About the Dojo Project



Well, the Dojo concept grew out of the ill-fated "Animation Master Brawl" project.  That project had the simple and laughable purpose of getting a bunch of people together, and having each of them animate a section of a fight scene.  When we all got finished, we were planning to string the films together and have a short feature.

My... we really were optimistic.

What actually ended up happening was this: people invested an immense amount of energy in creating their characters, taking a month or so to do it.  By the time we all were ready to start animating, the initial fervor of the goal was already mostly gone.  Then we started to wade into the animation.

We quickly found out three simple things.  First, animation is hard. Second, animation is even harder when nobody has told you the basic principles behind animation.  Third, it is not good to discover lessons one and two when you are trying to finish an animation on a deadline, and are already exhausted from having built a character.

Because of all of these difficulties, we never did get the Brawl film finished.  However, the problems did inspire me to put together a different type of project:  one that would teach the basic principles behind animation in a low pressure, easy-to-join environment.  Hence the Dojo.

Introduction to the concept

For those of you who have never been to an actual Dojo, it's often something roughly like a school-room run by Chinese Menu.  You can choose to learn a little something from one category, and then a little something from another category, and tailor it all to your personal tastes.  While a Dojo of this type does a bad job of drilling every single detail of learning into your head, it does a good job of maintaining interest and participation.  That's why I wanted to model my online project after this successful example.

So, the Animation Master Dojo is basically the same thing, only for animation.  There are a set of lessons, each of which you can pursue either a little or a lot, depending on your interest.  And, of course, there are lots of helpful people, expert and otherwise.

More specifically, this project provides:

  1. A set of tutorials on various aspects of animating martial arts,
  2. Props and models to allow you to start animating more quickly
  3. A community of animators to provide constructive criticism and (maybe) praise
  4. A mailing list connecting that community, and
  5. This web site, with large amounts of storage set aside specifically for the posting of your preliminary attempts at the various tutorials

Why Martial Arts?

A question naturally arises: "Why martial arts?"  This project is limited to teaching martial arts animation as a matter of conscious choice.  The limits give a sense of direction and scope to the project, whereas a more generalized task ("write up tutorials on every aspect of animation") might fail precisely because of how far it over-reached.  The limitation of the project to martial arts is not a choice without some disadvantages, of course:  the Dojo does not provide a strong forum for teaching, for example, facial animation techniques.  Quite a few other techniques of animation simply cannot be addressed within this framework.

However, the choice of martial arts is not a completely arbitrary one either.  By their very nature, martial arts are explorations of movement. The topic of martial arts covers many, perhaps even most, of the fundamental techniques of animation quite naturally.

Introduction to the method

The basic concept is simple:  You, the aspiring animator, select a tutorial that you would like to work on.  You make an attempt at animating what the tutorial describes.  You post your results on the web (either on your own site, or by contacting the Dojo administrator), and mail an announcement to the Dojo mailing list.  The other members of the group comment on your work, hopefully giving feedback that will help you to improve more rapidly than you would have improved alone.

That's it.


The basic goal of the project is to make sure that everyone involved learns as much as they can, and has as much fun as possible.  There are, however, some specific sub goals that seem quite likely to contribute to this overall goal:
  1. Each tutorial should be quick and simple to start and to finish.
  2. Each tutorial should be useful on its own.
  3. Each tutorial should combine with other tutorials to teach something more than just the sum of the parts.

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