Ning Cheng: Animation in the Present and Future

There’s a tremendous amount of debate in the world about technology changing the roles and jobs of humans in the future. Animator Ning Cheng has found endless possibilities for her very human artistic mind and skillset using modern techniques that greatly differ from the old approach to animation. Whether it’s in film, advertisements, VR games, TV programs, or others areas, the possibilities seem endless and serve as proof that the creative part of humanity can work in collaboration with the modern day tools offered us. There’s a lesson to be learned in Ning’s pursuit of a creative voice while possessing a malleability that allows her to use it in so many different ways; though the means by which art is presented and admired may change, the spirit of an artist is uniquely organic and human.

Photo: Cary

It’s almost impossible for technology to replicate humor. This facet is also the source of a trio of animated advertisements Cheng created with writer Zhe Li and producer Dingdang for the popular game Bright Warrior (Hikari no Yuushi in Japanese). Released on Bilibili and Weibo for Tencent and Shanda Games, these adverts/mini-films were designed to communicate the game experience in a humorous way. Presented in Anime style, the videos lovingly poke fun at the tropes of games, producing an overwhelming acceptance from fans online and the gaming companies themselves. Ning served a number of roles ranging from pre-production director to character design and animation supervisor. Specifically designed to appeal to China’s gaming market, these three episodes attracted their own fan following.

For Steam’s VR platform Oculus Rift game Classroom Aquatic, Ning served as the 2D animator. Because this was the world’s first stealth/trivia game for Oculus Rift (Oculus VR is a division of Facebook Inc.), the creation was incredibly important. Seeing her work in the burgeoning platform of Virtual Reality is exciting. It also reaffirms that animation is a vital and relevant part of entertainment in a variety of ways moving forward. Cheng confirms, “For the animation itself, I am still making 2D traditional animation digitally on this project. I export it into videos and then send it to the team who places it into the VR environment. We had meetings to figure out what format and frame rate the animation video should be. It took me a while to figure out the look of the animation. Ultimately, we needed to make the animation in a charcoal texture tow work most effectively. Even if we added the texture in the post-production, I decided to try to make it look like charcoal as much as possible to that we can avoid problems in the post-production process. It’s exciting to work on a new type of animation that hasn’t been completely standardized yet.”

Photo: Sandepaan Chanda

Present day has this animator involved in the upcoming television series A guide to Voice Acting. Developed by Beijing Voision Kids Cultural Media, the series displays the unusual and comical vocation of voice actors as they play fantastic and unusual characters, fight with themselves on microphone, and lead altogether unusual daily work lives. Slated for release later this Fall, A guide to Voice Acting offers Ning the chance to manifest the action which might otherwise only exist in the minds of listeners or the actors themselves. She relates, “Animation is such a pure way of telling a story. There are so many styles and ways to create worlds with it. I find that so fulfilling as an artist. Technology keeps offering up different tools for animators to find their own style and voice. I feel like this is the Golden Era for animation. The possibilities are as large as the demand for animators.”

Written by Patrick Wilson

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