The 7 Must-Watch TED Talks For Anyone Interested In Animation

October 30, 2014

Animation is one of the most unique artforms in modern media – a unique blend of creative imagination and technical prowess, animating is something that isn’t particularly difficult to pick up but can take a lifetime to master. The rewards and sense of achievement, however, make the hard work more than worth it.

Given the multi-faceted nature and technical intricacies of animation as a whole, it’s something that is often best learned at an intensive 3D animation school but those getting into the craft can benefit hugely from the wisdom of those already working in the profession. Presenting:

The 7 Best TED Talks on Animation

TED-Ed – Animation Basics: The Art of Timing and Spacing

Who: The TED-Ed collection of practical lessons.

What: A beautiful, well-presented, and highly useful gem which explains (by example) what transforms graphics from a simple slideshow to a finely crafted animation.

Why: You’ll learn more in this six minutes than you probably would a month of trying to figure this stuff out on your own. And even seasoned animators are likely to find some fresh perspective which they can apply to their existing work habits.

Tony DeRose – Pixar: The Math Behind the Movies

Who: Senior Scientist and Lead Researcher for Pixar.

What: A surprisingly accessible presentation on animation mathematics delivered by a man that knows a thing or two about it.

Why: There’s a lot of material out there on creativity and storytelling, but not a lot on the hard math that lies behind it all. Outside of animation school, this is one of the best opportunities to have a professional at the height of his field explain the intrinsic link between math and art.

Matthew Winkler – What Makes a Hero?

Who: Winkler is a journalist and editor-in-chief with Bloomberg News.

What: Not just a video on the hero’s story concept – an important trope in animation – but the talk is also presented in a gloriously animated format (with the animation conducted by Kirill Yeretsky).

Why: Even non-animators can get a kick out of the lush visuals and narrative theory which runs central to most of the great works in literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to Lord of the Rings and beyond.

Torsten Reil – Using Biology to Make Better Animation

Who: Video game entrepreneur, CEO of NaturalMotion, and animator on Grand Theft Auto 4.

What: One of the enduring classic TED talks on animation, Torsten’s humorous presentation puts forward the advantages that a little bit of biology knowledge can bring to your animation work.

Why: Although Reil’s TED talk is over ten years old, the key principles are just as relevant today and the lessons herein can lead to a much more fluid style of animation.

Drew Berry – Animations of Unseeable Biology

Who: Biomedical animator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.

What: Whereas Torsten Reil’s talk concerned the use of biology to make animation better, Berry flips this around and looks at how animation can be a hugely beneficial tool in medicine.

Why: Whenever you feel that animation is just an entertainment medium, it’s good to remind ourselves that it is, in fact, an overwhelmingly useful way to educate and help people. It’s one of the best TED talks on animation that also presents animation in a different light. Plus, Berry’s work is fascinating to watch in and of itself.

Andrew Park & Denis Dutton: A Darwinian Theory of Beauty

Who: Park is a British animator; Dutton is an art philosopher, web entrepreneur, and media activist.

What: A talk by Dutton on what lies at the heart of aesthetic beauty across cultures, cleverly animated in Andrew Park’s inimitable style.

Why: While not strictly discussing the craft of animation, the idea of what is visually appealing is naturally a major consideration for animators and it’s fascinating to see Park at work while Dutton delivers his illuminating talk.

Miwa Matreyek: Glorious Visions in Animation and Performance

Who: Short film maker, performance artist, and animator.

What: An entrancing display of mixed-media performance art which is almost meditative in tone.

Why: Want to relax for ten minutes? Watch this. Want to see animation used in an altogether different way? Watch this. In fact, just watch this.