Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘volunteering

Day 3 Morning – Beginning the Assignment

The project set comprised of making a short animation in which a character walks up to a car, enters, and drives off. I thought this was an apt choice of project as not only did it cover all the skills that the students had been learning (with the exception of lip-synching, which they had all mastered very well) but it also encouraged creative application of the skills they had learned. For example the car, in order to be animated more realistically, would need spinning tires – a use of the MovieClip symbol that I had not taught them, but could be figured out from what I had. The same goed for animating the character opening the door and getting in the car.

Most of the morning session comprised of me answering and questions the students had and assisting them with any problems they encountered.

Day 3 Afternoon – Further Reading Plus Inspiration and Group Assessment

In the afternoon session, whilst the students finished up their work, I introduced them to the popular website Newgrounds.com. Newgrounds is a web-based animation forum for animation mostly made in the flash environment. It is a completely user-generated content website, and so finding high quality animation can sometimes be difficult. However it is a great resource for seeing what the flash environment is capable of. Whilst the students worked I played a series of my personal favourite animations which showed various different styles and complexities of approach to animation.

I set a deadline for the projects to be completed, exported to Quick Time and on a memory stick for about 3:00pm. At this time I uploaded all the files onto the computer I had been using (which was hooked up to a data projector) and played the animations back for everybody to see. There were some impressive, creative responses to the project and I am very proud of the work the students did. Of course they are not quite professional quality yet, but for a week long project they did incredibly well. In addition they now have almost all the skills they need to, with enough passion for it, push the finesse of their animations toward professional quality.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my hearty congratulations to all the students who took part and to thank them for the opportunity to share my knowledge with them. It has been an absolute pleasure and I hope that got as much out of it (or even more) than I did.

I will include a list of resources and a few of the animations I showed my students in a further post at some point in the near future.

Day 3 Morning – MovieClips and Tweens

The first part of the morning was spent showing the class the two major tweens used in flash before CS4: Motion and shape. Tweens are a kind of shortcut for animation in flash. You put the object you want to animate in a position at the first and last frames you want to animate and flash does the rest of the work.

The students learned that a shape tween can only be applied to the area between two keyframes on a layer without symbols in them. Similarly, they learned that motion tweens can only occur between two keyframes on a layer that have only one instance of the same symbol in that frame.

The second part of the morning introduced the students to MovieClips. MovieClips are a type of symbol that instead of being a static graphic can be a looping animation. I showed the students how to put their lip-synched animations into a MovieClip and then animate that MovieClip using a tween.

Day 3 afternoon – Walk Cycles, Motion Guides and exporting to Quick Time

After instroducing looped animation using MovieClips I continued to show the class what a walk cycle was. A walk cycle is a looped animation showing a character walking. Making a walk cycle and then animation the movieclip with a motion tween is a great shortcut to get characters moving quickly and effectively.

We started off with a very simple walk cycle for a stick man – each arm and leg was a symbol, then each one was put on a seperate layer and animated using tweens in order to give the feel of a walk (even if it was very stiff and stilted). After they each had a simple walk cycle I got the students to break the arm and leg symbols up into forearm, arm, thigh and shin, so that the character would have working knees and elbows. I then got them to analyze somebody walking in order to find the best way to make the walk look realistic.

A lot of students at this point took the opportunity to use their lip-synched face animation as the head for their stick man. I commend their creativity.

Once everyone had a walk cycle completed, I showed the students motion guides. Motion guides are a line that can be paired with a layer in order to manipulate the path a tween follows – so that you can create a more diverse movement than just a straight line.

Finally, I taught the students the procedure for exporting an animation to the Quick Time .mov file format for use in video

The final part of the afternoon session was setting a quick one-day project for the students to consolidate the skills that they had picked up. Details to be posted in the day four post.

Day four will be posted up shortly.

The flash animation course was a precursor to the main web skills course which was taught as a week long ‘slab’ to a select few students.

The high intensity four-day course which was broken down into:

  • Day 1: Introduction to the flash interface and familiarisation with keyframes (simple facial animation)
  • Day 2: Lip-synching and introduction to tweens
  • Day 3: Walk cycles, advanced walk cycles, and motion guides
  • Day 4: One-day assignment: Create a short animation of a person walking up to a car, getting in and driving off.

