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animation station #1: lobster studio!

Today marks the start of a new series! Welcome to animation station: the place for me to nerd out on animations I find online or in the real world! I'm going to start with an animation studio I recently found through Instagram on the #motionlovers tag - I nosy around in there quite often at the moment - and was so incredibly impressed by: Lobster Studio.

I've recently gained a greater interest in animation and have been trying out my own mini looping GIF-style animations, either through frame by frame means or using After Effects. Because of this, I started to take more notice of other animators out there and how they create similar small animations (I like to call them mini-mations) to get inspiration from, as prior to my attempts this summer I didn't have much experience; just the group and Ashmolean projects in my first year at NTU. I quickly stumbled upon the work from Lobster Studio - and I can't lie, I was immediately smitten. (Maybe they could hire me someday?) ... Anyway, let's get into the work.

These are the first couple of animations I saw from Lobster Studio:

I really love the fluidity of the fruit piece; I feel like it may have been difficult to achieve because the start and end results are so different. The inbetweens have a lot of life, whizzing around, but because they're so fast they are really believable, serving as a great transition to the glass and juice frame. The fruit also turns and squashes to come back to life, which gives the impression that a lot of time and thought was put into it. I really like the use of a surface for the elements to fall through; both of the animations do this in order to restart the loop. The second animation here is quite hilarious, but I appreciate the expression given to both the character and the water; the whole animation feels lively.

Lobster Studio have some other gems too, that I really love:

I love the dynamic and extreme use of perspective in these examples; it really helps to create a 3D space rather than being trapped inside your flat screen. The characters change from being tiny to massive right at the front of the frame in one step or one stretch of the arm, which really creates a popping effect like you would experience in a 3D movie. I love this, and feel it creates an exciting and gripping atmosphere which really catches your attention much more than if everything existed on the same plane. This approach is one I would really like to experiment with in future, as I haven't played with perspective in my mini-mations as of yet. I also really like the added detail of the car and tyres bouncing around and and moving side to side rather than just steering the car with no added movement. These extra movements make the animation believable and emphasises the panic of the driver as he fights to miss the holes in the road.

There are also some deliciously foody-themed animations:

The pizza chef animation feel the most fluid to me, as when on loop it is quite difficult to recognise the start and end of the animation; you can only see it from looking at the status of the pizza. I really love how the movements all coincide to create a visual experience that is incredibly easy to digest- the watcher doesn't have to decipher any part of the animation as the visual communication is so clear, due to the simplicity of the art style and reduced colour scheme. The fork animation is really short but all of the movements work together; with a limited amount of elements moving at once, the animation is not too overwhelming. The character, bungee cord and fork all move together with their movements starting and ending at the same points, creating visual consistency and a clear beginning/end to the animation.

Another piece I really enjoyed was their 2018 Showreel, found on their website:

The Showreel shows snippets of all of the work produced by Lobster so far this year, for both clients and their Instagram page. 

And I am completely in love with it!

I adore how the animations all link to each other, especially at the beginning of the showreel when the diver is tied up and popped out, becoming the coloured balls that roll through into the next shot. This is a really genius idea that keeps the viewer captivated; there is never a clear start and end to each section, so they can't click away- instead they follow the transitional elements into the next animation. Following this, we have a series of snippets from Lobster's projects. Notable favourites of mine are the people driving scooters from a top down angle, the car turning away and driving into the distance, the 360 degree view of the Nike trainer, and the Samurai coming towards the viewer. I also really love the transition at the end from the balloon style sea creatures into the Lobster Studio logo; the lobster being part of the crowd and slowly drifting away feels incredibly seamless, especially with added jet streams and bubbles to propel it. I also really like the slow 'pop' style used to transition it into the logo. The background colour change signifies this transition prior to its occurrence, again helping the whole sequence to feel smooth and easy for viewers to digest.

The use of colour and suggestion of forms and features is really inspiring to me as I feel that Lobster include only the necessary details for the viewer, rather than cluttering the animation up with extra detail or shading that doesn't aid the communication of movement. They commonly use flat, vector style forms but with edges that have a slight texture to them or slight wobbles in the outlines that suggest the animations have been hand made. On further investigation into their Instagram feed, I found a response from Lobster talking about how they had made some of their mini-mations; they use cel techniques mixed with After Effects. I found this really interesting as I almost automatically assumed they would use purely modern or computerised techniques, so I was pleasantly surprised to find they also use traditional techniques we associate with 70's or 80's animators. As someone who has been focusing on frame by frame animation, this gives me some hope that animation can still have a handmade quality to it even in the age of digital creation and tight advertisement deadlines.

Regardless, I am extremely impressed by the work from Lobster in all possible ways; the colour palettes are expressive and grab your attention, but they work together well, giving a very cohesive feel to each individual animation as well as their whole body of work. I love their use of perspective and viewing angles to create excitement and liveliness in their characters, too.

I also generally just adore every concept they choose to animate; the animations make sense, make you laugh, or really prove why some things can't stay still: they have to move.

More animation station coming soon! (I really enjoyed this!)

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