Building Something out of Nothing

An exploration in hand drawn animation

 Frame 24

Frame 24

 Frame 48

Frame 48

I was in an old antique shop on Burnett ave. in Syracuse, NY when I saw a great looking light table and decided to buy it.  From there I began creating simple animations on paper, these would frequently start as a single point, meaning the first frame would be a very small dot or line segment, and from there each frame drawn would be a progression from that original point. It was a very organic process because I was always reacting to the frame I had drawn previous just propelling these shapes forward but with no real destination in mind.  After spending a lot of time animating within a computer program there was something especially liberating about letting it go on paper, building something out of nothing, one frame at a time. I started doing 24 frame segments which would equal one second of fluid animation. Scan in the sheets of paper (at 300 dpi), bring the files into After Effects, and render out the video. This moment when you see the drawings come to life and start moving is just wonderful, it is a lot of effort to make static images dance but I really enjoyed the process, there was a sense of meditation in the repetition.  I started to increase the length going up to 48 frames, taking time to play more with post processing and manipulation.


 First experiment with the light table, 24 frame animated loop.

First experiment with the light table, 24 frame animated loop.

 First test with 48 frames

First test with 48 frames


Eventually I decided these loops should become part of a greater project. I began by removing the background paper texture which left me with just the line work against a transparent background.  This enabled the ability to stack loops directly on top of each other where the lines can kind of weave together. This opened up another world, where one loop of animation ended another could take off creating more of a flow with a consistent background. From here I just kind of built a scene outwards throwing all the loops together in an almost circular array and having the camera pan over this landscape of loops all undulating and flowing into each other, it felt good to kind of unify all these little experiments.

As I was editing the video taking a break I saw my friend Aaron had released some new music with his friend. I'd really enjoyed hearing him play live in the past so I threw it on and continued editing and ended up listening to the 25 minute piece a few times consecutively.  The pacing but mostly the mood of the audio seemed to line up well with the video and so I threw the track over the video and it just felt right. I sent it over to Aaron @theinsistentself and his musical collaborator Derek Housh @feelbadbeats and they both loved it.  It was kindly featured on the DEEP Vimeo channel and at Memory.is, a great place to kill some time and see some weird videos. Just make sure you watch in HD at least 720, 1080 for the true heads.