MOVING INNOVATION, A History of Computer ANIMATION By Tom Sito, MIT Press
Thursday May 09th 2013, 3:50 am
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It isn’t often that I read a text book that is a real page turner, but Tom Sito’s new book - MOVING INNOVATION, A History of Computer Animation is definitely a must-read.


It covers over a century of innovations including the first motion capture experiments of Etienne-Jules Marey, a contemporary of Eadweard Muybridge, to the use of optical effects by Georges Melies in his magical films, the design and optic effects wizardry of John Oxberry’s revolutionary contribution, the Oxberry camera, and on through the dawn and emergence of the Computer Graphics revolution, Moving Innovation follows the trail of historical developments of dreamers and inventors right up to the present.  Even though such innovators as Elfriede and Oskar Fischinger, Mary Ellen Bute, and Norman McLaren never touched a computer, we are taken step by step through the groundwork they laid for present day CG.  The book brings to life the colorful cast of math nerds, avant-garde artists, cold warriors, dope smoking hippies, video game enthusiasts and studio executives who were the strange bedfellows who brought about this new medium.

Tom delves into the work of engineers and inventors like John Whitney, Senior, who is considered the father of computer animation.  After the war, visionaries like Whitney scavenged the then numerous army surplus stores for components such as Mark V and VII antiaircraft gun sights. They modified them to create things like the Analog Cam Machine, which eventually led Whitney to becoming the first IBM artist in residence. Another chapter is devoted to “Spook Work: the Government and the Military” and the seldom acknowledged major role that technologies developed for World War II played.  They enabled innovations in the newly dreamed of area of computer animation.

Films such as Tron and Toy Story didn’t just happen. Names such as Alexander Schure and Ivan Sutherland are hardly household words but they both made substantial contributions for present day animation to build on.  Schure, an entrepreneur who won $10,000 on Jeopardy on the topic of animation, founded the New York Institute of Technology.  His financing and support created the first research lab/studio to attempt computer animated features and commercial work.  Sutherland, the creator of the first graphic interface program Sketchpad, is considered one of the fathers of computer graphics and started the legendary computer graphics program at the University of Utah.  This list of innovators and visionaries goes on and on right up to the present.

Chapters devoted to visual effects and motion capture take the reader step by step into how each new discovery has changed the art of animation. The path from Walt Disney classics such as Pinocchio and Lady and the Tramp to John Lasseter’s Brave Little Toaster and the birth of Pixar is traced in detail. With the rise of Pixar and the conquest of Hollywood the story is far from over and the author will have plenty of new material for a sequel as CG continues to develop.

As an animator and Hollywood insider for more than 30 years, Tom Sito has experienced first-hand many of the innovations that he writes about, and is a masterful story teller.  His impressive list of credits includes being one of the key players in Disney’s 1980’s and ‘90’s animation revival.  He has worked on such Disney classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.  In 1995 he left Disney to help set up the DreamWorks animation unit.  In addition he is also a professor of Cinema Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at University of Southern California.

The 336 page book has hundreds of crisp black and white photographs as well as copious footnotes, a brief alphabetical description of the cast of characters, and a glossary of terms.  The extensive bibliography steers the reader to other books, articles, and on line sources on related topics. Each and every paragraph is just crammed with many interesting facts, and as you read, each paragraph leaves you smiling (or outright laughing) and the narrative never seems boring or pedantic.

Whether you are involved in the animation or games industry or a lover of animation this book should be read and kept close for handy reference.  For animation schools, Moving Innovation is an invaluable educational reference to not only teach students about their past but to guide them into the 3D revolution.

Publication Date:  24 May 2013                                    Price:  $29.95                  7 x 9 Hardcover

Order from:  http://mitpress.mit.edu                 or on the shelf of your local bookstore



SETTING the SCENE - The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout
Sunday May 06th 2012, 5:10 am
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SETTING the SCENE - The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout

By Fraser MacLean

Foreword by Pete Docter

Published by Chronicle Books

Price $60.00, £40 ($37.80 on Amazon)

260 Pages,   Hardcover

At first glance Fraser MacLean’s Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout looks like a lovely coffee table sized picture book, but the minute you begin to read it you realize that it is a major work, full of information on the important but often overlooked art of layout.

