‘Hourglass’: Critical Reflection

book-00_01_26_23-still004My main influences for this major project have stemmed and evolved from previous assignments and explorations of analogue/traditional media formats. I’ve held artists like Paul Bush and artworks involving rotoscoping like the ‘Loving Vincent’ or ‘A Scanner Darkly’films, that took the concept of something old and something new that could meld together seamlessly.
Over the course of two years, I had begun to develop an appreciation and passion for film strips (shooting and manipulating them) and also rotoscoping animation. There was something intense in relearning a forgotten and irrelevant practice. Why hand draw animation when you can do it on a computer? Why did I continue doing rotoscoping despite wanting to pull my hair out last time I did it? Because, when you see all the hard work, time and effort put into one tiny second of footage, and you made it, somehow it makes the whole ordeal worthwhile.

So for this project, I wanted my main influences to remain the same, the traditional and not-so-traditional, to inform my own exploration of traditional and contemporary media. How could I make a rotoscope more than a rotoscope? I knew I wanted to build on from my previous assignments by this time somehow incorporating a narrative, or underlying purpose that would thread the individual clips together, and what rotoscoping could signify.

Rotoscoping deals with inconsistency, its appeal is in seeing where it fails. This is what I decided to use to connect with memory. Memories are hazy, fickle, and often with details missing, or distorted or jumbled altogether. Our memories are often inconsistent, we don’t remember how everything was, but details, the movement. Just like Rotoscoping. Both are unstable and random, vivid and intense. As I progressed through the stages of iteration, from normal to inverse, to faded, I wished to show the degredation of memories, and how this causes disassociation with ourselves and the world around us. Our memories are what tethers us to the present, past and future.

Before I settled on this memory/dream/time narrative, I had more or less only focused on the movement aspect of rotoscoping. I focused mainly on dance clips that could be traced over as they were rich with movement. I would use effects on Premiere to the clips that looks similar to rotoscoping to see what it looked like. Though I had this notion of memories stuck in my head, I struggled to connect it to dancing, or any narrative with dancing and came to the conclusion it was not executable. As I shot my footage I would use as these ‘memories’ I tried to keep in mind that it still needed movement of some kind to be engaging, but not as the focus of the piece.

I chose to display my work using drafting film paper after some trials and executions on different materials to project onto. Drafting paper had an amazing sharpness to it compared to other materials tested. I chose to project with a QUMI, though had numerous technical difficulties as it could not handle the size of the video files often. Moreso, the lager projectors, though sharper and clearer in image, looked too pixelated in my opinion to work for my artwork. As I set up the exhibition I was mindful of the space around it, I wanted viewers to be able to walk around the paper and see the projection form every angle, with little light spill around the paper. This proved difficult once it came to mounting the projector at the right height and distance, and once another artwork’s curtain interrupted the space and aesthetic of my own work.

The strongest aspects of the projection material I felt were the layering effects I uncovered once I got experimenting. I wanted the sequence to start off with clear and simple memories, then reverse and slowly morph, before disintegrating and fading away. Some very interesting patterns and looks came out of this experimentation that I was quite impressed with. I also was pleasantly surprised with the audio’s final result, which had originally been the music box playing ‘Singing in the Rain’ to the dancing clips, but in my opinion was far too literal and cliched. I decided to try and edit it into more ambient and background tones to compliment rather than try and explain the work. In the end, the slowing down and reversing of the song made it more fitting I feel, and more in tune with memories and the loss of memory.

Additionally, the colouring in the rotoscoping did not come out as how I had intended, and ended up being barely noticeable. It had been my intention for it to be more definitive and showcase one particular colour of each clip, as memories often pinpoint a colour or defining factor to which stimulates our memory. But the colour ended up being little more than texture in some clips after editing and photographing the paper frames.

