His Earth is Flat, Part 1
If you haven’t been paying attention, you might have missed the latest 2D animated revolution. It’s the flat, ultra-rich blossoming-graphics explosion that’s skipped right out of a skateboard mag and onto every cable channel in the guide. Sure there’s plenty of 3D elements in these hipster commercials, promos and title sequences, but the appeal is all 2D, and it’s all Flash and After Effects. Aaron Stewart knows. He’s the man behind a whole heap of MTV and VH1 promos, and another dozen eye-catching 2D spots produced out of uber-hip Hornet Inc. Let’s catch up with this Wichita native who now calls New York home.
AARON SIMPSON: Did you pick up Flash while studying at Parsons School of Design?
AARON STEWART: I graduated in 1998 when Flash just started so I didn’t really pick it up until 2000. I did all my animation in Affter Effects and Director pre-Flash.
SIMPSON: Your professional career started in design and animation, but with a more interactive focus. Do you use the interactive components of Flash any longer?
STEWART: I graduated with a degree in Illustration but incorporated animation and design into my studies as much as possible. I used to work a lot on interactive websites but now I’ve just been doing animation and design. I hope to get back into it because I love creating projects viewers can participate in.
SIMPSON: What influences led to your design ethic?
STEWART: Every day I see something outside that influences me – even other people’s work. My favorites are old animated commercials. They have a simple, charming quality and get right to the point just like my work. I want people to instantly understand what they see and I want to try and show it in a creative way.
SIMPSON: While 3D animation is surely the new king, 2D work is abundant in TV animation, station IDs and promos. How much 2D work will be around in 10 years?
STEWART: I think, for the most part, it will remain the same. 2D expresses a different feeling and look than 3D does. Ten years from now, Flash may be gone and we will be using some other program, but the look and style that the artist is creating will be the same. The computer is just a tool for artists to use. We think of how we want our work to look and then decide the application.
SIMPSON: Do you have a favorite Flash animated TV show?
STEWART: I LOVE CARTOONS! ‘Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends‘ and ‘Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi‘ are my favorite cartoons. I didn’t realize they were created in Flash until I read about it and I was quite surprised. I was thrilled to hear they were created in Flash and think they were smart in doing it. Flash is a great, simple program to use and I hope more animation studios apply the program.
SIMPSON: Early in you career, you worked in TV on Nickelodeon’s ‘Kablam!’ Is there something about the short format you currently work in that’s more appealing?
STEWART: I worked as an After Effects animator on ‘Kablam’ for two years. I wish we used Flash because it would have saved us a lot of time. I loved working on an animated TV show but working on short :30 spots keeps everything fresh for me. I love creating characters and visually solving problems which is what the short spots allow me to do.
SIMPSON: Explain your animation process. Do you typically animate in Flash and then export into After Effects?
STEWART: I usually sketch my ideas out and create the main art in Illustrator and then export into Flash. Then, if needed, I bring it into After Effects for the final movie.
SIMPSON: Do you ever design straight into the computer?
STEWART: I love to just jump right into the computer to develop ideas but I think it’s important to sketch out ideas on paper first.