Fraser knows who and what he is talking about because he worked on Touchstone’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam at Warner Bros., and Tarzan at Walt Disney along with several other Disney Productions. This book takes the reader behind the scenes in this under-appreciated segment of the animation world, from the early days of Winsor McCay, the Fleischer Brothers, and 1930’s Walt Disney right up to the latest 3-D and video game technology.

The critical relationship between the character animator and the camera is emphasized along with the process that layout artists and scene planners use to plot scenes.  Detailed analysis and illustrations of the background and layout of such classics as the opening scene of sequence 2 in Pinocchio where the camera begins to move down across the tiled rooftops, through the trees and houses, to Geppetto’s workshop makes you understand why this one Disney multiplane scene is considered by many historians to have never been bettered.

Fraser had access to the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, MGM and the University of Southern California archives where much of the old Warner Bros. material is archived.  He also includes art work and photographs from Tex Avery work to the lavish photographs, layout design, and art work of Pixar and Dreamworks.

This is not intended to be a technical book that gives you techniques on creating your own layouts, but it will give you deep insights into the world of the back ground artist.    After reading the in depth analysis of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and One Hundred And One Dalmatians, I re-watched both classics with a totally different eye, noticing many details that I had obviously seen before but had never consciously noticed.  As the author says “the better they (background layout artists) are, the more their work will go unnoticed by the audience”.

The 260 page book ends with a lengthy interview of Ray Aragon given in 2009, just before his death at 83 years of age.  As I read his thoughts on the art of drawing and animation lay out I was captivated by his lifelong enthusiasm for drawing and joy of life.  His advice to his students at Cal Arts, where he taught after his work at Disney Studio, “If you’re drawing from a photograph, you can’t see around!  So you copy what you see and it’s flat.  But when you draw something that is real, you can see around it!  Draw what’s around you . . .” is sage advice indeed.

The conversation is illustrated with drawings from Ray’s numerous sketchbooks and art work from the films that he worked on.  Even if you are not immediately familiar with Aragon’s name, everyone knows his beautiful art work on Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and Yellow Submarine.

The book includes a 10 page glossary of animation terms which are worth keeping at your fingertips for easy reference.  The comprehensive bibliography, broken into headings such as “Early Animation History”, “Biographies”, and “Practical Techniques”, makes it easy to research additional sources.

The forward by Pete Docter, long time Pixar filmmaker and Academy Award winning director of Up and Monsters, Inc, is a jovial introduction to a book that will be a delightful and informative addition to everyone’s library.  Every animation school should have a copy of Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout on their reference bookshelf and encourage their students to read it and learn from some of the great names in the animation world.  Whether you work in the industry or are an animation fan this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy reading.

Setting the Scene:  The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout can be found on the shelves of many book stores.

OR

You can order the book on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Scene-Evolution-Animation-Layout/dp/0811869873/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335485244&sr=1-1



MY TOP CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS
Wednesday December 14th 2011, 9:27 am
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Animation Express 2
Animation Express 2

If you are still searching for the perfect gift idea then check out the National Film Board of Canada’s  brand new Animation Express 2. The 27 films on the DVD include new films by such well known names in animation as Paul Driessen (Oedipe/Oedius), Academy Award Winner Koji Yamamura (les Cordes De Muybridge/Muybridge’s Strings), and Romance, a beautifully romantic saga by Georges Schwizgebel.

Two of the 2011 Academy Awards Short Listed Animations are included on the DVD.  Patrick Doyon’s  Dimanche/Sunday is a magical tale of life seen through a child’s life. It has been 12 years  since Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby garnered the Palme d’ Or and an Academy Award nomination for their beautiful film When Day Breaks.  Their long awaited new film Une Vie Sauvage/Wild Life  has put them on the 2011 Academy Short List.  Their story of the beauty of the 1909 Canadian prairie and the pain of feeling out of place and homesick is my personal favorite of the short listed films.

All this and much more for the price of $21.95 makes this the perfect gift for everyone on your list.  Every one in the animation industry will want Animation Express 2 in their collection.  If the person on your gift list is only familiar with big, block buster animations this is a wonderful way to introduce them to the magical world of creative short animation.

You can also get a special Blu-Ray Edition which contains 6 additional films.

