Open Letter to an Enthusiast

A cine camera capable of taking single frames is of course essential. This is mounted on a rostrum. Elaborate rostrums are available but when I was secretary of the Grasshopper Group and Bob Godfrey a mere member of it, I remember he used a small upturned table, a plank of wood was fixed firmly to the leg tops, four converted dried milk tins were pressed into service as reflectors for 4 x 100 watt household bulbs. A wooden block with a Whitworth bolt secured the camera in position pointing down at the underside of the table. He did not have a hinged platen to compress his animations, instead the peg bar was glued in position and he placed a sheet of glass on top prior to exposure and took it off to change the drawing.

With a fixed camera position and no zoom lens, he changed his field sizes by drawing his pictures larger or smaller. It was possible however to drag B/G’s between drawing pins and achieve a ‘pan’ effect.

I can hear you murmuring – “Ah yes! Wait a moment, what about my ‘rough’ drawings.” Well – you could film them in their rough state and I guarantee they will look far livelier than when you tidy them up, giving them a clean hard outline. Your rough sketches will have captured a strong feeling of movement, a ‘joie de vivre’, penciled action freed from its more conventional static environment. Don’t take my word for it – try it!

An example of Ken's work.

When you appreciate the full meaning of my words – and that can only happen if you do as I suggest – then and only then – go back and tidy up your roughs, trying to retain some of the liveliness you witnessed in the raw state.

Well Pete, as you can imagine, there is much more to the subject than I can condense into a single letter, but the books I mentioned earlier divulge a great many tricks of the trade. ’The Animation Book’ and ‘Experimental Animation’ (both out of print but possibly available through your local library) cover every aspect of animation imaginable – including the totally unexpected.

I wish you the very best of luck in a hobby that can become all-consuming. Please follow my advice regarding rough work initially. That way you will not become bored and discouraged.

Light box Ken designed for his evening class students to build.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 4 (Spring 1983)