back again for more!

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