Peter Millard is a London-based animator. He creates his absurdist animations on paper (all recycled) with oil bar and paint. Then he scans the large images in with a large scanner, sizes them up in After Effects before using Premiere Pro to edit.
TASK: Find examples of replacement animation to consider. Write short reviews accompanied by any screenshots or drawing onto your learning log that reflects on the meaning that is created through the use and disruption of eye-trace/registration. As a starting point, look at the following animations:
Paul Bush, Furniture Poetry (2000)
Jonathan Hodgson, Rug (2015)
Lisa Pau, Tiny Lisa (2017)
Toby Cornish, Sarejevo Vertical (2004)
TASK: View the following animated shorts with the sound turned off. Write a paragraph on the emotional impact of three of the films. Identify the animation techniques used and the degree to which the emotional effects are achieved through the approach to movement. Theno play each with the sound turned on and note whether the impact of each film is changed, heightened or lessened by the soundtrack.
Extend this research task by considering the relationship of sound, movement, and emotion within other animations.
Adam Becket, Dear Janice (1972)
This animation somewhat baffled me. Looking up on Wikipedia I found ‘Beckett developed a unique technique that involved creating a loop of images that continued to evolve with each loop cycle. With only a handful of images, the film itself appears as a growing and expanding abstract loop. This was augmented with phasing of the imagery, changing the area of view, and other sophisticated uses of the optical printer.
Without sound I found this dreamy and whimsical, but much too long. I did not know if it was serious, or a spoof on saccharine romanticised femininity of cheap Greetings cards. Looking at some of his other animations I suspect the latter.
Tadanori Yokoo, KISS KISS KISS (1964)
Ward Kimball, Escalation (1968)
This caricature of Lyndon Johnson presents him as getting sexually aroused and then at the end ejaculating and burned out by a rising tide of escalation of the products of US corporations, women, war and nuclear bomb. an is immediately comprehensible without sound – and short to the point. It uses stop motion cutout animation for the man, and photo sequences.
The soundtrack attracts attention by slow drumming, followed by Glory Glory Halleluja by brassband, with a seties of explosions at the end. These illustrate and reinforce rather than significantly add to to the visuals.
Mary Ellen Bute, Abstronic (excerpt) (1952)
Walter Ruttman, Lichtspiel Opus 1-4 (1925)
TASK: Stop-frame animation involves the application of a movement to inanimate materials and objects. Animators such as Jan Svankmajer and The Brothers Quay make use of this technique to an unsettling, uncanny effect. Whereas artists Fischli & Weiss and architects Charles & Ray Eames apply movement to objects and materials but they do not animate them and the results are very different.
Find a range of films that use animated movement in different ways. Consider the mood or feeling these techniques suggest. Produce a short review with accompanying screenshots, that compares your choices, the different techniques used, and reflecting on their mood.
As a starting point, you may want to look at the following films and animations:
Jan Svankmajer, Dimensions of Dialogue (1982):
The Brothers Quay, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987)
Fischli & Weiss, Der Lauf Der Dinge (1987)
Charles & Ray Eames, Black Top:
The Washing of a School Play Yard (1952)
TASK: Scratch video manipulates the order of the frames in a filmed sequence. The film Death Valley Days: Secret Love, cited in the previous research task is an example of ‘scratch video’. Look at the following examples and consider whether scratch video can be a form of animation or not, and what it can offer as a technique?
Write up your thoughts in the learning log and include any other examples of scratch video you might want to reference.
George Barber, Absence of Satan (1985)
Emergency Broadcast Network, Comply (1993)
Martin Arnold, Passage à l’acte (1993)
TASK Watch and compare the animated shorts below. Pay attention to the technique used by each animator as well as the reasons why the cycles are obscured or accentuated. Make notes on the variation of the cycles that are used. Can you identify the different ways that the animations are made? Write this up onto your learning log along with any screenshots or your own drawings to illustrate your point (approximately 350 words).
Cycles can loop, oscillate, or even appear to be stationary. The use of cycles is often motivated by economy because it saves on drawing time. But the type of cycle used can also make up the meaning of your film.
Cycles and loops can make up an entire film (as in the GIF versions of the projects so far) or parts of the film. All the films viewed in Research 1.1 Obesrving ‘Boil‘ had sequential elements that repeated and looped. In Gertie the Dinosaur when Gertie raises her feet, right and left in a little shuffle dance approximately 8 minutes into the film, the same sequence of drawings were used in a loop.
