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APSU Students explore meaning of family in 24 Hours Animation Contest

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Ten Austin Peay State University (APSU) students had 24 hours to create the best possible 30-second animated film they could working off nothing more than a contest prompt and the knowledge they’ve earned from the university’s emerging animation program.

Layne's team created more than 700 drawings and the film’s dialogue. (APSU)
Layne’s team created more than 700 drawings and the film’s dialogue. (APSU)

As it turns out, the students – who broke into two teams of five – didn’t need the time allotted to them by the 24 Hours Animation Contest for Students, an international competition that last year included more than 200 teams and about 50 colleges.

One Austin Peay State University team needed only 23 hours to finish its hand-drawn movie (two-dimensional animation), a task that required team members to create more than 700 drawings then scurry across campus for recording equipment to capture the film’s dialogue.

The other team accomplished its three-dimensional, computer-generated movie in 21 hours, which required team members needing more than five hours just to create the characters, let alone the 12 hours to give the characters’ movement (not counting the time needed to capture real humans modeling character movement).

“Our group was very happy with the final result of our work,” Claire Layne, who led the team that created the 2D movie (embedded above), said. “Everyone worked extremely hard on each task. Strong communication among our group was a pivotal part of our success, and the experience brought us closer as a team.”

Peyton VanHook, who led the 3D team (video embedded below), agreed: “It was a great experience. We really hit our stride. A big part of what we did was develop all the pieces that needed to come together.”

‘Developing all the pieces’ on little sleep

The common key to success for both teams was just that: “developing all the pieces” or “working hard on each task.”

All the teams in the competition had to create movies based on the question, “What does family mean to you?” They had 24 hours to create a 30-second movie from scratch, beginning when the prompt was announced at around 5:30pm on Friday, October 4th.

Using VanHook’s team as an example, the student animators started by spending about 30 minutes coming up with a concept. One of the students then broke off to create the character models, a task that took five to six hours.

During that time, her teammates focused on creating the story. Other tasks included refining the storyboard and filming a reference video to capture human movement to apply to the characters. 

After all that came 12 hours of animation – making the characters move within the story.

“We didn’t even get started animating moving stuff until 1:30 in the morning because we had to make sure all the pieces were ready to go,” VanHook said.

Layne’s team used hand-drawn animation in its movie, a process that requires about 24 drawings in each second of the movie. Her team also decided to add dialogue to the movie, and those voices came from the team members themselves, using a sound studio on campus.

“The time crunch was a challenge since we realized that we were going to use dialogue for our short,” she said.

VanHook added, “None of us got much sleep.”

Layne’s team included Catelyn DaSilva, Jonathan Bruns, Nicholas Stiers and Jeremy Vega. VanHook’s team included Myles Johnson, Savannah Debord, Kayleigh Baird and Paul Gibson.

‘Mimics’ crunch time in professional animation

This year is the third time Austin Peay State University students have participated in the October contest, which parallels life as a professional animator – especially the days leading up to a project deadline.

“It really mimics a little bit of when you’re in a studio setting and you’re in crunch time and you need to get a shot out by Friday,” Scott Raymond, APSU associate professor in Art + Design, said. “You’ll do what you have to do, pull the crazy 80-hour workweeks to get things done.” 

Raymond has the experience to know; he worked on such films as “Trolls,” “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “Home” before joining the APSU Art + Design department. 

The contest also reinforces teamwork, he said. 

“You realize, ‘We’re all in it together,’” Raymond said. “Animation tends to be a solo adventure, but that’s not indicative about how it is in the real world. In the real world, you’re part of a team and you can’t do it all.”

VanHook's team accomplished its three-dimensional, computer-generated movie in 21 hours. (APSU)
VanHook’s team accomplished its three-dimensional, computer-generated movie in 21 hours. (APSU)

The contest awards five teams with prizes from industry sponsors and includes judges who are industry professionals. This year’s sponsors include DreamWorks Animation, the Cartoon Network, Blue Sky Studios and Sony Pictures Animation. The contest is an event by Animation Educators Forum, a subset of the animation industry group ASIFA-Hollywood.

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