Wednesday, 24 June 2009

"Mechanical Figures" or "What I Was Doing in Croatia"

of you who have been wondering just what the heck I was doing in Croatia last year can now view some of the bits and pieces of the animation project we were working on. This link should take you to the director's (Helena Bulaja), Vimeo page where you will find several clips from the project, "Mechanical Figures".

It's sort of stream of consciousness musings inspired by the life and work of Nikola Tesla. It's a combination of live video, motion graphics, stop motion animation, still photography, and hand drawn animation. Most of the music was composed and performed by Christian Biegai (Germany). I was mostly involved with the stop motion material involving ceramic beetles. The Beetles were made by Sabina Haan, an artist in New York city. I worked closely with Al Keddie (Scotland) and Helena.

We animated them in nature, on the floor in our studio, and against large print outs of photos taken in New York.

Here's the link:

Clip #9, called "Bug Assembly" was the result of some of the bugs arriving in Zagreb broken. So we animated them being reassembled. We decided to animate the bugs at 12 frames per second, but the broken pieces at 24 fps. In other words, we shot 24 photos for each second of video, moving the broken pieces a tiny bit for each shot. We moved the whole bugs for every other shot.

The streaks of light and glowing effects were not added digitally, they were made by "painting" with little coloured flashlights as the frames were shot with a still camera. We were working with very slow shutter speeds. Some times 10 or 15 second exposures per frame. It made for slow going by times, but it was creatively very satisfying. It's been amazing to watch the material we shot transformed with the edition of music, sound and Helena's artistic design and editing.

This clip features some rather famous people Helena interviewed for the project. There are also some bits of the material Al shot of paper cutouts inside an antique Tesla radio (he had his head in that old radio for weeks!). Near the end of the clip there is a couple of scenes I shot one rainy evening in "Electric Town" in Tokyo.

Clip 4, "Time and Space" is a surprising scrolling video collage, and it includes material I shot during my days inside the radio.

But do check out all the clips.