Another constraint and limitation I found was the hanging paper, an incredibly time consuming and delicate procedure. Once I had gotten all the paper hanging in the correct spot that would catch the light of the projector, it had to be taken down for other works to move in. And once I came back for the final installation, I could not find the magic spot again. Moving slightly forward and lower also proved to offer more limitations, and because of the position of the lights on the ceiling, meant there was a signifcant and noticeable gap in the papers.

However, overall I am pleased with my result and feel I achieved my goal. I wanted to create a rotoscope animation with a narrative, more accurately a purpose, to signify memories and their degradation. The one element I will change for the presentation at Grad Show is possibly having duplicates of the film showing at the same time to work with the disjointed and missing pieces, for a clearer and easier to interpret picture.



Week 12, Project Progress

Through the week, I searched for and purchased the architectural drafting film that had proved to be an unexpected but fitting medium to project my footage onto. This week I set out to construct a collage of hanging paper, to create a mosaic effect I can project on. Cutting, stringing and hanging these sheets of paper took up much of the tutorial time, and I did not reach the stage of testing what projecting onto them would look like. I only focused on hanging them up and seeing what the end result could possibly be once they were all hung up.

I was pleased with the mosaic look they seemed to be taking on, but there was a major struggle in hanging the sheets straight and flat. What I liked about last week’s iteration was how peculiar the bent sheet looked and how it moulded the projection. However, If I intend to follow through with this grid-like formation, as Matt noted, they must be completely straight and level.


Week 11, Project Progress

This week I tested different mediums I could project onto with my footage. I wanted to project onto an object, to create a presence of the work rather than a viewing experience. I wanted the screen to be out from a wall, that viewers can walk around and see the work from multiple angles, and be an object rather than a projection. I started to test with different types of paper, and hanging them in the black box.

I tried a number of materials I gathered from around the place, some kinds of plastic and a white sheet.

One of the plastics when I projected onto it, was rather shiny and cheap-looking, and it didn’t give the effect I was after. The white sheet didn’t impress me at all, and just reminded me of some amateur film students showing Rocky Horror Picture Show in their basement.

What did work was a large sheet of architectural drafting film. It was incredibly similar to wax paper, without the oily appearance but with a more opaque and smooth finish. It worked incredibly well to project onto. And when one walked around the projection, it was almost a seamless projection. 14881435_10210743206726551_728277568_o

The artists Jo had recommended that had worked in similar fields of paper art installations and sculptures, particularly one of hanging paper using fishing wire. Jo suggested using my idea to make a 3D structure of a mosaic-type screen, that would include depth but viewed head on as one whole.


Week 10, Site visit

Week 10 we ventured over to the Main campus where we would be displaying our final works in November, and toured the spaces that were on offer to us. There was an expansive area that was on offer to us, as we had to envision which areas would benefit us individually. It also prompted us to consider the final design of our works, how they will work displayed with one another, and individual needs that would need to be met. My requirements dictated that the space could be dark, and spacious so the spill of light from the projector on the other side of the paper screens would not distract from the work. At first I considered installing my work outside for this reason, as the open area would mean the light would not meet an end and thus could only be seen on the drafting film.


After the visit however, I moved away from the outdoor idea, and upon a later discussion with Jo, decided one of the classrooms with a projector in the ceiling would be more suited to my needs. The site visit also brought up the issue of sound for me, an area I hadn’t really considered yet in the development of my work. Will it clash with other audio in the room from other works? Does my work need audio?

I concluded to experiment with some audio in my piece, as it felt like something was lacking from its overall shape. To solve the possible issue of clashing audio in one room, I decided I will generate sound that is more ambient and present rather than prominent. I don’t the audio to overwhelm the work, as the visual element is my focus, but sound may also help to strengthen that and add to the presence of the work.

MEDA302 · Uncategorized

Week 8 & 9: Experimentation Part 1-2

At home, I began rotoscoping on my makeshift easel, as one of my biggest issues last time was now a solid process and system, and ate up a lot of time. Instead of having to print each frame as a wasteful process, I used a projector to bypass this unnecessary step. It vastly reduced production time for each clip, including having a tracing screen, when it had originally taken me almost 5 minutes for each frame now was halved. The only step in my process that could have reduced time, but alas I had no way around, was photographing each frame (piece of paper) individually.

