This project is in collaboration with Stacey Steers, an amazing Colorado animator who has been teaching at CU Boulder for many years and making hand drawn and collage animated films. I worked on her recent work "Night Hunter" and the accompanying sculpture/media installation, "Night Hunter House" which both opened at the Denver Art Museum in 2011. I was at the Sundance Film Festival to represent Night Hunter when she couldn't be present at the screening. Stacey is being presented with the Stan Brakage Vision Award at the 2012 Denver international Film Festival for her work in animation and I'm very proud to have worked with her on her recent films. Her website is linked here: staceysteers.com
After Night Hunter was complete we started working together on a collaboration called "Buffalo Nation". This film is an experiment in translating Stacey's techniques of animation into a digital composite.
Stacey works typically by making a discreet whole collage for each image change in her films. Approximately 8 new collages per second and often more than 4000 collages for one of her 15 minute films, she does use cycles. This is not a stop-motion process, but a series of individual artworks. She makes hundreds of photocopies of images and cuts each one out by hand to build all the collages. I became very familiar with her process by helping her edit and doing some animation in "Night Hunter". It is a sensitive, focussed, and personal process of working closely with a lot of paper and images.
As a digital compositor I am always focussed on balancing quality and production management. After Night Hunter was complete I proposed there was a way to duplicate Stacey's style of animation with considerably less work than her painstaking process. The struggle being to retain the collaged-paper-cutout look of Stacey's films and their sensitivity to composition, while compositing the entire film digitally rather than making hundreds of discreet artworks. The results of the test are not exactly like Stacey's work, but very close, as well as having their own unique aesthetic. The number of copies of a character cycle, the variation of size and the manipulation of light are much easier to accopmplish in the computer and those elements are evident in this experiment. The sensitive composition of the images and the work of actually collaging layers has to happen in the computer so my job as compositor became important to the overall aesthetic. I doubt if Stacey will be interested in using this technique in the future because of how the art making choices get moved into the computer, but it was a great learning experience for me to make digital video look like a specific and idiosyncratic hand made process. Enjoy.
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