Flash Animation Artist
by Dell Milton
Tell us about yourself Annika; where are you from and when and how did you get started in flash animation?
I come from a small town in Sweden from the beginning, but I moved to Stockholm a few years ago to have more options when it comes to work and art. I am 24 and I have been working in the animation field here in Sweden since 2000, but not as long with Flash. I started working with Flash seriously in August 2003, when I began to study multimedia and web production. I had been curious about Flash for years though so when I finally got my hands on it and had time to learn it I couldn't stop myself. It's such a fantastic program!How serious are you about flash animation? Is it a career for you or is it just a hobby?
II would love for it to become a career, but until now I have only worked traditionally, mostly with character design and illustration for animated productions.
I was mostly painting a few years ago, but I wasn't making a living on it. I didn't really know how to proceed with my art and tried to find my way through illustration, but I never felt that those fields had the different dimensions and possibilities that I wanted. I still love to paint and I'm very fascinated by expressing moods and emotions through colors, but when i went to animation school for one year i realized that animation was the ultimate tool, it was exactly what I needed. But what you also needed was a lot of expensive special hard-to-get equipment. So after my education I found it hard to keep doing animation my own... Until Flash. I just love it.
I think (or want to think) that the important thing is what you have to show people, not the title of your education or name of your school. But of course, if you are in school for three years or more you have lots of time to put together a neat portfolio.
I work with Flash MX for Mac OS X. I also like Premiere and of course Photoshop. I like Flash for obvious reasons, its easy to learn for someone who knows a little bit about classical animation and timing, and its useful for so many things. You can do almost anything with it! Premiere to me is also a very useful and logical program that has everything that I need. I'm not really into lots of flashy special effects and stuff, so it works for me. And Photoshop is just always necessary for everything!
Tim Burton is an excellent director, The nightmare before Christmas has been my favorite movie for a few years. He uses colors in a way that I like, to define a specific atmosphere.
Hm. It often comes from the weather. The time between autumn and winter for example always inspires me, I get some kind of feeling from the frosty colors and the gray sky. Sometimes it can be just a combination of colors that I see in a magazine as well, or a piece of music. But it has to be something that awakens a feeling that I want to express somehow. Once there was a documentary on TV about this old man who had to take care of his beloved but elderly wife. He thought it was difficult to dress her every morning because he always managed to break her pantyhose. He summed it up with this: Old men, we're sort of square in a way. That was sweet.
Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new animation project.
Its always chaos in the beginning, I'm worthless at planning a whole project from the beginning to the end before I start. I make hundreds of crappy sketches that I just throw away and if I'm lucky I do one that I like. Then I start developing that one, still on paper, maybe make a small turnaround and some poses together with proposals for environments and colors. Colors are very important to me, I decide early what kind of colors to use to get the right feeling. That makes it easier for me to visualize the final look of it so that I know what I'm going to. I try different animation techniques as well, in X-ray vision I didn't really know from the beginning how to animate it so I started by hand a little bit. I couldn't really get the sort of flat look with thick black contours that I wanted, so I just decided to do the animation directly in Flash. That way I had more control over the graphics.
It's just a little story describing one of life's lonely moments. There's a girl walking through an empty town, I think she's sort of isolated in her world. To her the real world just shines through in fast glimpses sometimes. There's not really a correct interpretation of it, it's a simple story.
How was the concept of X-Ray Vision conceived?
The inspiration came from my earlier mentioned autumn feeling I think. I wanted to express something melancholic in some way, so I started playing with some chords on the guitar one day and pen and paper the next. I always wanted to try and mix live action with animation; it's a beautiful combination. Everything just grew together, I wrote the music and played around with flash a little bit at the same time until I had it more or less clear in my head.
Was the music used in X-Ray Vision written and preformed by you? In my opinion the music is beautiful and fits the mood of the animation PERFECTLY. Is music your first love?
Music is just my secret dream. When I had the opportunity to record a song of my own I couldn't miss it, that's all... My very talented friend G÷ran helped me with the recordings, and with developing the sound.
How long did it take to complete X-Ray Vision?
It took about 3 months, and I really started from scratch, I had never animated directly in Flash before so I was learning while doing it.
What software packages were used in the creation of X-Ray Vision?
Flash MX and Premiere 6.0
Did you run into any major production problems during the creation of X-Ray Vision?
My biggest problems came from not knowing enough about the program, and never having worked with video in animation before. I had to try a lot of different ways to compress the video material to reduce the file size since I made it for the web. In the end I found out that Flash really compresses video material very well so I didn't really have to chase around for other programs. There was also the problem with having all scenes in individual documents when I later on wanted to put them together to one. The library in Flash doesn't let you have two symbols with the same name so i had to rename all my symbols to avoid conflicts.
What was the most technically challenging scene in X-Ray Vision?
The one where she pulls down the zipper was hard to figure out how to do, even though it looks simple. I made it kind of early in the production, before I had learned enough about masks and stuff. I guess there would have been an easier way to do it really... Except from that, the putting everything together-part of the production was really the hardest part. To make it synchronize with the music and to cut it tight. To get the right tempo.
What other animated shorts have you worked on?
That would be... none. Other than some of my own small experiments that never really became real shorts. I have worked as a designer on more commercial productions before, like tv series for children.
Whats next for Annika Bergström? Are there any new projects on the horizon?
Sure thing! I'm definitely doing more Flash stuff, but my biggest project right now is a trip to the US and Mexico for a few months.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring flash artist out there?
Do it for fun! That's when it turns out the best.
Thanks to Annika Bergström(http://www.inniki.com/)
for agreeing to answer the questions I had for her.