Once upon a time…

Another short animation – this one just 36 seconds long but 100+ hours in the making. Seriously. I’m still plodding on with my Curtin BA (Fine Art) majoring in sculpture but squeezing in a bit of film whenever I think I can get away with it… The brief for this project was, in fact, stop motion animation so no squeezing required. Ahhh I’m my comfort zone. Unfortunately not. The difficulties were that it be around 30 seconds long and use really cruddy software… something that any student might have access to. I used Windows Movie Maker because if you have Windows – you have MM. It was a horror – regularly locking up and losing my work and only one “layer” each for audio and video. An NLE it ain’t! Fair enough – its not the software that makes the film – it simply makes it more or less difficult than it need be. What this meant in practical terms was a series of photos… no green screen, no layering, and no special effects.

To make it more interesting to make I tackled it as a “flat” animation rather than puppet and set (because I’d just finished my part of Hollow City Chronicles and wanted to try something completely different). I also wanted the ability to move the background as well as the “puppets” – which were in fact cut up photos – lots and lots of cut up photos…The solution was to break up an old a set of home-made shelves – replacing the timber with the pieces of glass I use when while raising seedlings. (Just borrowed them – no seedlings at this time of year here!) The camera was on the tripod which was gaffa taped to the top so it could look down through the glass. I used the EOS software that comes with the Canon 450D to remote control the camera.

Animation image pieces
Animation image pieces

This style of animation is “replacement animation” the image pieces themselves have no flexibility so to change them they have to be replaced with a new piece – very carefully, in the right spot, over and over again to get the effect of movement. Lots of fun but slow.

Animation through glass shelves
Animation through glass shelves

The other challenge with this was to create some sort of narrative in around 30 seconds. The end result is a mixed up fairy tale – which depends on the viewer recognising Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks (who doesn’t even appear), Snow White and the three bears. You are left to decide for yourself who or what is for lunch at the Teddy Bears Picnic. Its all a bit dark.

The bottom line is that forests are dangerous places. And bears are not to be trusted…

Making of… : Part 2

As promised: part 2 of the making of The Bystander Effect (a short film which was part of the Hollow City Chronicles).

The set for the animation was intended as a sculpture rather than a set. The decision to use it for a film came later.

Animation set from above
Animation set from above

The puppet was made using the ever-popular wire and cushion foam technology. (Nick Hilligoss has a fantastic series of how-to’s on Picturetrail) The puppet, then, was too big for the set (and couldn’t, workably, be much smaller with that method of construction) so she was filmed against a green backdrop – made by painting some cheap canvases and a piece of 3mm MDF.

Animation stage
Animation stage

The canvases stand up with the aid of small clamps.

Clamps hold the animation backdrop together
Clamps hold the animation backdrop together

While the puppet stands up with help from a magnet – a small but powerful rare-earth one from an electronics store.

Magnet holds the animation puppet in place
Magnet holds the animation puppet in place

The series of photos were then fed into Cinegobs a wonderful freeware utility which removes the green and spits out an AVI file ready for editing with an NLE such as Adobe Premiere. (Yes, Premiere does do chroma keying but, strangely, not as well as Cinegobs!)


Making of… : Part 1

The Hollow City Chronicles exhibition has opened and the web site is officially launched. The sets and other forensic evidence will be showing at Midland Polytechnic until March 4, 2011.
I thought I’d take my short film “The Bystander Effect” apart and show how it was made. It’s all low budget (no budget!), learn-as-you-go stuff. I make no claims to be an expert, just curious and crazy.

The opening scene shows the city from above.

Animating from above
Animating from above

The city isn’t real, of course, it’s a sculpture and it was too big to just lean over the ladder and snap the pic. The lamps are ordinary desk lamps on stands (hope no one in the house wants to read…). The green curtains weren’t needed for this shot – they were there from other filming – we’ll get to that.

Animation set from above
Animation set from above

The camera used for the film is a Canon 450D which comes with software that allows it to be controlled from a PC (including seeing what could be seen through the viewfinder). It made it possible to clamp the camera to a roof beam above the set and still be able to use it! Just add an extra long USB cable… It’s not a dedicated “animation camera” (is there such a thing?) it’s the one the family has – four of us share it (unless one of us is hogging it to make a film… in which case it’s probably bolted to the ceiling!)

Animating with the camera clamped to the roof beam
Animating with the camera clamped to the roof beam

Tomorrow I’ll introduce the puppet and show how she got into the picture.



Hollow City Chronicles banner

The Hollow City Cronicles

website and accompanying exhibition

will be launched on Wednesday 9th Feb, 6pm-8pm

Open 10th Feb – 4th March 211 Mon-Fri 9am – 4pm

The Junction Gallery, N Block Polytechnic West, Midland Campus, Lloyd St, Midland, WA

Participating artists

Patrizia Tonello, Graham Taylor, Stuart Elliott, Peter Dailey, Amanda Williams, Richard Heath, Merrick Belyea


Hollow City Chronicals animation puppet

Short film

There’s a small dam near where I live that I’ve often walked to at night, in the cooler months of the year, to listen to the frogs. A few weeks ago I had cause to visit during the day time and was appalled at the rubbish. A lot of it was alcohol containers and included a fair bit of broken glass. I simply hadn’t seen it in the dark. Can you imagine a kangaroo landing on that glass… I resolved to clean it up.

And made a short film while I was at it. This one is a proper film rather than animation but still made with a digital camera. The trouble was I was working alone so I was the film crew as well as the actor… How do you pick up rubbish and film it at the same time. Also, being a bit camera shy, I didn’t want to be seen.

