This story was published on Wednesday, January 28, 2004.

Paint Branch High students
take a short 'Walk' to the top

For former Paint Branch High School student Ryan Scherer, now a freshman at Towson University, "Take a Walk" was his first attempt at animation. Scherer also provided the soundtrack to the short.



by Matt Boyd
Staff Writer

Animation project wins award from nonprofit arts organization

Teaching an animation workshop at Paint Branch High School is a lot like organized chaos, according to Leila Cabib.

The workshop lasts five days, one hour a day. Students have to produce dozens and dozens of drawings just to produce a few seconds of animation. Each of the hundreds of total drawings must be carefully sequenced to be only slightly different from the one before and after.

Students come after school and during lunch to work. "I am always amazed with the amount of work they do in such a brief time," Cabib said.

In those five days last March, Cabib and a team of Paint Branch students produced "Take a Walk," a public service announcement that won an award from the Council for International Non-theatrical Events, a nonprofit arts organization based in Washington, D.C.

Cabib is mainly an illustrator and cartoonist, but has some animation experience. She was invited to Paint Branch in 2001 to teach animation as part of the school's science and media signature program.

The school has been running animation classes since the start of the signature program six years ago. Classes were held during lunch and art periods.

This year's animation short was made to promote walking. A series of characters are shown walking while a voiceover explains the health benefits of the activity.

"I was thinking, too, about how one of the big health problems now is obesity and how people are not exercising as much as they should," Cabib said. However, there was also another practical reason for doing an animation about walking.

Making a continuous loop, like a walking animation, prolongs the animation, and anything that saves time helps when it comes to the craft, she said. What the students did is a classic exercise. "The walking cycle is something that all animators have to learn," Cabib said.

Each student who created a character took it through a walking cycle. Students could draw what they wanted. One student drew a penguin, while another had a woman being pulled along by a dog out of the frame, Cabib said.

The drawing was actually a self-portrait, said student Katie Waterworth. She got involved with the class the year before, and was excited to do it again.

Waterworth, who wants to be a fashion designer, said working with animation was a good experience to broaden her artistic range. "Basically the animation thing is for the breadth section of my portfolio," she said.

For Hasnat Ali, the class wasn't necessarily related to his career choice. Ali is planning to go into engineering but was taking advanced placement studio art at the time. "It was a side thing, but when I was a kid, I always liked drawing cartoons," he said.

While animating their walk cycles, the class worked with holders that kept the paper in place. That way, the artist could see through to the last frame of animation that had been drawn, Ali said. Each cycle took 30 to 40 drawings. A frame-grabber, or the "lunchbox," captured the images to film.

The class was an eye-opening experience into how much work goes into professional animation, Ali said. A show like "The Simpsons" could take up to 50 drawings for 10 seconds of air time.

This wasn't Ali's first time with the class. He and Watersworth had been part of the previous year's class, which had produced another animation short titled, "Move Over, Moon." That short also won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, which honors both amateur and professional productions.

It was, however, the first time for Ryan Scherer. Scherer, in addition to animating a walk cycle, provided the soundtrack to "Take a Walk," a self-made composition he called "Triphop" after the genre it resembled.

Scherer said he thought the short turned out great. He draws and paints, but this is the first time he has animated anything. Now that he is a freshman at Towson University, he is thinking of taking on another animation project. "I've been thinking about doing claymation, which is kind of like the same thing," he said, though he added he doesn't have a specific idea of what he would like to produce.

"Take a Walk" will be broadcast on Montgomery Community Television's Cable Channel 21 and on Montgomery County Schools Instructional TV. Air dates have not been determined.