Experiment with animating abstract shapes

A cel with 10,000 separately coloured segments in an area 9 ins by 7 ins, is just one of many in Red and Blue and Green. George Collin tells us about his special approach to animation.

George Collins.

It all began in 1976 when I was given some super 8 equipment for my 21st birthday. For some time I had wanted to try out a few animation ideas but had lacked the means to do so. I didn’t plan to do very much to begin with, I was too busy in the final year of my Law Degree. But animation soon became an obsession. I wasn’t interested in making a complete film, it was enough to experiment with simple abstract shapes. I suppose if I’d been born a few years later I’d have asked for a computer (a temptation that I have still resisted).

After making a lot of simple technical errors I joined the Swan Cine Club. I’m glad that I did; simply watching other people’s films I soon learned what could be achieved and what not. One of those who encouraged me was Frank Baker, a keen experimental film maker and now a regular contributor to “Animator”. I think it was he who suggested I make a complete film. Until then I had not thought of my doodling as being the basis of a structured film, but I decided to have a go.

By now I had built a simple rostrum and using poster paints on small sheets of clear PVC, and an office punch registration system, I made a three minute film “Candle”, an enigmatic piece involving a procession of monks towards a giant candle. I entered it for a club competition and at the last minute managed to put together a sound track on separate tape. No-one had told me how traumatic it is to screen a film. Although I was sitting in the dark at the back of the hall, I felt as if I was alone on stage, and in a sense I was. I came first in the competition, judged by audience voting, but then people asked but what did it all mean?” I had to confess that I did not know, and I still don’t.

Flushed with success I remade the film in 16mm. I had seen films by other members and from other clubs made in the larger format, and was impressed. I borrowed a clockwork non-reflex Bolex H 16 and was more than satisfied with the result. When I learnt that the camera was up for sale, I bought it. I am still using it now, it has never needed servicing, just a lot of winding up.

The other major change I made was lighting. I got tired of photo-flood bulbs imploding, melting everything within reach and short circuiting. So I changed to mushroom reflector bulbs, filming is now less exciting but a lot cooler.

Hood and Hand.

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