Things are a little up in the air

IMG_2561
Working on the multiplane camera with the help of my stepladder

 

Over the last month I have been shooting my stop motion animation to get it ready in time for the exhibition at Halsway Manor, which starts on Thursday 27thSeptember 2018. I may have mentioned that during filming I work in a very small, completely dark room for many hours – it can be quite a disorientating process but it allows me time to think the project through and really consider all that I have learnt.

There have been so many folktales and interesting finds during my residency that it has been extremely difficult to narrow the final outcome down to just three stories. However, I feel the final cut brings together elements of Ruth Tongue and Lotte Rieniger’s work and recreates a feeling of nostalgia whilst reintroducing elements of Halsway Manor’s rich folklore landscape.

 

IMG_2563
Setting up for the Ruth Tongue section of the film

 

Whilst creating the animation I felt a sense of responsibility to the lost people and creatures that I had discovered along the way and I hope I have managed to re-establish them through my work or in the case of John Walford’s wife, Jane Shorney, create a new folktale that rights a few wrongs .The film is created in three parts and covers humour, sadness and, hopefully, a little bit of wonder. I hope you will all come and see it for yourselves.

 

IMG_2572
Working in darkness – In the background you can see my computer which is used to store all of the photographs for editing

 

I have included a few shots of me at work on the multiplane camera stand, which I hope you find interesting. You can see that, as the camera is only accessible by stepladder, I literally spent many hours ‘in the air’ setting up the puppets and lighting. The camera is suspended over the silhouette and you can see the photographs being collected by the computer in the background.

 

IMG_2567
A photograph looking down onto the multiplane from above

 

The photographs were taken during the shooting of Ruth Tongue’s section of the animation so I have included a very small preview of the film for you to see. This part of the film shows Ruth collecting some of her stories and in this piece you can see her meeting the ‘Gurt Worm of Shervage’. The vocals are Ruth Tongue singing ‘I want to get up the Quantocks’ which, was provided by Halsway Manor courtesy of their librarian Matt Rose (copyright The Halsway Manor Society).

Don’t forget that the full animation and my pop up studio, including some of my research and processes, will be on display during the final weekend of Somerset Open Studios at Halsway Manor from 27th October – 30thOctober 2018. I will also be holding a ‘Meet the Artist’ event on Saturday 29thOctober at 2pm when I will be discussing the project.

When Ruth and Lotte came to Halsway

IMG_2555

One of the aspects I really enjoy in projects like this one is the Community Engagement as it’s always really interesting to see how the public bring their own ideas to the work.  Recently I was invited to Halsway Manor’s annual Fete to run a shadow puppet workshop and I took along a shadow theatre and a couple of helpers so that the guests could make some of their own puppets and then have ago at their own production.

I was really pleased to see how both the children and adults responded to the puppets. I always feel that my own animation silhouette puppets almost come alive once the lights turn on behind them and its interesting to see the children playing with their puppets and experiencing that little bit of magic once they sit behind the screen and cast their shadows. I like to think that it would have made both Ruth and Lotte smile.

Thanks to Kieran, Lauren and Mollie for all their help on the day.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

‘Better do a thing than wish it done.’ Crowcombe, 1955 (Tongue, R. and Briggs, K. (1965). Somerset Folklore)

You may recall from my last blog post that I have been experimenting with the techniques used by Lotte Reiniger in creating her shadow animations and I promised to show you some of the techniques that she used to make her puppets.

Crowcombe bench end
The Crowcombe Dragon

For my first animation I have been focusing upon the dragon, illustrated on the bench end in Crowcombe Church. You can see from the photograph he is an extremely unusual dragon with a second head coming from his stomach. However, for reasons I will go into at another time, this dragon is quite relevant to the project and therefore my first puppet is an illustration of this strange creature.

