Create Your First Animation Today
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Create Your First Animation Today!

Animation adds an interactive and visually stimulating angle to science communication. This is why I’m challenging you to create your first animation today! Today’s post will go through:

  • When is animation appropriate
  • How to create your first animation
  • What to do next (your 2nd+ animation)

When Should I Use Animation?

Do you want to animate? Or perhaps you’re interested in hiring an animator? I’m a total animation nerd and it’s my dream to one day have an animated series of my own. So I’m going to try not to geek out TOO much, but it’s bound to happen. Just like with any form of art there are principles of animation. I’m not going to get into them in this particular post (more advanced course coming soon).

Instead, I really want to talk about the benefits of animation, especially in communicating science either in GIFs or in videos.

Video is an incredibly powerful tool. There is a great benefit to showing real scientists, especially diverse scientists, talking about their science. But just like words can only do so much, live video can only do so much. I fell in love with animation was because it allowed me to see things I would never be able to see in real life.

My goal in creating art is to transport people into another world where they could experience science as never before. It’s absolutely incredible the look inside a microscope for the first time and see a real live cell there. How cool is it when you see a phenotype come to life in your model organism?!

Unfortunately, a lot of scientific topics aren’t accessible in that way. I can talk about them day and night and say how excited they make me, but I can’t actually show you those things. 

This is the exact reason why I fell in love with animation.

Movies like FernGully and Titan AE inspired me as a kid. When I started watching anime in my teens, I found out something interesting. Many shows made in Japan were animated not necessarily because that was the creator’s first choice. The cost of an animated show (back in the day, at least) was less expensive. Special effects were extremely expensive, so it made sense to animate everything.

But I didn’t care about that any more than any other trivia. I love animation because it is transformative!

Animation can throw us in the middle of a cell doing cellular respiration without us having to build expensive sets, find places to store those sets, rent space to film, rent equipment, etc. I definitely don’t believe that animation is the answer to everything (although I would be okay with everything being animated), but it DOES solve a lot of issues when used effectively.

When we’re talking about actively engage an audience in science communication, animation should be used for a purpose.

People understand that animation (when they can tell its animation) is not reality. So, be careful communicate properly and choose the best medium for each project based on your goals. When animation makes sense, use it. Just like any other medium.

Create Your First Animation RIGHT NOW!

I hope you’ve already learned a thing or two, but let’s talk about ways to get started animating. When I started animating, it was because I wanted to see my characters come to life. I started by drawing two images and flopping between them. Starting with a small project like this is great. You can start today, and get a “finished product” very quickly. Then that good feeling can keep you going until you learn something harder.

In other words, start with triumph because it gives you momentum for the hard and frustrating part!

Create your first animation today! How?

Pick up ANY drawing tool you have. You can do this with anything. Pen & paper (take a picture with your phone), Photoshop, GIMP, Microsoft Paint, Crayon, Powerpoint … draw with anything you have nearby.

Digital animation

Use any drawing tool.

Draw the first image. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done! Don’t forget to save it.

Next, on the same image, SAVE AS & change it a little. Save the new image when you’re done.

Do this a few times and what you end up with is a series of images, the pages of your flipbook.

Did you do it? Come on! Get your first animation done today!

Using traditional tools

If you used a traditional tool, take photos with your phone. Take them all from the same distance, and try to line them up as closely as possible. ?

Once you have your images, you can use an online GIF maker (If you do a google search, there’s only like a million of them) to animate it. I’ve used before. It worked fine. website example

If you have Photoshop, you can also make GIFs straight in using the Timeline (go to Window > Timeline).

But however you do it, this is a perfectly valid way to get a quick high off of getting something done!

After your first success, jump up and down and celebrate! You deserve it! (By the way, you should share your first animation with me!)

But now you want more. You can do it!

Your 2nd animation

The next thing I would suggest is to learn a new tool or technique. Challenge yourself!

Maybe instead of a 2-3 image GIF, you make a longer GIF (20-30 images with smooth animation). Maybe buy the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite or Anime Studio. Or try out free apps such as Flip-A-Clip. You have to decide what’s right for you.

Not sure what next step to take? I can help! ?

I started by changing the size of things, making them shrink and grow.

Then I moved on to altering shapes, making one shape turn into another.

Before I knew it, I was working on animating people, getting arms and legs to bend and flex!

The real trick is to start small. Learn one thing at a time, succeed, and celebrate. Then move onto the next thing. You can do this! And if you need help, you know where to find me.

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