Looped cycles are most commonly employed on particular layers within a frame, such as in artist Katie Dove’s Luna (2013). Sergei Eisenstein described this layered looping within a frame as ‘vertical montage’:
“The simultaneous movement of a number of motifs advances through a succession of sequences, each motif having its own rate of compositional progressions, while being at the same time inseparable from the overall compositional progression as a whole” Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein Volume 2: Towards a Theory of Montage (London: BFI Publishing, 1991)
Zbigniew Rybczynski, Tango (1980)
This animation is a montage of numerous short film sequences of one or two characters in the room. Each character/pair of characters is filmed separately (black line and no shawdows) in the room, then cut/masked out and overlaid in multiple cycles for each character in multiple permutations in a separate film of the room itself.. The repetition of cycles for each character is obvious – a tango of life repetitions. The different cycle layers means each cycle is in its own little bubble of separation. The different combinations and permutations of multiple character bubbles are chaotic and often surreal. The only interaction is where the old woman picks up the ball at the end after everyone else has gone, making that a very poignant moment.
Disney, The Skeleton Dance: Silly Symphonies (1929)
Here the animated drawings are done separately and overlaid onto the background. This enables the amount of drawing to be reduced through repeating and flipping/reversing cycles while making them seem different because they gonin different directions on the static background.
The repetitions are obvious because of repetitions in the music – all part of the dance.
Jerzy Kucia, Parada (1986)
A very evocative Polish black and white film animation about Harvest.
- Uses variations in abstract framing, focus and timing to evoke memories and reflections.Film grain, light and shadow plays evokes the time that has passed. Subtle monochrome colour shifts and selective colouring eg shirts of harvesters as the main things remembered.
- Dreamlike reflections are produced through eg drawn/overlaid animation of birds.
- Music and sound effects re-inforce the feelings of dreamy nostalgia, noise or threat.
Jordan Wolson, Con Leche (2009)
Animated cartoon Diet Coke bottles filled up with milk walk alone, in groups or march in formation through video of desolate streets in Detroit Michigan. The frame rotates, wobbles, and flips. Texts from the internet referencing identity, technology, memory and mortality spoken by a commercial voice over actress are interrupted evert few minutes by formal instructions and adjustments telling her to distort her tone, volume, and “sex”.
The background is continuous video of desolate streets shot on location in Detroit. Looped walk cycles of the Coke bottle characters
A commercial voice over actress speaks from texts collected from the internet referencing identity, technology, memory and mortality most of which are personal accounts spoken in first person. Every few minutes Jordan Wolfson interrupts her giving basic formal instructions and adjustments distorting her tone, volume, and “sex”.
Mark Leckey, Flix (2008)
Gorilla Tapes, Death Valley Days: Secret Love (1984):
Peter Millard, Fruit Fruit (2013)
Katie Dove’s Luna, 2013
Purposely used cycles of animation to represent the breakdown of social structures depicted in his film.
Francis Alÿs, Exodus
Francis Alÿs, ‘Exodus’, a 16-second hand-drawn animation made from over one thousand pencil drawings. #Exodus is another variation on the recurring theme in the artist’s practice of doing and undoing, or doing without doing. Other examples of employing this method are seen in video works, such as Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing) (1997), in which the artist pushes a block of ice through the streets of Mexico City until it completely melted. The work depicts a woman whose face is averted from the viewer while she braids her mid-length hair. The simple act of doing and undoing is based on what the artist views as a “blind faith in the need for the action to happen.”
A translucent, animated condom filled with red candy hearts is an animated protagonist in Jordan Wolfson’s marvelous video installation at REDCAT, the New York-based artist’s solo debut in Los Angeles. Projected onto a white screen suspended on the diagonal in a white room carpeted in wall-to-wall white rug, the non-narrative video feels unmoored and adrift in a languorous state of liquid reverie. We soon float along with it.
OWEN LAND was born George Landow in New Haven in 1944 and began making films in high school. He spent many years of study in drawing, painting and sculpture with teachers in a direct line from the French artist Jean Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), who is remembered for his historically accurate scenes of life in ancient Rome. Land’s films of the 1960s and 1970s are widely acclaimed as amongst the most perceptive and important works of the period.
‘Boil’ is the term used to describe an animated effect in which the outlines or surface of an otherwise still character or object are made to wiggle or quiver in drawn animation. Even when an object, character or scene is at rest it is not still or motionless, it ‘boils’.This is often achieved by the looping together of several tracings of the same image (usually between 3 to 8 drawings). Boiling movement – in combination with unlooped variation in drawings as figures move – is used to sustain the illusion of movement in the animation overall and provide the impression of life or liveliness.