Reiniger would cut all her silhouette figures with articulated limbs to provide as much movement as possible. In the early days the puppets would be cut entirely from thin rolled out lead, however this progressed to a combination of lead and cardboard.  Obviously at this point I need to point out that working with lead can cause health problems and therefore precautions need to be taken, alternatively let me work with the lead and you watch from the safety of your own home!

Silhouette Puppet of Crowcombe Dragon
Silhouette puppet of the Crowcombe Church Dragon in the style of Lotte Reiniger

I did find myself wondering why Reiniger would use the lead and whether it would be far easier to just use cardboard. However, I continued exactly as she directed and I hope you can see that the dragon’s thigh and base of his wing are cut from lead.  When lifting the puppet the lead can pull against the card requiring more support than if it was all made of card. This awkwardness made me doubt Reininger’s method. Yet, when I began animating the dragon I found the lead really helped to stop unwanted movement and keep the puppet flat on the glass.  It would be nice to find a more healthy alternative for the lead but I am not sure what this would be – feel free to send me any suggestions you may have.

Detail of Crowcombe Dragon
Detail of Silhouette Puppet showing figure of 8 hinges

You might also notice from the photos that Reiniger used her own method of hinging the limbs. This consisted of a figure of 8-wire hinge made from fuse wire. I could have used a paper craft split-pin and saved a huge amount of time but once again I wanted to do things by the book. Obviously modern fuse boxes don’t use fuse wire and it is expensive and difficult to get hold of. Therefore, I used jewellery wire, which is cheap and readily available. I am not going to post a ‘how to make wire hinges’ but if anyone wants to know any more I am more than happy to share the information with you.

Finally I have included my first animation test so you can see how it all came together. Overall I am really pleased with my first attempt, but the tests have given me a number of issues to work on and I will let you know more of that next time.

 

 

 

“Even with primitive materials one can work small wonders” Lotte Reiniger

I wanted to spend a little time giving some context to the work I have been making as part of my Artist Residency. I have previously worked with stop motion animation and have been extremely keen to develop my knowledge in a relevant way as I feel the folk stories cannot really be brought to life using normal 2 dimensional artworks. Obviously Ruth Tongue’s work,  and life story, have had a strong impact upon my work. However, every time I see Halsway Library’s copy of ‘The Chime Child’ I find myself thinking of another artist of that time, Lotte Reiniger.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lotte was a German film director who specialised in silhouette animation and was an innovator in her field. Both Ruth and Lotte were strong women working in male dominated industries with their own unique styles.

Reiniger’s animations were created using silhouette cut outs, which are positioned on a flat sheet of glass. However, Reiniger’s creation of the multi-plane camera allowed for these animations to have greater depth than had been seen before. This method of animating uses several planes or levels on which images can be positioned thereby creating a three dimensional aspect to the animation. Although Reiniger invented the multi-plane several years before Walt Disney I have included a link to his film about the multi-plane camera as it explains the process really well, just remember it was Lotte Reiniger who invented the method not Walt Disney!

 

Keen to try this method of animating I spent an interesting afternoon building my own multi-plane using three picture frames, some wood and some sheets of glass. Once assembled the frame was painted black, to stop any reflections, lights were placed at the bottom of the frame and a camera was fixed facing down. The silhouettes were then placed upon the different planes (sheets of glass) and as the silhouettes are slowly moved photographs were taken to form a stop motion animation. It’s worth mentioning that to get smooth movements the figures are only moved in very small amounts between photographs. I shoot all my animations at a rate of 24 frames per second, which translates to 24 photographs per second of film. I always shoot at night, which helps stabilise the light and stops the film flickering and I like to capture the whole scene in one go, something that I can often result in me working well into the night.

IMG_3092
My own version of a multi-plane camera. You can see lights at the bottom and different paper silhouettes on each of the three planes or levels

 

IMG_3094
Photo of scene arranged on the multi-plane. The tree on the right seems furthest away as it is placed upon the bottom plane or layer

It’s an extremely interesting method of animating but the multi-plane camera is just one aspect of Reiniger’s work. Next time I will show you some of her methods of puppet making.