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August 13, 2006

30fps - basic principles

by sven at 7:46 am

We're only just back from Canada... And immediately I get one of my signature bouts of inspired insomnia.

click on image to play clip (2.74 MB)

Last night I started typing out a list titled "exploring the formal qualities of stopmo animation." Why? Form precedes content, I think I've decided. I'm just not gushing forth ideas for stories that I want to tell -- but if I spend a while dissecting the empty cinematic container that's meant to transmit stories, I suspect some part of me will start stepping forward to fill the void.

After I went to bed, one of the items on my list developed itself into a full-fledged short film concept -- so I was compelled to get up and execute the idea. Click on the image above to see the film; it runs 1 min 16 sec.

For your additional amusement, here's the passage I wrote that inspired the film:

5. As animation is actually a series of still images displayed rapidly, one might have more than one series of images interspersed with each other, perhaps at varying rates. At a one-to-one ratio, the two story streams would appear superimposed. At a ten-to-one ratio, the minor story stream would become subliminal. There could be not just two, but three or four or more story streams being interspersed at the frame-level of time, each at varying rates. The rate at which a story thread is visible could be constant, or it could change during the course of a film -- e.g. increasing in frequency until it’s visible at a conscious level -- and then receding back to a subliminal rate.

5A. Do the interspersing of frames using nothing but still frames of color. (This isn’t stopmo proper, and there are no evolving story threads -- but it would be a much simplified version of the basic idea, useful for testing how it works in practice.) Each of these colors might be paired with a musical tone, which would both help alert the viewer to new themes, and create an organic soundtrack. ...Backtracking, this raises the question of how a soundtrack would be handled if one were working with actual story threads.

5B. The principle of intermixing different story threads at the single-frame level could be explored even more simply using black and white screens. At its most basic, there are four concepts to demonstrate: unbroken, superimposed, subliminal, and transition. Have the name for each concept in white letters at the top of a black screen, and in black letters at the bottom of a white screen. After demonstrating the four basic concepts, one could move on to demonstrate ratios, e.g. 1:14, 2:13, 3:12, 4:11, 5:10, 6:9, 7:8. (Working in 15fps would probably be most practical.) Having the words for the black screen and the white screen spaced so that they wouldn’t overlap would make it easier to see the principles; for the ratios, it might be more interesting to have the black and white text fall on the same spot on the screen. For sound, perhaps just white screens would have sound (a simple sawtooth tone?) -- black would have silence. If there were a title at the beginning and credits at the end, perhaps it would be appropriate to the medium that they each only be one frame long; using a QuickTime viewer, they would stay visible until the film was set into motion. It might also be appropriate to have the title cards written on gray screens. Possible titles: ratios, intercut, 15fps, stacking frames, impersistent vision... This experiment would do a very good job of laying the groundwork for the color, multi-thread experiment. The title card might also be an explanation, rather than a title -- the title and credit could come at the end. Looking at this project from a practical point of view, it could probably be assembled in AfterEffects by dropping single-frame compositions into a master composition (nesting them), and then using the keyframe assistant command to sequence them.

(Oh so witty... Now may I please go to sleep, please?)

posted by sven | August 13, 2006 7:46 AM | categories: movies, stopmo