In traditional animation (like Winsor McKay’s Gertie below) boiling is almost inevitable because of the nature of the analogue drawing and/or filming process. In old film there has been some degradation in the film chemicals that make us aware that this is an ‘old’ film, evoking a sense of nostalgia. In drawings there are always variations in thickness, tone and colour of drawn lines and colouring in some media. These variations can be emphasised or exaggerated eg in the textboards and specific parts of the dinosaur drawings below to direct the eye.
In contemporary animation like Peter Millard and John Hodgson where technology gives greater control over production and editing there is often very conscious use of boil to direct the eye in ways that reinforce the narrative, and for emotional effect. Sometimes this is ‘boil’ in the sense if looped animation, other times it is variation in drawings as frames are drawn and/or painted. It is often quite difficult to separate the effects of the two or make out what is due to drawing, and what is achieved through processing with filters in digital software. Often there is a combination of all three types of flickering in an animation.
The eye would be drawn to very still objects if everything else is moving. So in Millard even the blank background at the beginning boils to maintain interest and give a sense of anticipation. Probably the only true looped boil. The apparent boiling in the thin pencil drawing of the face is probably not always looped. But the effect of the continuous small variations as it moves across the screen makes us try to constantly see and interpret emotions in every slight variation in shape and size of outline, eyes and mouth. But as there are several sources of movement happening we cant quite grasp it, emphasising the feeling of powerlessness and transcience in the title.
In ‘Dogs’ Hodgson varies the type and extent of boil significantly in his expressive drawing to create feelings of nervous anticipation, energy or chaotic movement and lack of control. But for moving objects central to the narrative, boiling in outlines is reduced with more subtle variations in colour shading and crosshatching to create atmosphere without detracting from our understanding nuances of narrative and expression.
Questions about boil:
- What ‘boil’ technique is used? Why do the lines move and what elements, if any are allowed to be still?
- Does the pace of the boil emanate throughout?
- What emotional or narrative purpose does the use of boiling serve? Does it make for a more lifelike effect or is the boil deployed humorously?
Peter Millard, Since the Better (2015)
This animation starts with a blank screen that shimmers with slight variations in white/cream while a shrill cild/female/robot/alien? distorted voice sings a vaguely familiar melody. This creates tension and anticipation waiting for something to happen. Then the voice suddenly changes to the more familiar deep male opera voice as the childlike simple pencil drawing of a man’s face moves slowly at the same speed and horizontal position across the screen. This drawing ‘boils’ with slight apparently random changes in the drawing as a whole – size and shape of the face circle, eyes and pupils and length of the line of the mouth. This creates a real poignancy of sameness, thinness of the line and blank expression in contrast to the heavy emotion of the ‘we will overcome’ vincera aria that also references the masculinity and tribalism of football matches as well as the operatic strength itself.
The title ‘since the better’ then adds a layer of loss and past ‘glory’.
Jonathan Hodgson, Dogs (1981)
In this animation all elements are on the same layer and constantly in motion but at different paces of boil. The drawings seem to pulsate with the anticipatory and upbeat music. There is a constant shimmering/flickering of expressive crayon lines based on variations of the thickness, tone and colour of the drawn lines and crosshatched shading. Occasionally the figures are quite and the lines quiet. Other times the figures are still but the lines vibrate energetically to show anticipation. Sometimes the figures move and there is less pulsation on the lines to throw attention on the narrative. Sometimes cthe colour shapes pulsate and shift more than the lines, sometimes figures, shapes and lines all move energetically and dissolve into chaos.
Winsor McCay, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
This is a silent movie with narrative textboards. The beginning is black and white video where dust, scratches and irregularities in tone of the film frame produces a constant flickering boil. This continues on the textboards that are also shaken and moved out of register to continue the feeling of movement. All this reinforces the knowledge we are looking at old film. These effects continue on the drawn dinosaur animation. In the drawing itself there are variations in the amount of boil on different elements eg leaves on the tree and the sea lines move more than the outline of the dinosaur. The dinosaur itself moves but the outlines are very carefully drawn over each other. On the seaserpent the neck outline is still but the crest moves. The eye is drawn to places of greatest movement ie generally the moving figures of the dinosaur and animals. But the boil just preserves the sensation of the whole frame being in movement together.
Stop Motion magic
Do I lock WB/exposure settings. Does that depend how I am bringing objects in and out?
What isvthe best interval timer setting – 15fps? For what types of movement?. Or use remote?
Backdrop/lighting. Pro version has greenscreen.