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The Digital Image – Visual Style
Today we were given our first class by Mathew Riley ( ). He began by showing us some of the work that he had done and moving on to the works outstanding past RMIT students such as Jonathan Nix ( ). We looked at Jonathan’s “Hello” which was done for his major project at RMIT AIM, going through some of his travel sketches, and developmental shots. Here is some advice on Visual Style that Jonathan gave to the student some years back:

AIM Centre for Animation and Interactive Media

The Digital Image
Visual Style

Advice by AIM graduate Jonathan Nix regarding Visual Style

In the context of the AIM course, or any project for that matter,
I would recommend a few things.

1. Spend some time developing your characters prior to production.
( If you are going to have any)
Get a book or piece of paper and draw them in 10 or more different
emotional states. Exagarate them.
Through this process you will refine your designs and come to understand
your characters better.

2. Think about the integration of character and background.
A great example of really clever design is the Studio Ghibli film
My Neighbours the Yamadas. Essential elements only are included,
and yet there is a lovely use of 3D as well.
If the idea / story is good, you can do it B+W with stick figures.

3. Tailor the design to the timeline and support you have available.
You can’t make ‘Spirited Away’ on you own in three months.
Keep it simple and focus on quality of narrative and animation.
Don’t let the computer drive you, drive it.

4. Think beyond the side on mid-shot.
If your animating it, the camera could be up a nostril or
inside a pancreas.

5. Mock up a few images that show the final look you are after.
Take note of the process involved in creating this image.
Ask around to see if there is a more efficient way to achieve it.
If you ask John Power, write down your question first so
you can remember what it was.

6. Be careful drinking those modern energy drinks like ‘V’.

7. Matt may seem kind and cuddly, but he has disguised his
acidic tongue and derision for fools very well.

In regards to using 3D environments with 2D characters we looked at Andy Buchanan (RMIT AIM 2005) “Looking for Joe” and we were adviced by Matt to figure out how much time we have and to find what you can fit in that amount of time; do still images of how you want the film to look, how long did it take to do? From this estimate how long the whole piece will take to do.

Using digital collages is another approach which was shown in the piece “Skyfall”, based around the theme of cyclic nature of things. This was a collaborative work containing no character animation, using flat art work and transitions to communicate with the audience. Another example of digital collage was Shy Limanon’s (RMIT AIM 2004) work which is anti-realist with no perspective or spatial depth and all visual are flat and compressed. This piece was done in flash.

Other works we looked at were:

  • Matt Owens ( ) interactive narratives, turning art work into linear narratives.
  • Future Farmers ( ) Manga influences, with soft gentle colour palettes with garden metaphors and ideas around nature since the founders were originally farmers.

In the afternoon we werew introduced to Yeap a past student from 2005 who started off making videos and directing music videos and now working as an animator in Flash. Yeap will be teaching us Photoshop and Aftereffects in the coming weeks. His advice to us was to realize that the whole process is based on problem solving. It is important that you plan out what you are going to do before you start and then work on solving each problem as it arises. Understand your limitations and plan your scenes accordingly.


  1.  Advice from the Greats -