I love teaching at UCA. Every time I come home on the train and I am asked how my day was I can’t help but smile and say “It was brilliant.” Even when the day has come a cropper because of one reason or another, it still does not dampen my day. I feel that teaching is where I am meant to be…
Quote of the day:
“Can you move the sun for me? Just a little bit to the right.”
– Student from the Second Workshop.
So anyway today I did the first half of the set Lighting Workshops with the second year Animation & Illustration course at UCA Canterbury. Like usual Andy and I split the class in half, being in a small studio space I was running the workshop for 4-6 students at a time. I found that 6 was the prime number of students as it meant that 4 people could keep control of a light, one could be in charge of cinematography and one could direct everyone. This worked really well as it meant that they had to listen and work together as a team to create the light required for these set times, and by having someone who was a few steps away they could then see both how the lighting looked on set and compare it to how it looked captured on screen as these can be two very different lit environments.
However before they could work as a team, they had to have a brief understanding of how to work the lights themselves and what it did to a character on set. The lights in the studio at UCA Canterbury are brilliant as they are bright LEDs which have barn doors that act as masks to create hard edges to mark out light where it is not wanted. Before they begun the set tasks of ‘time of day’ I had prepared for them, I got the students to play with one light placed on their own character. If they found that the light was too harsh and glaring on their character they had the option of changing the light from bright to dim with the turn of a switch. They could also turn the light from neutral to warm – slightly yellow, or cool – slightly blue. If the light was still too much the could then add a sheet of diffusion paper which disperses the light more evenly across the stage. When they had the hang of what to do with the lights it was then time to start the set tasks I had for them. They placed all their characters in the middle and positioned the 4 lights so no character was left overshadowed by another.
For the first group I simply put a student on each light and I took the photos when everyone said that they were happy with the lighting. The problem with this I realised after the second group, was that without putting someone in charge to direct in the first group, there was a point where some seemed a bit lost in the discussion as voices were spoken over and someone who might have challenged a decision then did not have their thoughts heard.
This is where trial and error are key in a workshop, carry forward what works and drop what does not.
So for the second group I let everyone have a go at everything, everyone directed a time of day and they had to do one in the summer and one in the winter. This meant that they had to consider what to do with all 4 lights: when to make them warm, cold or neural. How bright or dim they wanted them set. If they needed to use a coloured gel, a mask or diffusion paper, what was the placement of the sun during this time?
I felt that giving everyone a chance to direct, they all had a taste of what it is like to run a studio, how to make their thoughts into reality and direct how to get it done. This was particularly interesting with the second group as they worked through the time tasks so quickly (in half the time of the first group!) this I felt was because the director was able communicated the idea they had clearly and without having to fight to be heard.
So we did a second round of ‘musical director’ and each person had an emotion that they had to create through lighting. They then had to use their new understanding of lights and gels and use it to create abstract and experimental lighting where they might use unnatural lighting to communicate a characters emotions to an audience. This was rather cool to watch from an outside point of view as someone thought anger was red but another felt that love was red. This was when they had to play with darks, lights, harsh shadows, soft edges, bright and dim settings and think about how the visual image on the screen would effect the audience viewing it.
Well even though I personally don’t enjoy lighting, I know how important it is a as a key factor of stop motion. However in todays workshops I felt enjoyment towards the subject that I had never experienced before. It was fantastic watching students tackle the tasks I set, using their creativity to make a visual image in their head and turn it out onto the 3D space around them. One student even came away asking if they could use the studio space to shoot some photos of their ceramic work they made last term as they wanted to see how the glaze would reflect the lights and gels onto the white background.
Seeing the excitement a student experiences when learning a new technique: that is the reason I want to teach.