Wacom makes cool products. Wacom loves the artists that use their products. Wacom also loves the graphic design and animation community. But most of all, Wacom is cool because of people like Westom Maggio and Joseph Sliger, the hosts of a regularly scheduled webinar that showcases artists, designers and animators of all walks of life and how they integrate Wacom products into their workflow. This week I was asked back to present again on Flash design and animation techniques because contrary to popular belief, Flash as a development tool is very much alive and well.
For me this could not have been more literal. My daughter Andrea had just turned two years old. She was quite precocious at an early age, with a confident command of the English language and a newfound singing voice. On one particular day she wandered into my home office to show off a new song that she had learned: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a popular English nursery rhyme from the early 19th century. Andrea asked to sit up on my lap and as usual I obliged. Being at my desk with my computer in front of us and my little plastic USB microphone at the ready, I discreetly clicked record and began capturing her entire performance in digital format.
Andrea was unaware she was being recorded. Her performance was completely natural and not without the human imperfections of a two-year old trying to perform to a level beyond her years. The recording captured all of her hits as well as misses. It was evident that she had not learned all the words to the song as she fumbled her way through the performance but that is precisely what made this recording special: it was real on a human level.
I saved the audio file to my hard drive and went about the rest of my day. It wasn’t until seven months later that I would resurrect this audio file for the purpose of using it as the soundtrack to an animation. Since it was the holidays, we tried to take a family photo to send to family and friends as our holiday card. Our efforts were thwarted by our five-year old who was expressing his disdain for being photographed in an emotionally unstable manner. Combined with the dog not posing ’correctly’ and various other photographic mishaps, we were unable to get that perfect family shot. Two weeks before Christmas and we had nothing to send to anyone.
I’m an optimist at heart and knowing every problem has a solution, I turned to software for help. I thought maybe I could use Photoshop to edit the best of each of us from all the photos and combine them into one single, perfect family picture. Then I thought of importing the photo into Flash and adding some animation, possibly some snow falling and maybe even some Christmas music. Then it hit me! The audio of Andrea singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would be perfect to use as a soundtrack to a holiday card. I should also mention that Andrea and I would spend time together drawing and each time I would ask her what she would like me to draw. Her response was always the same: ‘Draw me, Daddy!’ Using crayons, colored pencils, felt pens and various markers, I had drawn a large number of Andrea characters. Eventually I perfected my daughter as a cartoon character.
- I have a recording of Andrea singing.
- I have Andrea designed as a cartoon character.
- I know how to animate in Adobe Flash.
- I had all the ingredients to make an animated holiday card.
Having done enough work for clients in the world of advertising, I knew that the most successful creative campaigns were the ones with the best concepts. I listened again to the recording of Andrea singing and noticed that she made several mistakes during her performance. The idea of pretending she was performing in an audition on a stage was an easy one to come up with. The rest just fell into place. This was one of those animations that miraculously created itself. It was inspired.
Once I finished the animation and uploaded it to my website, I sent the URL to family, friends and clients as our holiday ‘card’. The response was overwhelmingly positive. About a year later I received an email from someone in Australia with the link to my animation. ‘I love this and I hope that you will like this to.’ was the body of the message. This was the first time I had created something viral. A complete stranger sending me my own work. It’s something I’ll never forget.
The annual Georgenes holiday animation was born
This is an excerpt from Pushing Pixels