Let’s get right to the point. This segment -- home-based animation -- is a difficult to label group.
Some are professionals taking a break from the tight control of scripts to be more creative. Most, however, seem to be non-professionals but don’t let that name give you a wrong impression. In many cases, their skills are just as good and maybe just as polished as some pros.
Some home-produced projects are real jewels, and some are very hard to watch because not everyone gets the concept of timing in drama and comedy. Some are the work of individuals while others have teams working on it whenever possible.
Some have a story to tell while others have an itch for animation that must be scratched. In some cases, it’s a demon that must be exorcised.
You know how we creatives can be. Some want to use animation to teach in the classroom or at home. Some want to continue a storied universe such as Star Wars because they just can’t get enough.
The most impressive thing is that these home animators do all this while holding down a fulltime job in another segment of employment most times completely unrelated to animation.
So… how do we define these folks?
Home Animators, Amateur Animators, and the like don’t seem to do this group justice. The best term I’ve heard is Citizen Animator but even that has a strange ring to it. For the sake of respect, I refer to them as animators… because that is what they are.
Maybe they didn’t go to specialized classes or animation school. Maybe they’ve never cracked open an anatomy reference book or worried about muscle structure in their characters. Chances are they are self-taught, or maybe they’ve had a few classes on the subject.
Whatever their level of training they are still animators. In many cases just as dedicated or more so than the professionals.
I have watched this segment of animators go from enduring ridicule from some pros to receiving praise from the same professionals for the attention to detail and an eye for what the audience wants.
Lack of training doesn’t matter if the viewing audience is sold on the final product. You can have a long training pedigree and still produce crap.
The tools these animators use have matured from near jokes to real animation solutions. Many home-based animation products have gone by the wayside or failed to gain traction while solutions like Reallusion’s iClone and the Unity game engine continue to improve.
The home animation market can be a tough nut to crack and even tougher to survive in. Just ask Antics, Moviestorm or Movizu. All of these were good tools with a good start that eventually lost momentum and led Antics away from the market with a drastic change in operation for Moviestorm and Movizu.
Lions Gate’s “The Movies” game was adopted early on by home animation pioneers but once the game ran its course the official support from the company ceased and the rabid but small user community kept it alive for many more years.
Even though all these frustrations the home animation market has grown and is blending in with the more traditional animation shops in cartoon and pre-visualization. Webisodes and web-based commercials are a great target audience for home-based tools and animators alike.
As home-based animators mature we will continue to see more cutting edge or just plain edgy material. Just as important, we get more niche material on places like YouTube that cannot be cost-effective to produce for major studios but can be banged out by one or more determined home animators on a near-zero budget.
While being hard to define and label as a group, home-based animators are here to stay and over time just may become one of the driving forces of entertainment for many people.
M.D. McCallum, aka, WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD at his website.