Day 1 morning – introduction to the interface:

The morning section took the form of a lecture that introduced the main tools and elements in the flash interface, these include:

  • The stage
  • The toolbar, which included:
    • The selection tool
    • The free transform tool
    • The pencil tool
    • The line tool
    • The rectangle/oval/polystar tool
    • The paintbrush tool
    • The paintbucket tool
    • The inkbottle tool
    • The magnifying glass tool
    • The contextual menu
  • The properties bar
  • The library
  • Colour swatches
  • The timeline

Day 1 afternoon – familiarisation with keyframes and the timeline:

The afternoon was a more hands-on period where I got students to explore simple animation with pre-prepared artwork. First importing it into Flash, and then converting it to a low size, more animation-friendly format.

The afternoon session was broken down like this:

  • Importing images and trace bitmap
  • Frames and Keyframes
  • Keyboard shortcuts including:
    • Ctrl-C (Copy)
    • Ctrl-X (Cut)
    • Ctrl-V (Paste)
    • Ctrl-Shift-V (Paste in place)
    • Ctrl-Z (Undo)
    • Ctrl-B (Break apart)
    • V (Selection tool)
    • Q (Free transform tool)
    • N (Line tool)
    • k (Paintbucket tool)
  • Symbols
  • Simple animation: switching between different symbol instances between keyframes to create the illusion of movement (like smiling or blinking) using two static frames.

Day 2 to follow soon

Yesterday was the first day on the ‘Web Skills’ part of the ‘Web Skills Guyana’ programme. The flash course has now ended at Merundoi, sadly, though fortunately I will be seeing the Merundoi team today as Hugh and I have been assigned their group. With these guys I could not have asked for a better group of students. Their enthusiasm to learn has been great and they really impressed me with all the progress they made. Course materials will be uploaded to a wiki in good time.

Teaching

Me teaching

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Ayana and Shaheed at work

Teaching out here is a great experience. The night we finished the course Wayne, one of staff at Merundoi, mentioned that this is probably the first time that animation has ever been taught in Guyana. The enormity of that statement is still sinking in. I suddenly realise that this is more than just a free holiday and it feels as if I might be affecting at least the start of making a real difference out here. I also understand why when people come out here they stay for years; the minimum amount of time I’ve heard of a ‘true’ volunteer out here has been twelve months. So much has been achieved by us out here all ready, but it’s only a taster of what can be done if the programme were to be extended. Especially since the animation course has been so short it feels like such a shame to leave it there. Although I was teaching the representative from the local university too, Denise, I think without having some kind of follow up for my course it’s assimilation into the curriculum may be quite difficult.

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Having information that I have prepared and taught entering the national curriculum of Guyana is incredible. Sustainability as I have mentioned may be a slight issue, but nothing more could have been expected from a four day animation course and a lot of people out here are treating it as a pilot scheme.

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Everybody at Merundoi

In other news Hugh and I went to a local club in a secondary school where they played a mixture of cheesy 70’s and 80’s music like Madonna – touched for the very first time, an inordinate amount of Michael Jackson and a whole lot of soca music. The age range was about 15-50 and was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced out here. I also patted a manitee on the snout and had a Lariam-induced dream about astral projection.

Hi, I’m Hugh. I also heard about this project through an email forwarded from the station manager at Resonance FM, where, like Matt, I volunteer as a broadcast assistant and programme maker.

phoneboxpic

The opportunity to travel and share my skills in a far-flung locale sounded really exciting and after doing some research – yes, I Googled Guyana – I applied. I was intrigued by the fact that the country is thought of as part of the Caribbean yet borders Brazil and Venezuela. The ethnic split of Indian and Afro-Caribbean also piqued my interest. (I’d always wondered why cricketers of Indian descent like Shivnarine Chanderpaul – who, by the way, has a street named after him here in Georgetown – ended up playing for the West Indies. And now I know. And, while we’re on the subject, other famous Guyanese include Eddy Grant of The Equals and Electric Avenue fame, cricketer Clive Lloyd and, er, Shakira Caine, wife of Michael Caine and Miss Guyana 1967.)

My web development skills aren’t as technical as the other members of the team but my experience working as a journalist, often online, and a youth worker nicely compliments the other talents we bring.

Back in the UK I’m based in north London. Most of my writing is for the arts and culture section of thelondonpaper and I’ve also worked as a subeditor and in online production for clients including The First Post and the BBC. Since last September I’ve volunteered as a youth worker for east London charity Toynbee Hall, working with 13-14-year-olds on the Aspire project on radio workshops, citizenship and outdoor activities. This has recently led to paid sessional work with a charity called Headliners, which works with young people to produce journalism, where I start working after I return from Guyana.