It was difficult to maintain consistency if I moved locations to draw the frames, maintaining the same distance from projector to screen, same angle, paper, pens…thus it became easier for the process to simply complete them all at home where I could keep all the variables consistent. An inadvertent side effect however was it reduced the allocation of time I could devote to it, and I eventually went back to the nomadic lifestyle and took the projector and tracing screen with me.


After some experimentation with my process of creation and found an efficient groove, I continued making my short clips and designing the physical installation. One of my biggest issues I encountered was the inconsistency in my drawings. On their own, an individual frame it is barely noticeable. However, the conditions in which I photographed them changed rapidly, even in the same clip:


In one half, the lighting left shadows on the edges of the frame, and in the second half the photos were taken in a fully lit room. Another complication was using coloured pencils in add texture and detail to the frames. It become quite time consuming despite my efforts to be simplistic in its use. I also found the end result was not how I envisioned it, like my previous coloured rotoscope had turned out:

Learning to Rotoscope – #4 ‘Shadow’ from Isabel Napier on Vimeo.

I do wish to continue using colour, as it compliments my concept that we remember specific details of things, the girl with the blue dress or the red hat, but I need to find a way of not losing the rich detail it can offer to the rotoscope, but not adding onto the processing time. I also spent time working on audio for week 9, with the files from my first iteration of the music boxes. In their original formats, I felt they were too obvious and cliche, and so I worked on editing and augmenting them by slowing down the speed and reversing. What I ended up with were eerie yet evocative sounds that I felt were fitting with my dreamlike, memory exploration


Week 7: Project Research

I was confident in my choice of footage and rotoscoping to represent memories, then began looking at how I wanted to display it. At this point, I knew I wanted the rotoscopes to be of memories, but was still struggling to connect it with movement. I was quite stuck on dancing, as it had become the only way I imagined rotoscoping to be truly effective. I switched my focus back to the physical installation, as I hoped once I had a physical manifestation of memories it would help me decide on my footage.

Jo suggested some artworks and artists to look at, and first put forward the idea of hanging paper. Originally I had wanted it to be more of a statue like object, but found the 3D effect of hanging paper to fit my ideas better. Particularly, that it almost resembled a cloud, a cloud of memories. I looked at others more closely, and began to realise connecting this kinf of physical work with rotoscoping would require me removing my idea of dancing in rotoscoping, and find something more ‘meatier’. Most of the works involving people I looked at incoporated some sense of identity and humanity, and memories are essential to identity and sense of self. Thus, my idea would be a memory cloud, a map of memories in a physical and digital work.

MEDA302 · Uncategorized

Week 6: Project Planning and Presentation


When I decided to continue my rotoscoping, I knew one piece I wanted to be different than my previous assignments was a narrative- or more accurately, a purpose. It is an interesting form of art and animation, that really focuses and highlights movement, but why? For the sake of it? I set out to see if I could connect a reason with the rotoscope animation, not a linear story per say, but a reason to connect the short clips together. Originally, I had though the connection would be the movement only- but it lacked that purpose I was striving for.

Over time, as I researched similar artworks to my project, including its physical installation, I found myself drawn to certain aesthetics and genres for the rotoscoping. They were mostly people based, simple but with extra flair like colour or detail. Eventually,  the idea and purpose developed into memories. The short snippets of rotoscoping animation would signify memories. Our memories almost always include other people, and we remember minute details, a particular colour or shape, but never the picture as the whole. We remember we essence of a memory, never complete but still intensely powerful. That is how I wanted my rotoscopes to form.

I began planning what types of shots, who, how many people, where, what details I would pick out, and shot the footage over a week. I then began selecting the clips I would rotoscope, and bought 2×500 packets of paper and began.