Debussy Google Doodle, iPad Loop App, animation overload, physics fun, Holocaust redrawn

Friday, September 6, 2013

Debussy's birthday celebrated in dreamy Google Doodle

Google recently marked the 151st birthday of French classical composer Claude Debussy with a particularly enchanting animated Doodle of a 19th century cityscape at night, set to the music of Clair de Lune, probably Debussy's most famous piece. Claude Debussy Google Doodle on YouTube The animation tracks a single shot along the side of a moonlit river, with lights in background windows and street lamps flickering on and off to mirror the hauntingly beautiful piano score, which takes its name and inspiration from a poem by Paul Verlaine. We particularly love how even the stars twinkle in time with the piece as the silhouettes of cars, boats and cyclists float past. One of the time's impressionist composers, Debussy's most famous quote is: "Music is the space between the notes". The l'enfant prodigue is still celebrated for "his highly original system of harmony and musical structure". In the past, the Google Doodle has used animation to celebrate the lives of other famous names, including Franz Kafka, Ella Fitzgerald and Rembrandt, but we think this is probably the best yet.

$1 iPad App encourages simple Loop animations

Anyone who has ever doodled a stick-man flick-book during history class is sure to enjoy a new App for the iPad that allows users to design their own, abeit slightly primitive, looping animations. Digital design studio Universal Everything has come up with 'Loop', an ingenious piece of software that allows even the most artistically-challenged to create clever cartoons lasting just a few seconds. Although there is an abundance of animation tools for the iPad, ranging from simple drawing Apps to professional-grade software, Loop keeps things deliberately simple and therefore immediately accessible. A glance at the toolkit, which looks like it was designed by a six-year-old with a crayon, tells us that artistic flair is not a prerequisite for having fun with this programme. In fact the interface tools are limited to a couple of brush options, an eraser, arrows to move back and forth between pages, an onion skin feature - essentially a transparent page that allows the artist to see the preceding frame - and a bin to put the work in if it all goes wrong. Because the App only allows you to work with around 45 frames, the artist is compelled to keep things simple and to the point. Universal Everything's founder Matt Pyke told Wired.com, "We intentionally kept the parameters very narrow to give a coherence to the variety of creations". He added that, "Working within limited boundaries encourages people to become more inventive with the tools they have." The Loop App makes animation easy and highly enjoyable, and is sure to be an instant hit on long journeys, if not in history class.

Are cinema audiences experiencing animation overload?

The last decade has undeniably seen the rise of the computer-animated movie. This year will see the release of no less than 11 animated films, nearly double the number hitting theatres 10 years ago. The advance of computer technology means animated films can now be churned out faster than ever, but many in the industry are concerned that audiences may be becoming overwhelmed, and perhaps a little jaded, by the barrage of anthropomorphic dinosaurs, cars, aeroplanes and even snails. Indeed, 'Turbo', the DreamWorks tale of a snail that dreams of winning the Indy 500, was a notable flop this summer. The studio may however have suffered by releasing the film just a fortnight after 'Despicable Me 2', an animated sequel that raked in a massive $750 million at the box office to become Universal's biggest hit ever. DreamWorks boss Jeffrey Katzenberg put 'Turbo's' disappointing performance at the box office down to overcrowding in the industry. Speaking to the LA Times, he said, "We just ran into a perfect storm of way too many movies," adding, "We've never experienced this level of animation congestion". Where once the animation business was dominated by Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney, the market has now been flooded by newcomers to the bandwagon, including Fox, Universal, Paramount and Sony. This year Warner Bros also confirmed that it too will be making a return to animation with a Lego-inspired feature film. However, Katzenberg remains positive, claiming 'Turbo' will do better at the international box-office, and promising to time releases more wisely in the future. Hollywood.com's Paul Dergarabedian agreed that there needs to be a better strategy behind the release of animated films, but shied away from claiming audiences are losing interest. He said, "There's no question studios are going to commit huge resources to animation, but I think there's a learning curve about how audiences react to films and how often they are released."

Charming BBC animation makes physics fun

Making physics both informative and fun is something science teachers have been wracking their brains to try and achieve for decades. And quotes such as Richard Feynman's: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics" don’t exactly inspire confidence. Thankfully, the BBC has come to the rescue with 'Science Club', a series of gorgeous animations voiced by Irish comedian Dara O'Briain. BBC Science Club - Physics on Vimeo Last year, Finnish-born animator Asa Lucander was invited by the BBC to come up with an entertaining animation that concisely outlines the history of physics and the characters that have had the biggest impact on the science. The Roald Dahl-esque delight delivers an entertaining and visually amusing walk through the largest discoveries in physics, with the animation taking place within the pages of a physics text book. The simplistic but classic hand-drawn-like style was perfectly employed to bring the well-known stories of Galileo, Newton and Einstein to life.

Holocaust stories prove animation is more than just entertainment

One of the darkest periods in human history is being explored through animation for the first time. The 13th International Animation, Comics and Caricature Festival in Tel Aviv featured graphic animated films about the Holoacaust, including 'Le Livre Des Morts' (or The Book of the Dead) and 'I Was A Child Of Holocaust Survivors'. Animation and Graphics Tell the Tragic Story of the Holocaust on YouTube In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Artistic Director of Animix's 'Le Livre Des Morts', Nissim Hezkivahu, explained that, "Animation should... not only [be] for joking. Animation is a way to tell a story, and the story can be serious, can be sad, can be tragic even." He added, "It is the first time that this subject, that used to be very heavy and sensitive, comes true in animation. The animators now have very good tools to tell the story in a very special way and the people can get the story, to touch it in a very special... very unique way." The festival mainly features short-films and video art, but when asked whether there will ever be an animated feature produced on the subject of the Holocaust, Hezkivahu said he hopes that Animix will one day come up with the budget needed to make it a reality. The increasing use of animation to present serious topics is taking the genre away from pure entertainment. This proves animation is a powerful tool, especially for illustrating subject matter such as the Holocaust, for which live footage is either scarce or particularly repugnant.

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