Assignment 2: Seasonal Synaesthesia: Summer 2020

TASK: Make a short animated film between 1 and 3 minutes long about a season of the year. Use some of the animation techniques covered thus far in the unit to evoke particular qualities such as temperature, light and atmosphere of winter, spring, autumn or summer. This can be a completely abstract film, or include elements of narrative. The structure, medium, technique and approach are up to you.
Do some preliminary research into the condition of synaesthesia and take notes on whether there are specific stimuli that you associate with other perceptions.
See Post on Synaesthesia
Build-up your animation process with short animated tests, photographs, diagrams and, if useful, a working storyboard. It is often helpful to piece some of these tests and diagrams together in your timeline along with your scratch audio
track, or to devise a series of rules that will guide the production process.
Start by making an ‘animatic’. Begin developing the sound-scape for your film and use a scratch audio track. Avoid using music and if you do use it, do not allow it to play throughout your film as this project is not a music video.
Upload your film to your learning log, along with your animatic, diagrams, drawings and a reflection about your process, detailing how you arrived at your idea, any experiments undertaken, and insights gained from your technical, theoretical or other research.

!! Note – unfortunately Premiere crashed as I was trying to export all the clips for the animatic. I still need to sort out the sequences of the animatic, but that will only now be relevant going forward if (as I anticipate) I develop this further for Assignment 5.

This film continues my work on abstract animation about Summer from:

SE2.5 Sound and Image animatic: Summertime

In that project I had started with one image of summer – greens, yellows and langorous water. Then introduced some random colour changes to give something much more lively and dance-like that had not initially occurred to me, but equally represents a different aspect of summer. I therefore find the idea of synaesthesia somewhat problematic. As I obviously do not have that condition I find it very limiting, reinforcing imagined stereotypes rather than the liberating experience that people with synaesthesia esperience.

I also had restrictions under COVID-19 because my daughter was using my art washing space as her kitchen and so any work with physical media like painting or printmaking was not possible.

For this assignment I therefore took a photographic approach, recording and exploring my experience of of summer: real images (rotting apples as well as flowers and butterflies) and sounds (traffic as well as bird song), to challenge my stereotypical ideas rather than repeating imagined cliche.

I wanted to create and build on accidental effects, exploring abstractions of time, colour and non-narrative editing drawing particularly on my study in this part of the course of:

I worked with photographs, sound and video taken over the course of two consecutive days in August when the weather was very hot, followed by thunderstorms. Then explored different effects and editing strategies in Adobe Lightroom and Premiere.


Stan Brakhage

Abstraction of ‘vision without words’ where ‘the untutored eye’ sees abstract shapes and colours unfiltered by language to create a symbolic world of emotional response.

I also looked at:
Maya Deren
Her black and white work is likely to influence my documentary style in Assignment 3 and VisCom Advanced Practice. But on reflection I decided here to focus on colour.

Stream of consciousness motion blur and reflected movement, colour abstraction.
colour abstraction and suggested emotions
Looks intriguingly pixellated on a large iPad screen. Adds to the dreamlike effect.
Inversions and layering opposite movements
alternation of video and abstraction

dogstarman has lots of Inspiration indeas.

Sharpness of line and slowing down out of chaos
‘Classic’ Brakhage rapid sequence of brilliantly coloured image. Use of different edges and textures as well as colour combinations. Pixellated on my iPad Pro.
Khrjanovsky. Combines photographic and drawn animation. To get feeling of butterfly in urban environment.


I started with a rough plan following observation of my garden from dawn to dusk to observe the types of colours and sounds I wanted. With the original idea – before studying Brakhage in detail – of using time of day as the underlying narrative. I then took photographs, sound and video taken over the course of two consecutive days in August when the weather was very hot, followed by thunderstorms.

Then, based on my actual feelings and experiences – real images (rotting apples as well as flowers and butterflies) and sounds (traffic as well as bird song)

  • I started with a rough selection of photos and video that I cropped and sequenced as CRW images in Lightroom because it is easier to change things around. I also experimented with Black and White possibilities. But decided to go with colour.
  • Then I exported the selected images as jpg, and imported into Adobe Premiere and experimented with different effects and editing strategies involving nesting, repetition, different timing etc. (!! I still need to export these)
  • In parallel I edited the long sound files into shorter clips that I could superimpose to better fit the length of the video.
Butterflies 1

Butterflies 2

Final Concept

I had many different ideas for this video after ‘experiencing summer’ with a new eye. Not only the butterflies on the brassicas, the red hyssop flowers, the sun through the vine leaves on the archway, the shadows on the wall and path, the bees and flies, the wind and storm. But also the undercurrent of lockdown, crowded beaches threatening second waves and burning forests in Brazil and California. This could have been put together as a documentary ‘stream of consciousness’ but that would not have been ‘abstract synaesthesia’. And I wanted to do something more experimental.

I started to explore different editing strategies inspired by Brakhage, going through his videos again. Following Brakhage I did not want to produce a structured animatic, but to work in a much more responsive way to what emerged from editorial experiments in combining sounds and images to complement or contrast each other.

I also considered other formats eg square to give a sense of claustrophobia I felt. But in the end I decided to go with more widescreen and immersive.

I had a lot of contrasting material from different times of day that could have provided some sort of narrative. Dawn I had found particularly interesting with its more pastel blue colours, shadows and birdsong. But again as this was a synaesthesia project, I decided to go more with my instinctive visions of summer after all. Then go back to the other material later.

What I was aiming for was something very abstract. of flashing lights and darks of mid morning/mid-day when our garden has tree shade shapes around pools of bright light. Using the clips of midday butterflies.

I decided to use Adobe Premiere and experiment there with some of the layering and blending experimentation from Project E2.11 Setting Rules.. I focused particularly on the Lumetri colour filters, layering the video clips, scaling and moving these against each other with multiply, screen and difference blend modes to get different shapes. Whilst editing it was difficult to get a clear idea of what the video would look like because the multiple layering and blending needed separate rendering and would not play back in real time.

I focused on highlighting the butterflies getting different colour combinations. But what I discovered as I watched the resulting experimental video once it had been properly rendered are the moving faces – one or two eyes sometimes a head silhouette – and animals like munching rabbits and frogs I see between the shapes. I could play more with this layering of meaning and interpretation – the hidden things in the shadows under the bright cheery butterflies.

I added sound in two tracks of birds, but also my own shuffling and rustling. Possibly it is better without sound.

I enjoyed working in this way, but need to think a lot more about what I might be trying to achieve – while still retaining the ‘accidents’.