Bringing Total Defence to life for N.E.mation11
Joseph Schooling, paper, blood, an umbrella and eight-bit video games may not sound like they have a lot in common with the defence of Singapore.
Not at first.
Thanks to a healthy dose of imagination - and a lot of hard work - the five themes feature in some of the top 10 entries of this year's N.E.mation! contest.
The inter-school competition, which is into its 11th year, encourages students from secondary schools, junior colleges and centralised institutes to express their thoughts on Total Defence (TD) through digital animation.
It is organised by the Central National Education Office, Nexus, and no prior experience is necessary as training is provided for shortlisted teams.
The top 10 finalists were chosen from a total of 760 entries in September after submitting their story ideas under the theme Together We Keep Singapore Strong.
They have just completed an intensive three-week production period, where their story concepts were given life as minute-long animated videos under the watchful eye of trained animators.
Once the videos have cleared post-production, they will be released for public viewing and voting from Jan 14 to Feb 5 next year.
The eventual winners, who will be determined by a combination of scores from public voting and a judging panel of industry professionals, will walk away with an all-expenses paid trip to the US worth more than $20,000.
Once there, they will visit a famous animation studio. An inspiring prize for any young animator.
The inspiration for the projects can come from anywhere.
For the students of team DinoSoar from Kent Ridge Secondary School, who are taking part in their maiden N.E.mation!, Joseph Schooling's historic Olympic gold medal win formed the basis of their clip titled The Olympian.
Team member Putri Azra Besim Kukuljac, 15, said: "We used the Olympic colours and different sports to represent the different pillars of Total Defence."
"The athlete in black represents economic defence, the red represents civil, blue for psychological, yellow for social and green for military," continued teammate Jihan Fahira Jassuri, 14.
An umbrella was the starting point for fellow first-timers team Passionfruit of Evergreen Secondary School.
"Our tagline was Shields of Singapore, so the judges suggested looking at the shield metaphorically like how you shield someone else who doesn't have an umbrella from the rain," said Maybelle Ong.
Her teammate Mabel Wong added: "We're using 2D digital animation to show different real-life scenarios of people shielding and defending one another in Singapore."
With imagination the only limiting factor, there is also a variety of animation styles at play between the teams.
Even though they both attend CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, the videos by teams Finding Sanity and impossibro could not be more different.
The world in Finding Sanity's Building Our Nation is built using retro-style sprites and graphics that wouldn't look out of place in a classic video game while the name of impossibro's project - TEARror - is a play on the paper used to painstakingly create their stop-motion sequences.
As for cedar3 of Cedar Girls' Secondary School, some parts of their The Singaporean Blood In Us were made in live-action, using syringes and red ink, simulating as blood, to create images like the Singapore flag and the TD logo.
While each of the 10 videos is unique in feel and style, they all require the same formula - a dash of creativity to get started and plenty of hard work to get the job done.
"You need lots of patience and you have to keep saving your work all the time," said Finding Sanity team leader Amelia Tan, 13.
"Try to familiarise yourself with the software you are working with as well as what you want from the animation.
"Otherwise, you'll find yourself having to go back to do things all over again."
N.E.mation!, which is in its 11th year, is an inter-school digital animation competition that encourages students to express their thoughts on Total Defence.
This year, there was a total of 760 entries from 437 teams from secondary schools, junior colleges and centralised institutes.
The final 10 entries were selected in September and underwent an intensive three-week animation production process from Nov 21 to Dec 9.
Currently, they are in the post-production phase, which ends on Jan 9.
From Jan 14, the public can vote for the top 10 videos on N.E.mation!’s Facebook page and website, and via SMS till Feb 5.
A Downtown Picnic event, which is open to all, will be held on Jan 14 to kickstart the voting process at the Cathay External Atrium. There, members of the public can interact with the Top 10 teams, watch stage performances, enjoy free food and stand to win attractive prizes.
Entries will be judged based on creativity and content, entertainment value, animation skills and aesthetics by both public and a panel comprising industry professionals.
The results will be announced in February and the winning team will receive a fully sponsored learning visit to a renowned animation studio in the US worth more than $20,000.
Watch the videos of the Top 10 finalists from N.E.mation! 10 below.