Having just gone through a painstaking period trying to make an animation, I can fully appreciate how hard it can be for an amateur, without sophisticated tools and skills, to undertake the mission of making an animated clip. The animation always looks great in your head but you don’t know why certain pictures don’t move the way you want them to, or why movement is never fluid. You look at examples of animation, like Pixar or DreamWorks productions, or even any regular cartoon, and you don’t know how yours can even compare. Well, maybe we have to start small and look at pieces that’re more similar to our level of expertise.
While most beginners don’t put up their failed productions for all to browse, there can be some animations that’re simple (but I’ve no doubt that their creators took months or even years to get them right) and tell a short story. This is where you can get ideas and also some motivation that quality is possible. One website I found for such a purpose is ArtMag.
ArtMag is really an accumulation of many kinds of things. It includes, aside from the feature videos put up by experts and studios worldwide (which include trailers of upcoming animated movies in cinemas), tutorials, interviews and a magazine. It can get pretty puzzling to navigate the site, with some parts requiring membership and others being quite commercial and advertising stuff. I haven’t seen any of the other parts aside from this feature section. Admittedly the feature videos are by professional studios and big names, which have loads more money than we do, but I think some of them are really simple and earnest and show us that amidst the profits, there is a heart to their animations.
In a way, computer software can help animators who really can’t draw, but I think that the best animations still stem from drawing. Most software come with bad built-in images, and not much flexibility with how much you can manipulate them. If you draw and create designs of your own, you can tweak them from all angles and orientations and give them as much detail as you want.
I tend to think that animators are much the same as people who make MADs, or fan videos combining different clips and music together. The former would count more as creators and the latter are the “mixers”, the deejays who make remixes of existing songs. However, I’d say the non-drawing animators — the ones who animate without having to draw — are doing much the same work as these mixers are. They take existing images and breathe a new life and purpose into them, but the original stock images still do not belong to them. I’m not sure how you think about this, or if this is an obvious tautology to you.
In any case, there’re many animation software out there these days, such as Macromedia Flash and some Apple apps and all. However, I’d advise against relying solely on them to make effective animations. There’s a reason why artists are still in demand in the animation industry, and why some people would still rather do animation the traditional way of drawing each and every action scene by scene and then fast-forwarding them to form a final product.