Experiment with animating abstract shapes – Page 3

Holly leaf spinning.

One sequence involves a green holly leaf spinning against a blue sky with red berries in view. As the leaf spins each of these elements changes colour: blue leaf, red sky, green berries etc. The idea is to show that colour convention is arbitrary. The sequence ends with each element the “right colour”, but the viewer is by now so confused that this is not readily apparent.
Incidentally, the spinning leaf looks as if it has been rotoscoped (i.e. copied from live action film). In fact I fixed a holly leaf to a small spindle and using a clear light bulb projected the leaf’s shadow to the appropriate size onto animation paper. For each of the 16 positions of the spin, I simply turned the spindle a fraction. I have used this technique in other films and have found it much quicker, cheaper and more versatile than rotoscoping, which I have also tried.

Red and Blue and Green can be seen as an ego trip, I show off every trick that I have learnt over the years. It can be seen as simply a pleasing series of images, but I should like to encourage the audience into thinking about colour vision itself. The film manipulates images made up of red, blue and green. Every thing we see in colour whether on film, television or in reality, we are seeing a mixture of red, blue and green.

After the filming was finished, I got 3 musician friends to improvise “sound textures” to match the images. I then edited these on 16mm fullcoat to match the cuts in the images. For the sound and picture editing I received technical and financial assistance from “33 film and video”, this is part of the Luton Community Arts Centre. It enabled me to make a “professional” film i.e. on 16mm colour negative with an optical sound track.

If there is anything to learn from my experiences, I think it is that you must take advantage of whatever opportunities you meet in terms of equipment, finance and technical assistance. And what of the future? I am in the middle of making a film based on optical illusion. After that I want to make a light hearted film on the theory of human colour vision, more adventures of Arnold, and so it goes on. I will stop when I run out of ideas, which brings me to the subject of motive. Why do we amateurs make films?

1. Curiosity; having seen animation in the cinema and on TV, we want to have a go. I would suggest however that this motive will not sustain you beyond 3 or 4 films.
2. Self expression; i.e. animation as an art form.
3. Entertainment; a desire to amuse or to dazzle or to tell a story.
4. Set Theme Competition; I hate these, my mind goes blank. It is the most artificial of all motives.
5. Commissions; for example asked to do animated titles for someone else’s live action film.
6. Profit; like 3 but more rewarding.
7. Education; a desire to inform or persuade.
8. That there is a moving image in your mind, but which you have never actually seen and the only way you are going to see it or explain it to anyone is to do the drawings yourself (there must be a word for this).

Other readers may like to add to this list. In short, the films you make will depend in part on the opportunities that come your way and in part on your personality.

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Printed in Animator Issue 13 (Summer 1985)