You can read more about Animation Express 2, and order it at the NFB Store:

http://www2.nfb.ca/boutique/ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=14861&JServSessionIdrootstoreprod=oqv61nnj21.qRfJqAjKqAXycBbOpR9zq79Jn2TInA8ImQ4UahqKax4-&beginIndex=0&navPageSize=12&navBeginIndex=1&navEndIndex=12

If you are looking for a lovely book to give I heartily recommend Animasophy – Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film by Estonian animator Ulo Pikkov and  Tobias Wengert’s Animators How Did You Do That?

I have already written extensive reviews of both books  which you can read on my blog at:  www.animationblogspot.com

The reviews are under the Educational heading.

You can also read more and order Ulo’s book at:

http://www.Kriso.ee/Animasophy-theoretical-writings-animated-film/db/9789949467068i.html

The book also includes a DVD which is worth the 21.92 euro price alone.

To learn more about Animators How Did You Do That and purchase it visit:

www.siwa.de

Wishing you all an Animated Christmas!



ANIMATORS how did you do that? By Tobias Wengert
Monday September 05th 2011, 11:37 am
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If you have ever watched an animated film and wondered “How did they do that?” then Tobias Wengert’s  ANIMATORS how did they do that? is the book for you.  Wengert has transcribed in print his conversations with twelve diverse members of the Stuttgart, Germany animation community who reveal the secret techniques behind the magical images they create.


Jakob Schuh and Max Lang of Studio Soi reveal how they took The Gruffalo, a well known children’s book, which takes five minutes for a parent to read to their child and turned it into a 27 minute film.  The creators of the picture book, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, gave tips to the directors on hidden elements in the book that could be expanded into additional plot lines.  The book illustrations include references to the squirrel family, so Jacob and Max expanded a story line from those visual references.

The seventeen pages in the book devoted to The Gruffalo cover every aspect of the film’s creation from character and story development to the polystyrene, plaster, silicon, and paint techniques used to construct the complex sets.  The entire process is beautifully illustrated with original character sketches, taking the read from storyboards, preliminary sketches and facial expressions to the finished film.  I have enjoyed watching The Gruffalo many times and these discussions of the production techniques used will increase my enjoyment the next time that I watch it.

Several independent animators explain their motivation to create projects that follow their own rules rather than having to adapt to other peoples requirements.  LebensAder (Lifeline), Angela Steffen’s final year diploma project, was driven by very personal motives.  The simple act of picking up a leaf on the street triggered the start of Angela’s artistic process to understand her father’s cancer diagnosis.  She wanted to bring the beautiful leaf home with her but in turning it over she saw that the other side was covered with eczema as if the tree had cancer.  Using the leaf veins to represent the life line on a hand, the first part of the beautifully hand drawn film depicts life – the healthy side of the leaf.  The second half of the film shows the dark side – sickness.

Concept image from Lebensader
Concept image from Lebensader

Since 1989 Studio Film Bilder has been creating commercially successful projects such as the extremely popular television series Tom & Das Erdbeer Marmelade Brot Mit Hig (TOM)) and The Bunjies. At the same time the studio encourages its multi talented group of animators to create their own original projects which Film Bilder produces.  Anyone who has seen Andreas Hykade’s Love & Theft, the sensitive works of Gil Alkabetz or Phil Mulloy’s provocative films can attest to the many sides of Studio Film Bilder.

At the extreme other end of the spectrum are advertisements created by the VFX Team at Unexpected.  The team produced the Snickers Candy Bar Don’t Stop ad campaign for the Russian market which has proven to be the most successful campaign run by Snickers since the candy was introduced in Russia.

In their interview the team stress how important the initial planning is to them and  they take us behind the scenes to show us how they develop their fantastic robotic characters and bring their commercials in on time within their often limited budgets.  Even if you are not particularly interested in the high tech side of commercial making, the conversation with the guys from VFX makes fascinating reading.

Much of the credit for the rise of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg  as a leader in animation and visual effects goes to the Baden-Wurttemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg.  The Academy’s Institute for Animation, Visual Effects, and Digital Postproduction has become one of the world’s most important training establishments.

The school’s alumni boast such distinguished names as Andreas Hykade and Volker Engel.  Andreas’ award winning films such as The Runt and Love & Theft need no introduction.  Volker’s name is familiar to fans of Hollywood Blockbusters.  In 1997 he won the Oscar for best visual effects for Independence Day.

