10 October 2013

Direct Animation for the Tablet Generation

The immediacy of tablet touchscreen technology has revolutionised how we interact creatively with computers.  In the realm of animation, The NFB (National Film Board of Canada) has been at the forefront of harnessing this new technology not only by making much their back catalogue of films available to view online via smart phone and tablet apps, but by creating tablet apps that make it easier than ever before for amateurs to try their hand at animating their own films.  They first did this through the development of their PixStop Stop Motion Animation App for iPad and this past summer they released a new free app: McLaren’s Workshop.

Named after the pioneering experimental animation Norman McLaren, this app allows users to create their own short animation and post it exclusively on Vimeo.  In addition to inspiring users with the biography and films of Norman McLaren, the App features three workshops: Paper Cut-Out, Etching on Film, and Synthetic Sound.   Norman McLaren is one of the very few early animators to experiment extensively with direct animation – also known as drawn-on-film animation or cameraless animation – in which artists draw or etch directly onto a filmstrip. 

The McLaren’s Workshop app, allows users to make their own direct animation or cut-out animation on the surface of the iPad.  The resulting films that I have seen on video definitely have a McLaren feel to them – not just because of their look but but because the soundtracks clearly come from McLaren films.  Koji Yamamura’s Five Fire Fish, is clearly an homage to the direct animation of McLaren with recognizable visual motifs from Blinkity Blank (1955).  The cut-outs and soundtrack in Regina Pessoa’s film are from Le merle (1958).

As part of the online promotional campaign, several  top directors were given free reign to make 30-60 second animations using the app:

Five Fire Fish (Koji Yamamura, 2013)
Cyclop(e)  (Patrick Doyon, 2013)

Barcode Transmission (Renaud Hallée, 2013)

I Am Alone and My Head is On Fire (David O'Reilly, 2013)

Bon App (Regina Pessoa,2013)

Bon App by Regina Pessoa - McLaren's Workshop App from National Film Board of Canada on Vimeo.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013