Animation Syllabus

Animation: Traditional Techniques & Contemporary Practices

INTM-SHU 210:  Animation: Traditional Techniques & Contemporary Practices
Spring 2017
Course Website:
Lecture + lab: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:15 – 6:00pm
Instructor: Tim Szetela
Email: szetela AT
Prerequisite: Communications Lab
Number of credits: 4


Course Description:
The practice of animation is tied inseparably to the technologies that facilitate its production. Its foundation is in the early experimental stages of photography and cinema, and it has continued to evolve throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. This course takes students through traditional animation techniques and their connections to evolving software, hardware, and media formats. In the first half of the course, students will complete a series of exercises that introduce them to fundamental animation production techniques. Screenings of films by directors and artists from around the world will expand on the history and potential of the form. In the second half of the course, students will produce final projects, from concept development to completed film or installation. The class will conclude with a exhibition of these projects.



  • Transformation Loops (Photoshop / Dragonframe)
  • Object Loops (Photoshop / Dragonframe)
  • Walk Cycles (Dragonframe)
  • Sound Visualizations (Premiere + choice of software)
  • Pixilations (Dragonframe)
  • Mood Board websites
  • Mood Board Animatics (After Effects)
  • Final Project (choice of software)


Learning Objectives:

  • Learn the fundamental techniques of animation production;
  • Practice the fundamentals of stop-motion animation;
  • Practice the fundamentals of digital animation;
  • Utilize the fundamentals of audiovisual editing and composition;
  • Explore the fundamentals of site-specific media installation.



Attendance in all classes is mandatory. Unexcused absences and tardiness will affect your grade. More than one unexcused absence can result in a failing grade. Please contact me in advance if you will be absent or late so we can figure out how to make up what you’ll miss.


Office Hours:
Thursdays from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. Sign up here. 


Electronic Devices:
Laptops are allowed for note taking and following along with demonstrations. However, there is no checking of email or social media. Working on other school work during class on your laptop is also prohibited. Laptops must be closed during critiques, screenings, and class discussions. Mobile devices (including phones) are not allowed to be out during class.


Final Project site



Monday February 6

  • Class introduction
  • What is animation?
  • Discuss: Syllabus
  • History of animation

Screening: “Intro to Animation”

Wednesday February 8

  • Exercise: Rotation portraits
  • Demo: Dragonframe
  • Assignment: Find an animated short film (less than 10 minutes) by a director from the country (or countries) where you grew up (or wherever you call home). Post it to the class blog with a response. This can be something you already know of or something new you find online.


Loops + Transformation

Monday February 13

Wednesday February 15

  • Exercise: Transformation flipbooks
  • Demo: Photoshop + GIF creation
  • Assignment: Make a transformation loop using Photoshop. Post it to the class blog.
    • First and last frame should work sequentially as a loop
    • Use black + white. (Bring in one additional color if you’d like.)
    • Resolution: 2000 x 2000 pixels (72 dpi)
    • 30 frames long (or 2 seconds at 15 frames per second)
    • Every animated frame must be redrawn (though you may use static backgrounds).


Objects + Stop Motion

Monday February 20

  • Review: Photoshop + GIFs
  • Discuss: Transformation GIF assignments
  • Screening: “Materials + Objects”
  • Assignment: Bring in a collection of 10-30 similar objects. These should be smaller than your hand but similar shape to each other (for example: a set of keys, coins, buttons, dice, rings, stamps, etc).

Wednesday February 22

  • Archives and animation
  • Screening: Animation Archives
  • Demo: Under-camera animation
  • Assignment: Create a looping movie with collected objects/materials using Dragonframe.
    • The primary focus of your animation should be on replacement animation, but you may also you movement and rotation if you’d like.
    • Your entire video should be a loop. The first and last frame need to match. (These could be blank backgrounds).
    • Use a static background (either the base of the camera stand or a sheet of paper taped to the camera stand).
    • You may work in pairs. If you do, animate your objects separately from each other and mixed together.
    • You may edit together sequences in Premiere, but do not use effects like fades, dissolves, or zooms.
    • Animate slowly! Your animation will move more quickly than you expect.
    • Export as an mp4 and keep the file size relatively small. You may need to export at a smaller resolution (like 720 or 1080 pixels wide) to keep the size small.
    • Post your final movie to the blog.


Character + Walk Cycles

Monday February 27

Wednesday March 1


Sound + animation

Monday March 6

Wednesday March 8

  • Watch: Walk cycle assignments
  • Screening: “Sound + animation” part 2
  • Demo: Sound recording equipment and microphones
  • Review: Premiere for sound
  • Assignment: Record 5 sounds. Compose them in order in Premiere (no layering). Add a still photo or drawing of their source (synced up in Premiere). Post it to the blog with a 1-2 sentence description of each sound (use descriptive, evocative words). Due Monday.