This week I’ve been helping Matt teach basic animation with the Flash programme at local NGO Merundoi, who produce a highly entertaining and hugely popular twice weekly radio soap which promotes Aids awareness. See Matt’s previous post on how the course has gone (very well).

From next week Matt and I, plus Pontus and Chris (who arrive in the wee hours tonight), will be doing workshops with school pupils, teachers and youth groups on a variety of web skills. The workshops I’m leading focus on photo editing with the open source Gimp programme and what makes good web content and design, plus specialisms which will look at these areas in more detail.

Expect to see many more posts from the four of us in the coming days and weeks.

Greetings, I’m Matt Gaffen and here’s my introduction.

I’m afraid a picture isn’t available at this juncture, but I’m sure you’ll catch sight of me at some point soon. Here’s the face of some kind of frog person I drew before coming out here instead;

Ribbit

I caught wind of this project through Resonance FM (London’s first art radio station, don’tcha know?) at which I volunteer doing a variety of small jobs to help keep the station running. An e-mail from the station mentioned this fantastic opportunity teaching web design and animation in Guyana. I had experience in both fields and thus replied to it right away.

I am the animation specialist of this course and have come out a week early with Hugh (the our teams’ fourth member) in order to teach a concentrated four-day ‘slab’ course in Adobe Flash (animation software). More details to follow

As for who I am and what I do; I’m an art student studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design. My degree is in Graphic Design Communication. I’ve been using flash for about five or six years and have a fair amount of experience animating exclusively on personal projects.

I’ve been out in Guyana now for nearly a week with Hugh and am having a great time, having got over the mosquito bites and spouting blood from my nose at every opportunity. Most of the locals are friendly and one of my students has just introduced me to Ultimate Frizbee, which in case you didn’t know is just about the best team sport. Ever.

After being worried a little about course expectations on Monday at Merundoi, the first day went swimmingly well. The students are all engaging with the material, being creative with it and learning the concepts at a fairly impressive pace. Above all they seem happy and some students are actively showing a lot of excitement, so I believe that they will take what they’ve learned further. It has been a really exciting week with a group who could not have been more of a pleasure to teach in any way. To summarize, I feel very satisfied with the work today and with any luck the course will proceed at a similar speed and level of quality.

It’s quite odd being an art student and suddenly being in my tutors’ position. By no means is it not enjoyable though, in fact it sells teaching to me a bit.

I have brought two types of malaria medication; Lariam and Doxy. I was asked to bring Doxy in addition to Lariam, which I’d already started at the time, because of it’s incredible side effects which could possibly include hallucinations and a desire to kill oneself! I am still on Lariam, but apart from some enjoyable, vaguely psychedelic dreams I am experiencing no side affects.

One day left of the course now, I shall provide some more details some time tomorrow when it’s all over.

Going to the sidewalk café tonight to listen to live jazz. Hopefully will get at least slightly drunk for the second night running. Am starting to grow a real appreciation for the local rum.

You can check out my personal blog at http://www.mattsdeadcat.blogspot.com. Expect to see most of this copy-pasted there soon.

G

Hi, My name’s Pontus and here’s my introduction.

pontus2

I first heard of this project through Twitter (where else) via @podnosh who retweeted an invitation by @timdavies for interested potential volunteers to get in touch. I love volunteering  overseas – I  have previously done it in Kenya and Zimbabwe – and thought this would be a great opportunity to share my skills, meet new people and experience a new culture.

I’m focusing on HTML and CSS skills and have developed an introductory HTML course which centres around creating an online CV. It will cover:

  • How to set up an HTML page in notepad
  • HTML elements and attributes
  • Links, images etc
  • Inline styles and some basic CSS selectors
  • FTP, domain names, hosting
  • External style sheets (depending on how far we get)

About me – I’m the Web Editor for Futurebuilders, the UK’s largest  social investor,  and have previously worked with online and offline communications for several charities. Last year I spent six months as a volunteer for Leonard Cheshire Disability East and North Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, designing its website and developing other  communications materials.

I’ve also helped with online communications for the Sanitary Pad Programme in Kenya, a campaign for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday for Action for Southern Africa and the Centre for Accessible Environments and do a lot of online volunteering through the UN Online Volunteering Scheme.

I normally blog over at Eatanicecream (although I’ve been very lazy lately).