NYP motion graphics students create animation series on purposeful retirement as part of CPF Board collaboration
The minute-long videos provide a light touch on topics like isolation, purposeful retirement and the importance of social support.
To encourage youths to learn more about the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and its role for Singaporeans, CPF Board (CPFB) partners with tertiary institutions for Student Lens – an annual initiative where students produce short videos surrounding CPF topics.
This year’s Student Lens saw CPFB working with 50 students from Nanyang Polytechnic. The students, all from the Diploma in Motion Graphics Design, were tasked to produce an animated series titled From Winter to Spring, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day.
The anthology series features 12 episodes which explore “how one needs to find a purpose in retirement to stay mentally resilient”.
Three students – Syafiqah Binte Sulaiman, Devein Lim and Valerie Tan – share with Youthopia about their experience working on the project.
According to the trio, the opportunity to work with CPFB as part of their coursework was an unexpected one for the Year Two cohort.
“It was a pleasant surprise that we got to work with a real industry client,” recalls Devein, 27.
Conceptualisation and production
To start, the students were split into groups of three or four members.
Some groups loosely based their episodes on existing tales, whereas other groups came up with original concepts.
Devein’s group was inspired by the children’s fable, The Three Little Pigs. Titled Ground Up, the episode follows the journey of three animal friends whose homes are destroyed in an unexpected storm. Tapping onto one another’s strengths, they manage to build a new shared home together, stronger than ever before.
Devein explains that the story “represents something like the Great Depression, when there’s an economic crisis, and then people lose their funds. But in this story, the animals lose their houses instead.”
He hopes that the audience will realise the importance of seeking help in the midst of any sort of tragic event.
Similar to Devein, Syafiqah’s group produced an episode that is loosely based on The Ant and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s fables.
Through consultation sessions with CPFB, the group learned that initial drafts of the story had too much of a “black and white” concept. This was because the characters were each stereotyped into one trait: the ants hardworking and the grasshopper lazy.
Although the children’s fable conveyed the lesson of planning effectively for the future, Syafiqah’s group needed a nuanced story that could potentially be more relatable.
The ideating stage thus saw multiple rejections. “It didn’t really go according to what we had planned, so it was pretty messy at first,” Syafiqah says.
But eventually, their consultation sessions brought about the idea to incorporate a pandemic-related narrative into the episode.
What resulted was The Grasshopper’s Cage – a story surrounding an isolated grasshopper who initially rejects help from a friendly ant colony. However, when a mysterious disease breaks out, he realises he has to step out of his cage and seek support.
The groups split the workload according to each member’s strengths. Syafiqah, being proficient in video editing, oversaw the piecing of clips together for her group.
Another one of the episodes, Checkmate, involved a different animation style. Valerie, 19, was in charge of the art direction and illustrations.
To make sure they understood their target audience, the students carried out various forms of research such as online surveys and interviews.
Valerie shares that Checkmate was conceptualised after her group found out that loneliness was the biggest fear surrounding retirement, for their target audience of young to older adults.
Stepping out of their comfort zones
Though the students had the chance to put their strengths to use, the project pushed them out of their comfort zones as well.
Before taking on this project, many of them had zero experience with animation as they were more accustomed to motion graphics. Motion graphics involve the manipulation of a single static image. Conversely, animation typically entails a series of images strung together to create movement.
Because the project was with an external client, the teams wanted to create impressive works. However, they struggled to learn and apply new skill sets on their own.
This was especially evident in Devein’s group. Wanting to set themselves apart, they opted for a more complex, three-dimensional style of animation for Ground Up.
Inevitably, they encountered several roadblocks during the production process. “We had to learn things like character animation from scratch,” Devein says.
He feels that as the group leader, he could have afforded to be less ambitious at that stage.
“I think halfway through I was feeling a bit guilty. I should have insisted that we did both mixed media, 2D and 3D so that we could offset our workload, we don’t work over our limits.”
He supported where he could, mostly in rendering the clips and stitching them together. Since 3D animation was something they had never dabbled in before, it was a “mentally exhausting” process even towards the end.
Learning points and takeaways
Syafiqah, Devein and Valerie collectively agree that the opportunity to work with an actual client was a valuable one.
In particular, Syafiqah shares that she now feels more prepared for upcoming endeavours like her Final Year Project and internship. This project taught her how to communicate effectively with an industry client, and be more open-minded towards feedback.
The students also agree on the importance of purposeful retirement. In fact, the project made them realise that retirement planning can start from a young age, though retirement may seem far away for youths.
“You won’t know when financial troubles will pile up, and just hit you all in one go,” says Valerie.
But most importantly, social support is crucial for a purposeful retirement – as portrayed in Ground Up, The Grasshopper’s Cage and Checkmate.
“I hope that [viewers] will actually understand that support is around you. And I think a lot of teenagers nowadays tend to feel more isolated, especially after COVID, so I hope they learn to be more open to people around them and not just keep things to themselves,” motions Syafiqah.
All episodes of From Winter to Spring are available on CPFB’s YouTube channel.