The solution was to rearrange the tripod so the camera was sitting upside down, between it’s legs. It gave me a handle to carry the camera, legs to safely put it down and, with care, a bit of a steady-cam effect so the home-made film didn’t look too home-made. It also only shot low which solved my problem of not wanting to be seen. While filming the big issue was to watch where the shadow of the tripod was falling!

Camera tripod upside down
Camera tripod upside down

The rest was in the editing. A couple of hours raw became six minutes of finished film and a wry comment on being the idiot cleaning up someone else’s mess.


Animating printmaking

While I’m partial to printmaking, I spent most of last year animating for an upcoming film Underpass Motel which will be released on DVD in October. Thankfully, this year has disappeared under tubes of paint and assorted sculptures without a puppet or print in sight. Doesn’t mean I’m not interested… Here we have a couple of very different animations – both involving printmaking.

This first one from the Internet Archive is a video:

made by a sort of video silkscreenlike printmaking process. The images are printed over the underlying video…

While this one from You Tube is a “linomation” (hand carved animation using lino prints) by Mark Andrew Webber with music by Adam Dedma. It was done using 296 10cm square individual linocuts. It was took Andrew around 500 hours to produce. The work is titled Dehisce – a word which means:

(biology) release of material by splitting open of an organ or tissue; the natural bursting open at maturity of a fruit or other reproductive body to release seeds or spores or the bursting open of a surgically closed wound

Looks like fun, Amanda

Fischli & Weiss

Heard of them? They’re the artists behind a film called The Way Things Go. I will explain but I’m supposed to be up the hill finishing a painting (it’s not going that well which is why I’m down here – I’m procrastinating…) so I’ll make this quick by quoting You Tube:

In 1987 Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss built a enormous, precarious structure 100 feet long out of common items. Using fire, water, gravity, and chemistry they create a mind-blowing chain reaction of physical and chemical interactions and precisely crafted chaos.

And while I was grabbing that I borrowed a teaser of the animation – about 4 minutes worth – the real thing goes for half an hour. (Yeah, yeah, I know about the Honda advert – these guys did it first.)

So why am I telling you about a 20+ year old video now? I first saw it 3 years ago and, quite simply, had never forgotten it. It was in class – I only saw it once. Grrr… This past year I’ve done pretty nothing but animation. (Now doing pretty much nothing but paint.) Then just a month ago I stumbled on a little book about the film – tell you about that in a minute – and for the hell of it went hunting. Sure enough, it’s now out on DVD and available from Amazon. I wasn’t sure if it would work in our clunky old DVD player but intrepid I am. And it does. Yes!

In the same package came a copy of a book put out by the Tate on F&W’s retrospective called Flowers & Questions. Cut to the point here – it’s a good book – lots of pictures interspersed between articles/critiques/reviews by different writers. OK, so a few of them are dull and academic, but most are an easy and interesting read. Each is followed by a bunch of pictures of the particular work they were talking about. It’s one of those books that you can dip into when you have a few minutes. Good with coffee.

The big surprise was that F&W have done so much other work using materials as varied as plaster, unfired clay, photos, more films and, best of all, sculptures of everyday objects made with polyurethane. The objects are convincingly real – imagine a workman’s bench in a small room in a gallery looking exactly like that – no didactic – yet everything in there is fake. People stick their head in to look and suffer the uncomfortable feeling that they’ve intruded on a someone’s workspace. A delightful twist on Brillo boxes… And craftsmanship ain’t always such a bad thing. I (and no doubt every other self-respecting sculptor), having seen this, am curious as to what the material actually is – a quick Google says there are lots of kinds of polyurethane.

The other book, the one that prompted all of this search, was The Way Things Go by Jeremy Millar, is OK but not as easy to get along with. It’s smaller but then it’s only looking at that one work. One for die-hard enthusiasts or fellow academia. Good selection of pictures of the the film though. And not too expensive – sooooo – if you have a parcel on the way maybe do F&W justice and read both.

Have fun, Amanda

A Still Life

Dredging up another piece of work from a while back – I promise I’ll get back to current stuff soon… and not even a painting but another stop motion animation – currently brought to by You-Tube.

I set up a simple still life (fruit, veges and some flowers) on our dining room table with some lights and a digital camera set to snap a photo every hour. My thinking was it would take a few weeks to disappear to nothing. Not…

Two and a half months later I stopped the experiment in a fit of annoyance. I wanted my table back. I couldn’t stand the smell a minute longer and worse the creepy crawlies were coming from miles around to join the party. Yuk.

Reviewing the photos I discovered that several of our cats (we have six…) had been visiting the setup. Sniffing the flowers, staring into the camera, eating the fruit. Double yuk.

Many hours of editing later one naughty kitty became the star of the show. No photos were changed. None were run out of order. I simply discarded some, played with the timing, added a few graphics and set it to music.

The “olde silent movie” graphics and music were chosen to suit the occasional shake that appears from removing the camera to download the photos – yes, every few days… Despite tape and texta marks for the positioning you can see the moves. Beaut. If life hands you a lemon… I had my theme.

And *that* is it for today, I really must stop procrastinating and get on with the next Bargue drawing. Isn’t it amazing how many little one can get done while trying to avoid doing something difficult?

A little fun with animation

Some time ago I began making stop motion animation using a webcam.

I thought I’d give a little background for anyone interested. I made the puppet with wire, cushion foam and latex. Sewed her clothes and painted her with acrylics. After many hours of movie stardom (ie being moved and photographed thousands of times her paint is a little worse for wear. (Nothing that couldn’t be fixed should she perform again some day.)

Hang on, here’s a pic…