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Book Review: The Complete Digital Animation Course

Over the course of my life I've owned a lot of books about how to draw cartoons but only one about how to draw and create animation. In case you're interested it is the Walter T. Foster published book How To Animate Film Cartoons (No#190) by acclaimed animator, Preston Blair.

So I thought it was time to buy another book, this time updated to the way animation is created today. Whilst a lot is still hand drawn, as shown in Preston's book, modern animation has embraced the digital age and gone far beyond hand drawing everything. Computers are a big part, and probably even the central tool, in any modern animators tool kit.

I didn't have a lot of money to invest but I tried to go for a book that I thought would cover as much of the animation industry as possible. That's how I came to buy Andy Wyatt's book, The Complete Digital Animation Course: Principles, Practices and Techniques: A Practical Guide for Aspiring Animators.

As an overview of the industry this is a worthwhile book to own for any beginning animator. It's logically set out and begins with equipment and software then follows with four chapters, Pre-Production, Production, Post Production, and finishes with Professional Practice.

Each chapter is then broken down into about two pages on each subject that forms a relevant part of the chapter. For example Pre-Production covers subjects such as Ideas and Concepts, Story and Visual Research, Script Writing, Storyboarding, Film Language, Character Design and more.

The biggest chapter is Production. Just some of the subjects covered include Animation Techniques, Voice Recording, Digital 2D and 3D Artwork, Backgrounds, Staging, Motion Theory, Stretch and Squash, Expression and Lip Sync, Scene Planning and Types of Shot.

Post Production covers things like Compositing for Animation, Visual Effects, Sound Production and Editing.

Finally Professional Practice talks about promoting and selling your work and yourself as an animator.

The book is very easy to read with plenty of photos, illustrations and diagrams to discover and enjoy. Most subjects are covered by two to four medium sized paragraphs backed up with image captions, side bar boxes of tips and other helpful notes.

It's easy to read, easy to put down and come back to if need be - you'll never be stuck in the middle of a subject given that most subjects are covered in two pages. At 144 pages you'll get through it quickly and probably pick up a lot you didn't know. It may even open your eyes to an area of the industry you hadn't thought about trying too.

Where the book falls down is that it describes its-self as an 'animation course' and starts out with small assignments related to the opening few topics. However the assignments appear to be more like 'activities to try' and don't really link with each other in a way that makes you feel like you're progressing or even learning anything substantial.

The assignments may have been more useful for the reader if they worked through a project in some way so that, by the end of the 'course', the reader would have an animated short of their own creation to promote.

My only other criticism is that describing this work as the 'Complete' digital animation course seems a little overstated on the book's content. Although it does cover virtually any topic you can think of, with only two pages devoted to each, it just barely scratches the surface of any topic.

Despite that I'd certainly recommend it as a good starting point for anyone looking to get into digital animation - especially if you're like me and going the self taught route. However it's not the only book you'll ever need. You are bound to want to go into some topics in a lot more detail eventually.

The idea of using the book as a guide for the novice animator is where its strength lies. Think of it as an assistant who knows every step of making a production, who you can consult to make sure you're not forgetting something.

Good value and a worthy first or second book for any would be animator's library.


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