With: Personal project
Roles: conceptual development, storyboard, design, animation, compositing, music and sound design.
See definitions in:
Art is a diverse range of human activities involving the creation of visual, auditory or performing artifacts, which express the creator's imagination, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
This is where I wanted to go with Project Snappy. ☝🏽
I wanted to express my creativity and imagination through a personal animation project.
And I was craving the satisfaction that comes from making the project look, move and sound exactly like how I imagine.
But you may have seen the animation and wondered… ‘why does the cat become shapes?’
Here’s the story.
Mom + Dad = You.
In 2007, when Steve Jobs presented the revolutionary mobile phone, he made a joke that an iPod + a phone + an internet communicator = the iPhone! And that’s exactly the process of how a new idea is born.
That’s because ideas come from combining other ideas together.
I became a full-time freelancer and started working from home a few months after I got Snappy. So, as Snappy grew up, we were around each other all the time and I was able to clearly see his personality and behavior and wanted to capture the way he plays.
When I started building my drawing habit I didn’t know what I wanted to sketch. so I would just randomly draw shapes in my sketchbook. As a motion designer and animator, I wanted to see these shapes come alive.
I have been composing music as a hobby for a long time, but my music was never structured like a real song. I mostly just did a couple phrases of melody and chord changes for transition, outro, and end. When I compose music, I see the movement in my head and I wondered what it would look like if I composed music for my animation project.
By combining all three of these ideas, Project Snappy was born.
Let's "make it personal"
Did you know that acoustic guitars that are the same model and come out of the same factory will never sound exactly the same? It’s because the wood can never be 100% identical.
You are the only one of you on earth, and no one else is exactly like you.
So, when I decided to make Project Snappy, I wanted to create something that felt unique to who I am.
In Telling True Stories, Adrian Nicole Leblanc says:
“You must find your own way and make your own mistakes”
So part of making something that felt unique to who I am included making mistakes and coming up with my own solutions.
Below is my personal approach to getting through to the other side.
When I work, I usually separate the process into:
Stage one: Finding a destination (expressing ideas)
In this stage, I come up with ideas by writing down or sketching whatever I have in my head on paper, including sketching the look of the project and a rough storyboard on paper. In this process, I don’t try to make it pretty. Instead, I just pour my thoughts on the paper. At this stage, I’m limiting my tools to just a pen and paper because I want to focus and put all the energy to the idea.
Stage two: Finding directions
After I have a concrete idea on paper, I start working on my computer so I can have more tools to achieve my idea.
Similar to having a delicious dish at a nice restaurant, the food looks perfect on a table in front of you, but the chef didn’t pour all the ingredients into the pot or pan at the same time. They had a structure and steps for what ingredients should be added at each step.
In my experience, if I jump straight into working on a computer or a program, I get distracted by the tools and techniques that could change my idea. When that happens, the project gets developed by the tools and not driven by my idea anymore, and is less unique as a result.
“Because everyone can have the same pen and be able to write the same thing, but they won’t have the same handwriting”
Let your work have a conversation.
In both the animation process and composing music, I jump back and forth between both processes to make sure they don’t compete with each other.
It’s similar to playing in a band. Each instrument carries the other. The drummer creates a sense of timing, the bassist follows the drum pattern and adds a groovy bassline, and the guitarist adds the melody. All the instruments have to allow space for the whole band to sound good together.
As the music goes on, the song structure will go from intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, to outro to make the whole piece more dynamic and to give each instrument a section to show off. A guitarist has a section to solo. A bassist will fill each section with walking bass lines, and a drummer will find the moment to hit the floor tom or cymbal to make a different sound to fit with the rhythm. If they want to play together well, they need to have the right chemistry and practice together.
Let’s get lost.
When I first had the idea for this project, it felt like I could see a place down the road that I wanted to go to.
And when I was trying to walk there, I experienced both a lot of fun and a lot of frustration translating my ideas into reality.
"That’s because translating your ideas from your mind into your project is a journey."
A lot of the time, I got frustrated with trying to communicate my idea. I wanted to project the visual in my head and show it to other people. That would be an easy solution but that is not how it works!
It’s only through the process of making it that you will feel complete satisfaction and achievement.
Think about your most memorable vacation trip. What makes you remember the trip is probably the story of the trip, not the destination. The story is how we structure the information, mix it with our emotions, and turn it into a long term memory.
While I was working on Project Snappy, I had a feeling that the work was going in the direction I wanted but not the road I expected, and that is ok.
It’s like heading to a destination but it's a very long drive. When we are driving, we are not seeing all the roads we will take. As long as we see the road ahead and keep going in the direction we want.
The trick is, we have to believe in the place where we are going and we have to understand that this isn't just a long drive. Because if we rush to the destination, we won't enjoy the trip. If we understand the situation and plan properly each day or each week, we will make sure we achieve a milestone every time, even if we take a detour or get a little lost. This mindset will make us enjoy the road and appreciate the scenery of the journey.
Getting delicious juice from a fruit.
While I was working on Project Snappy, I did a lot of research about being productive. I discovered ways to break through creative ideas. So here are two solutions that worked for me.
One: Bump my head to the wall!
When I feel stuck and don’t know what I should do next, I noticed that I had a lot of thoughts running through my head over and over.
When this would happen, I would pick up my pen and paper and start writing my thoughts down. So I can see them in front of me and that include sketching the animation or experiment with keyframes to see what works and doesn’t work.
Two: Break! (mostly use this after the fist solution)
Pick whatever break work for you. 15, 20, 30 minutes, 2 hours, a day, a week. I do this to clear my thoughts and be able to see hidden angles of the problem I am facing. Because when you step out from the task you are working on, the action stops but your subconscious is still going. Your brain is still cooking the problem with low heat. The solution or new idea will be flashing in your head while you are in a shower, in your dream, or when you are sitting or laying down doing nothing.
Three: Stupid! Suck! Failure! Is that what you tell yourself?
Think about how you treat someone you love. What would you tell them if they have a problem or are struggling with something?
Would you tell them that they’re stupid or a failure? No. So why do you feel the need to beat yourself up? Will that help you be better?
One time when I was feeling frustrated about Project Snappy and I was mentally beating myself up, I had a conversation with my girlfriend, Marie. She said:
“It’s good to want to do more, but don’t forget what you’ve already done.”
That sentence lifted the pressure off and made me realize that the problem is another thing and it’s not inside me.
If we don’t like to be in a situation where we get bullied, why do we like to bully ourselves? :)
If you are reading until this point, I want to let you know: I really appreciate your time.
I wrote this because I wanted to share something that’s more personal so we can connect as artists and, more importantly, human beings.
I don’t just want to serve you a final dish or show you the ingredients and how I cooked them. I wanted to share what was in my head while I was cooking this project.
I would love to see more projects that have a personal taste. Go enjoy yourself and remember that you are unique. The best version of yourself is what the world is looking forward to seeing. Please come up with your own journey, because that’s part of the fun.
Here’s what I say to remind myself to enjoy the journey:
“No need to be the best, just focusing on being a little better”
Thank you for reading.