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)
  • Pixilations (Dragonframe)
  • Sound Visualizations (Premiere + choice of software)
  • Mood Board Animatics (After Effects)
  • Installation + Documentation Plan
  • 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.


20% Class participation and attendance
50% Exercises and assignments
30% Final Project



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.



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

  • Demo: Under-camera animation
  • Discussion: Archives and 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

  • Discuss: Material GIF assignments
  • Screening: “Character + Walk Cycles”

Wednesday March 1

  • Exercise: Characters + acting
  • Intro: Cut-out walk cycles
  • Assignment: Create a character and animate their walk cycle using Dragonframe. Character must enter an empty stage and leave (so that the first and last frame match).
  • Read: “Some Sound Observations” (Pauline Oliveros) and post reaction to blog.


Sound + animation

Monday March 6

  • Watch: Walk cycle assignments
  • Discuss: Oliveros reading
  • Exercise: Deep listening
  • Screening: “Sound + animation”

Wednesday March 8

  • Discuss: Foley + sound effects
  • Demo: Sound recording equipment and microphones
  • Review: Audacity and Premiere for sound
  • Assignment: Record 5 sounds. Write a paragraph describing each sound and post them to the class blog.



Monday March 13

  • Present: One sound from your recordings
  • Screening: “Visualizing Sound”

Wednesday March 15

  • Exercise: Sound Drawing
  • Review: Premiere editing
  • Assignment: Visualize your 5 sounds with any animated forms you choose. Edit them together in a sequence. Post to the class blog.  


Pixilation + Live Action

Monday March 20

  • Watch: Visualized Sounds assignments
  • Screening: “Pixilation + Live Action”

Wednesday March 22

  • Demo: Pixilation
  • Demo: Lights and camera
  • Assignment: Create an animation involving pixilated live-action humans and/or objects. This is a collaborative project (groups of 2-3).

Story + concept

Monday March 27

  • Watch: Pixilation assignments
  • Screening: “Story + concept”

Wednesday March 29

  • Discuss: Moodboards
  • One-on-one: Discuss initial final project ideas
  • Assignment: Create a paragraph describing your final project idea
  • Assignment: Collect digital and/or physical materials that inspire you for a mood board




Story + concept

Monday April 10

  • Discuss: Storyboards and animatics
  • Exercise: Collaborative storyboards

Wednesday April 12

  • Intro: After Effects
  • Assignment: Create a Mood Board Animatic in After Effects.


Collage + animation

Monday April 17

  • Discuss: Mood board Animatic assignments
  • Screening: “Collage + animation”

Wednesday April 19

  • Demo: After Effects
  • Assignment: Create final project technique + material tests



Monday April 24

  • Watch: Final project technique + material tests
  • Screening: “Site-specific animation”

Wednesday April 26

  • Demo: MadMapper
  • Discuss: Site-specific installation planning + documentation
  • Assignment: Create Installation + Documentation Plan


Final Projects

Wednesday May 3

  • Present: Installation/documentation plans

Sunday May 7

  • One-on-one: Final project check-ins
  • Work on final projects


Final Projects

Monday May 8

  • Present: Final project check-in
  • Work on final projects

Wednesday May 10

  • One-on-one: Final project check-ins
  • Work on final projects


Final Projects

Monday May 15

  • Present: Final Project critiques (part 1)

Wednesday May 17

  • Present: Final Project critiques (part 1)


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