James' Moving On stop motion, Aug(De)Mented Reality, Coldplay Ghost Stories animation, Elvis Schmoulianoff animation, INSA's GIF-iti, Manny Man does World War 2

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A ball of wool creates a heart-wrenching video for James' new single

Edinburgh-based BAFTA-winning animator Ainslie Henderson is the talent behind the amazing video for James' latest single Moving On. It consists of brilliantly executed stop-motion animation featuring characters created from yellow yarn. Henderson came up with the idea when listening to the song while walking past a Scottish woollen knitwear shop. Yards of yellow yarn and a couple of months of intense work later, Henderson and fellow animator Michael Hughes had a heart-wrenching but visually rich masterpiece on their hands. The video tells the story of a son watching his mother die. After she has literally unravelled in his arms, a single strand of yarn falls into the hands of a vibrant young woman, signifying that a new life is created out of death. On his Tumblr page, Henderson describes his process: "What I do love about the unfolding of a stop motion project is going from the beginning - where all you can see is a forest of impossible, unquantifiable problems that you have to whittle away at, clinging to the little faith you can muster that it will work. Until, gradually, you find yourself at this stage, nearing the end, where all that remains is a last few problems, manageable ones that you feel pretty sure you can solve. Making a molehill out of a mountain." Grab a Kleenex, and have a watch.

Transparent cel animation brings monsters to our world

Animator Marty Cooper has caused an online sensation with a set of amazing animations entitled Aug(De)Mented Reality. The artist uses his iPhone 5s to take pictures of banal backgrounds while holding up hand-drawn animation cells on transparent plastic that populate the everyday situations with weird and wonderful creatures. Included in this crazy universe is a letter-eating mailbox, an insanely happy freezer penguin, a fur-ball coughing up a cat, and a pillow-hungry miniature zebra thing. The technique of using transparent cell layers to have the characters interact with the background is similar to stop-motion, but we think you’ll agree, an idea doesn't have to be complicated to produce a totally mind-blowing result!

Coldplay Animates New Album

Multi award-winning British band Coldplay have done what we think may be a first by releasing their sixth studio album Ghost Stories with an accompanying 43-minute animation. Parlophone commissioner Sam Segar approached Trunk Animation with the idea of transforming Mila Furstova's somewhat surreal album cover artwork into a moving animated piece. The animators started by tracing the original engraved artwork by hand so it could be rendered and then subtly manipulated with dynamic camera moves as well as movement of the various elements. Because of the limited amount of original artwork however, Trunk had to imitate Furstova's style and create new characters and a narrative. The huge undertaking required a team of around 10 animators to help with the 2D line drawing and the 2D and 3D cut-outs required to bring the images believably to life. Some 50 individual sections were created, each of which had looping elements that needed to be hand-drawn and then rendered, composited and put through various effects stages so the film remained faithful to the original art work. The result is a truly unearthly accompaniment to the music, and the strongest signal yet that the band has money to burn!

Make-up artist turns her face into a stop-motion canvas

Here's something a little fun; another stop-motion piece, this time from professional make-up artist Elvis Schmoulianoff (props for the name!). Demonstrating how animation can make even hair and makeup interesting to all, Elvis passively accepts her fate as her skin is painted and her hair restyled against ever changing backgrounds. She is transformed into a number of characters, including a skeleton, the iconic female robot from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, and a piece of modern art. Although the technique is nothing new, there is something rather addictive about this four-minute treat.

3D graffiti used to create hallucinogenic GIFs

Street artist INSA has come up with a truly original way of making his murals come to life. The technique, which he has dubbed GIF-iti, involves creating a mural, photographing it and then painting over it multiple times to make additional frames. The process is certainly labour intensive, but the GIFs created at the end are truly mesmerising. As many as eight layers are required to create the moving images, and the process can take several days to complete. Most recently, INSA was asked to bring to life the whole of the exterior of XL Recordings in celebration of the release of the latest Atoms For Peace album. On the Colossal website, he explains: "My challenge was to take two very static items, a beautiful lino-cut and a less beautiful box of a building, and bring them to life. After a week of sweating in the Los Angeles late summer sun re-painting the whole building several times I got there. Animated as a continuous GIF it may only live online, but some would argue that is where most now live their lives..."

Animation for understanding WWII in under 10 minutes

It's no exaggeration to say World War II is a pretty massive subject, so we were somewhat impressed and surprised to find a simple animation that attempts to cover the broader strokes of the conflict in just seven minutes. Manny Man does World War 2, written and illustrated by John D Ruddy, provides a breezy summary that will surely be a breath of fresh air for those trying to study the subject from some fusty textbook. The illustrations are boldly coloured, the main caricatured protagonists instantly recognisable and the narration is fast-paced but easy to follow. This really is a must for anyone trying to get a basic grip on arguably the most devastating event in mankind’s history.

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