Student Reflection – Seasons (11.1)

By Grace Ashby, Utah State University

Seasons is an animation that was created for a Special Topics in Creative Writing class taught by Professor Ben Gunsberg about Multimodal Composition. He showed us a lot of amazing things that people are doing with mixed media that redefine the bounds of creative writing. It opened my eyes to the possibilities I could explore within my own writing. For our first assignment in the class, we were asked to translate and transform a text-based piece we had previously written into a multimedia artifact. The poem I chose was pretty generic, talking about nature and the flow of the seasons. I really liked the metaphors and imagery that I used. I wanted to see what the effect translating that into actual images would have on what I had written.

When I started this project, I had never animated anything. I had some experience in photoshop, but not nearly enough for what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do a slideshow of still images, the scene I could picture playing out in my mind was full of motion. One of the most important things I learned in my multimedia class was to not let your current abilities limit the potential you can see in your mind. I’d always wanted to try animation, this was my chance to act on that desire. I had to do a lot of research and watch a lot of youtube videos to figure out how to accomplish what I envisioned for the project. I ended up choosing to do a hand drawn animation where I had to draw each individual frame. This took a lot of time, the animation is 12.5 frames per second, which, with a 45 second animation, ended up being 562.5 frames total. 

It was frustrating at times, I would draw twenty frames and feel like I had accomplished a lot but when I played the animation to test it, it would zip through like it was nothing. However, it drew my attention to the energy and pace of the objects in my animation. Should the girl move slow or fast here? Does the movement of the hands flow well? How can I make this transition smoothly and still make sense to the narrative? Does the speed here emulate the emotion I want to convey? With each new frame I was revising and polishing my plan for the animation and I found myself doing things that I hadn’t planned originally. At the beginning of the animation, the girl I drew soon turns into more of a stickfigure/rough sketch. Originally, that was just so I could plot out the motion and adjust the speed to what I needed, but I ended up keeping it because I liked the rawness of it and how it placed the emphasis on the fire of fall that was enveloping it. I decided that I didn’t want the animation to be of a person the entire time, especially since this was about nature, so I designed the transition of the crouched body into the trees while the hands pulled the mountings into being. 

The hardest part of the whole process was combining the animation with the audio of the poem. I had to line up the images in the animation so they followed the narration of the poem. It took a lot of adjusting and extending of different scenes so that they fit the flow, but it led to some happy accidents. The moment where the figure is crouched down with the wind blowing around them was not nearly as long in the first version but now is one of my favorite scenes because it lets you slow down and focus on the feeling of desolation and loneliness that barren land and naked flanks evoke.

Each change I made made me feel like I was getting closer to the emotions I wanted to convey in the poem. It was exhilarating to see what I had imagined come to life under my fingertips. While the poem was the inspiration for the project, it became secondary commentary on the animation. Seasons is a performance that my audience can watch, feel, and hear for themselves instead of just trying to picture it from my words alone.