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An Interview with Digital Artist Elsa

Whitenoise is a creative design agency based in Northern Ireland, proud to shout about our team of skilled graphic designers, videographers, animators, project managers and more! No day is the same and every day brings something different to the table. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind our doors? Or what it takes to become one of our epic team? 

Continuing our 'An Interview with..' series, we talk to Digital Artist Elsa Schade-Weskott.

What inspired you to become an animator and motion graphics artist? 

I was inspired to do animation when I was very young. I watched several “behind the scenes” Disney documentaries on how they do frame by frame animation. I am so intrigued and impressed with how well they draw. I couldn’t help but idealise them. I knew I wanted to do the same. When I went to study animation, I found it was quite a common occurrence. We are a generation of artists brought up by the genius of Disney. Can you blame us?

You are an animation and motion graphics artist at Whitenoise. What does your typical day look like? 

At Whitenoise, I am lucky enough that I get to illustrate and plan animations, as well as animated them. These are things that we spend weeks accomplishing. So it is hard to say what I do day to day as it is always changing and that is what makes it exciting.

What is the process of creating an animation?

First things first, you have to talk to the client to understand what it is they want to achieve with the animation. What feeling do they want to create? What is their brand? We research different styles, and when we come to a conclusion we start the storyboard making process. Animators rely heavily on the script for movement and scenes. It allows us to focus on important points of the story, like creating a picture book of a story. 

Often I print off the script, and I draw little scenes next to sentences and paragraphs to understand the layout of the animation. I highlight sentences with different colours to help me plan out when I need to change scenes; two sentences might work for one scene, but the next sentence might change topic or needs a more specific scene. 

Then we work on how one scene can flow smoothly to the next scene, and we start thinking like camera operators. I imagine a little camera, and how the camera would move from one scene to the next. Sometimes it zooms, pans or distorts. The more experience you have, the more complex this part of the process can become. The limit of an animation is based on the skill of the animator. After this meticulous planning the illustration is started. 

Depending on the type of animation it is, different programs are used. Mostly we use Adobe Illustrator because vector based illustrations do not pixelate when resized. Characters become rigged (puppet like capabilities to help bring them to life), eyes are made to blink and faces given personality.  

Finally, with the scenes are brought into the animation program and we start animation. All the problem solving from creating the storyboard pays off and the animation job is split between participating team members. The animation team really comes together and we help review each other’s animation. A different perspective is critical to improving your animation. When all the scenes and characters are created, the biggest job an animator has is to blend the scenes into each other. It's much more tricky than it sounds. Even with all the storyboard planning, sometimes it needs more blending, or even excitement. My senior animator Ciaran McLaughlin, a brilliant man, uses a focal point to lead the eye into the next scene. It’s a very clever technique used to help continual movement and storytelling.  

The animation sections are sewn back together, music and sound effects are added and the first draft is sent to the client for feedback. 

What type of brief or project do you enjoy working on the most?

I enjoy working on animations that challenge us in an artistic manner; the kind of business that dares to be hip and radical in their manner of style and communication. Animation trends change almost as often as fashion trends! We are always looking forward to working on the next exciting thing.

What qualities do you think a person needs to become an animator?

Passion is most important. Animation is hard work, and ever evolving. You need to have the passion for the art to learn about new techniques and styles in your own time. Anyone can learn to animate. It’s a little like being an artist, you need to find your own voice. When you do, you know what you will be good at animating. Or even in what part of the animation progress you belong. I can animate, but my animation strength is within the illustration and planning process, and that’s okay!

What has been a memorable moment in your career? 

I am still very early in my career. I was lucky enough to start off in Whitenoise, and have been here for three years. I am still learning a lot and trying to find my feet. Small steps first. My most memorable moment would be when I finished my first solo animation for Ulster University, from illustration to animation. We sent the first draft, and they were happy with no changes! I couldn’t believe it. It was a great success! I felt like I finally proved to myself that I was capable after all!

What are your thoughts on specialisation versus generalisation (with regards to skills)? 

I don’t think that it matters much, as long as you are passionate about being general or passionate about specializing. There will always be a market for both. I would say that I have more general skills. It helps me to illustrate in a manner which caters for animation. Ciaran specialized in 3D and incorporates it into his animations. Having broader skills could mean that you have more different styles of work, but might also mean that you won’t get paid as much as those who specialize in a field. Eventually most people will specialise in something, whether it is a skill you are more passionate about or because of the time you have spent doing a particular job. Most importantly I feel that you must do what is right for you.

What influences are you currently fascinated by, and how do they feed into your work? 

There are so many amazing artists and animation companies that just blow my mind. Ordinary Folk is a favourite amongst Whitenoise animators. Their use of colour, storytelling and movement is impeccable. They set a high industry standard. Vimeo is a great place for a source of inspiration. They hand select animations, most of which experiment with storytelling, medium and animation. It is a good idea to look at their animation picks from time to time. Behance is another source of animation and illustrations I highly recommend. In fact, we use work from Behance and Vimeo as style examples for clients.

It’s important to keep up to date with new trends in illustration and animation, let it influence your next project. It allows you to improve as an animator. It also lets you create a new style specific to that client through a patch work of styles you moulded together and made your own.

Do you have any tips or tricks you can share with fledgling animators? 

Just start and keep going. I was terrified when I left university, not knowing whether I was good enough. It doesn’t matter, as Ciaran puts it, we are still babies in our career. We need to learn how to walk first. It’s good to listen to your senior animator, let them guide you. Make notes and combine it with your style and passion. If something fascinates you, learn how to do it. Your whole animation career will be about learning the next big thing. It’s an adventure, and I only just started learning how to stand.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 

Animation is hard work and can take a toll on you and your body. It’s okay to take a break from your screen every now and then. It’s beneficial to come back to your work with fresh eyes.


If you'd like us to bring your project to life on screen, drop us a message and let's talk!

Further reading

An Interview with Senior Digital Artist Ciaran 22-07-2020

An Interview with Senior Digital Artist Ciaran

Ciaran shares his top tips and inspirations for knocking animation and motion graphics out of the park.

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Whitenoise deliver on the Belfast Region City Deal 21-07-2020

Whitenoise deliver on the Belfast Region City Deal

The Belfast Region City Deal Innovation and Digital pillar has received the Whitenoise treatment...

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Busy as Bees: Life during Lockdown... 21-07-2020

Busy as Bees: Life during Lockdown...

Lockdown has been a strange time for us all in Whitenoise, but the one constant has been our clients, many of whom have kept us busy as bees throughout the last few months...

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