Monday March 13

  • Present: Sound recordings
  • Exercise: Sound Drawing

Wednesday March 15


Pixilation + Live Action

Monday March 20

  • Watch: Visualized Sounds assignments
  • Screening: “Pixilation + Live Action” (part 1)
  • Assignment: Create an animation involving pixilated live-action humans and/or objects. This is a collaborative project (groups of 2-3). Project due Monday 3/27.

Wednesday March 22

Story + concept

Monday March 27

  • Watch: Pixilation assignments
  • Screening: “Story + concept”
  • Assignment: Final Projects (due May 15). More info about Final Projects here.
  • Assignment: Brainstorm on your Final Project idea(s). Collect digital and/or physical materials that inspire you for a mood board. Bring these ideas (written, digital, and/or physical) to class on Wednesday.

Wednesday March 29

  • Discuss: Moodboards
  • One-on-one: Discuss initial final project ideas
  • Assignment: Describe your final project idea in 2-3 sentences. Write this on a piece of paper or note card. Bring it to class on Monday April 10.
  • Assignment: Expand upon your mood board, creating more drawings, sketches, designs, or mockups of what your film will look like. Assemble/collage these elements into an HTML page or an editable platform (like Tumblr). Your project should have its own dedicated URL or page. Post this to the documentation blog by Monday April 10.




Story + concept

Monday April 10

  • Discuss: Storyboards and animatics
  • Exercise: Collaborative storyboards

Wednesday April 12

  • Demo: After Effects Basics (Assets, Compositions, Effects, Rendering)
  • Reference: After Effects Basics Tutorial
  • Assignment: Create a Mood Board Animatic in After Effects. Bring in images from your mood board and storyboard (and any newly created images) and arrange them linearly and in layers in After Effects to give a brief sense of your film. Optionally, you can add effects, sound, and animation (but this is not required). Should be a minimum of 15 seconds. Due Wednesday April 19.


Texture + collage

Monday April 17

  • Screening: “Texture + collage”
  • Assignment: Technique + material tests
    Create static AND animated tests of your final project in the technique and software you would like to use. These can be very brief, but at least some of the tests should be fully polished and look like what you intend your final project to look like. Post these to your project blog/website and be prepared to show them next Monday April 24.

Wednesday April 19

  • Demo: After Effects (Keyframes)
  • Demo: Animate (Rotoscoping)


Final Projects

Monday April 24

  • Present: Mood Board Animatics + technique tests (part 1)

Wednesday April 26

  • Demo: After Effects (Looping, Timing, Graph Editor, + Frame-by-frame animation)

Final Projects

Wednesday May 3

  • Present: Mood Board Animatics + technique tests (part 2)
  • Assignment: Rough cuts
    Rough cuts should be a more fully realized animatic. These should have sound and animation in them. But they aren’t yet complete. You may use stills to stand in for animation you still need to complete. And the sound does not need to be fully recorded or edited. They should have a title and be the intended length of your film. Post these to the documentation blog by May 8.

Sunday May 7

  • Demo: Audio in After Effects, Animate, + Premiere
  • Work on final projects


Final Projects

Monday May 8

  • Present: Rough Cuts (part 1)

Wednesday May 10

  • Present: Rough Cuts (part 2)
  • Assignment: Final Project Documentation (due by Sunday May 21 at 10am)

Final Project documentation requirements:
1) Title
2) Screenshot of your film
3) Link to your video on Vimeo or YouTube
4) A 1-2 sentence short description of your project
5) Credit to any collaborators and/or media sources
6) Link to your project development site/blog/moodboard
7) A paragraph describing the development of your concept/story/idea
8) A paragraph describing the materials/techniques/technology you used
9) A paragraph describing what you learned from the process and how this could influence future work or projects (related to animation and/or other art/tech/design).


Final Projects

Monday May 15

  • Final Projects Due: Email Google Drive link to final project file by 3pm (before class)
  • Present: Final Project critiques (part 1)

Wednesday May 17

  • Present: Final Project critiques (part 2)

Wednesday May 19

  • Final Projects Public Screening, Room 933, 7pm

Friday May 19

  • IMA Show, 5-7pm
Books (for Reference in Library)

Title: Animation in the Home Digital Studio
Author: Steven Subotnick
ISBN-13: 978-0240804743
ISBN-10: 0240804740
Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition
Date: 2003

Title: Frame-By-Frame Stop Motion: The guide to Non-Traditional Animation Techniques
Author: Tom Gasek
ISBN-10: 0240817281
ISBN-13: 978-0240817286
Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition
Date: 2011