Joseph Gilland is an animator with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with Disney and other studios on movies like Lilo and Stitch, Mulan among many other titles.
When he wrote this book, there wasn't any book dedicated to classical hand drawn special effects animation. It's great to be able to highlight the work done by special effects artists, who are usually the unsung heroes of animation — if their work is good, nobody notices!
This book focuses more on dealing with liquids, fire, smoke, explosions and (other-worldly) magic. The chapters are broken down into the order of covering design concepts, discussing scale and perspective, then moving to breakdown the energy, action path and timing.
Joseph Gilland presents his topic with examples on his own, complete with tips and common mistakes to avoid. You'll learn stuff like how animators can remove details and yet keep things realistic. For example, when dealing with liquids, he would talk about the different factors that affect animation, like water density, force, gravity, viscosity, after splash, etc. The various examples include the simple water droplet to creating waves on which surfers surf on.
There's also a chapter on props. These are stuff like breaking branches, falling leaves, moving fabric, crumbling clay, etc. Animating special effects is essentially animating energy. Throughout the book, there are a lot of detailed explanation on how different elements and objects interact with one another.
While the book is on classic hand drawn animation, there are also some non-technical writeup on how you can use computers to aid in creating these effects.
Elemental Magic is a tremendously helpful resource that aims to help animators think through their approach before execution, to save time and effort without sacrificing quality. Even if there are other special effects books out there, this one definitely stands on its own.
It's highly recommended guide for animators.
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