The current roster of the Academy’s teaching staff includes Thomas Meyer-Hermann, head of the renowned Studio Film Bilder, Gil Alkabetz, and Andreas Hykade.  Volker Engle also taught there before moving to Southern California.

Each year the Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival draws the top names in animation to screen their films, give workshops and retrospectives to packed audiences.  Trickfilm Festival has become one of the most important Europe’s most important animation celebrations.   Running concurrent to the festival is the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Interactive Media.  FMX has become the foremost European conference on the creation, production, and distribution of digital entertainment.

Even if you are already familiar with the rich trove of talent in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Tobias Wengert’s ANIMATORS how did you do that? is a fascinating in depth look into the studios and animators with interviews that tell us how they do it in their own words.

The 150 page book is lavishly illustrated with the text on alternate pages in English and German.  This is a book that anyone interested in animation will enjoy and if you have an animator on your holiday gift list this is a perfect present.

To order the book visit:   www.siwa-webshop.de      Also available in German Bookstores

Price:  30 Euros

150 pages                 Fully illustrated       Format  280×10mm                  Hardcover

Text in German and English on alternate pages



ANIMASOPHY by Ulo Pikkov - Theoretical Writings On The Animated Film
Sunday July 31st 2011, 7:53 am
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Estonian animation director and educator Ulo Pikkov has accomplished a remarkable feat in producing a most readable book on animation theory.  For those who do not know about the technical side of animation Animasophy – Theoretical Writings On The Animated Film is a great place to start.  Readers who are already well versed in animation techniques will be reminded about what they already know but don’t always think about.

The first three chapters define animation, outline its history from its beginnings to the present, and analyze the role animation continues to play in modern communication.  The next eight chapters go on to analyze structure, timing, storytelling, sound, characters, and realism as well as the use of space.  Each chapter includes a detailed case study of a specific film by an Estonian animator to illustrate the chapter’s topic.

A discussion of Olga and Priit Parn’s award winning Divers in the Rain illustrates perfectly the concept of the use of space in animation.  Space and spatiality play an important role in this hand drawn film, giving us additional non-spoken information about the characters personalities and emotional states.

Mart Kivi’s 2007 Laika  is an excellent example of a film with a main character that exists beyond the limits of the screen.  Laika is never seen but is constantly present.  All of the action is viewed through the eyes of Laika, the dog who was the first living body to orbit the Earth when the USSR sent her into space in 1957.  The subjective camera of Laika’s eyes suggests the dog’s limited movements.  The action is accompanied by the hound’s huffing and puffing sounds.  As Ulo points out, Laika is still out there orbiting the earth even though her eyes were shut long ago.

Animasophy is full of photos, drawings, and film stills.  A special bonus is a DVD of the eight works that are discussed in detail so that you can follow Pikkov’s train of thought visually as well as in his words.

Along with creating his own films, Ulo has taught at the respected Estonian Academy of Arts since 2006, and the basis of this book was formed in the course of teaching.  The word animasophy was coined by his students from two words, the Latin Anima meaning soul or breath of life and Greek Sophia which means wisdom.

Animasophy –Theoretical writings On The Animated Film should have a place in every animator’s library as well as in the classroom and library of all animation schools.  The DVD is a priceless addition to everyone’s video library.

The book can be ordered at:

http://www.Kriso.ee/Animasophy-theoretical-writings-animated-film/db/9789949467068i.html

The price of the book and DVD is 21,92 Euros



ANIMACAMPUS TALLINN 2011
Sunday July 03rd 2011, 5:12 am
Filed under: Events, Festivals, Educational
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ADAC banner.jpg
ADAC banner.jpg


I am a big fan of Estonian animation and the Animated Dreams Animation Festival in Tallinn.  Now the festival has launched a new project, AnimaCampus Tallinn, which sounds like it is going to be a wonderful opportunity for young animators.  Even if you can’t attend do take a minute to read about what they are planning for their first edition.

ANIMACAMPUS TALLINN 2011

November 15-19, 2011 / Tallinn, Estonia

CALL FOR TALENTS

Deadline for application: August 1, 2011.

AnimaCampus Tallinn is a brand new networking platform and training event for up-and-coming young filmmakers working in the field of animation. The five-day creative summit takes place in parallel with the Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams, the sub-festival of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

In the frame of several lectures, presentations, discussions, screenings and workshops international animation experts share their experience in making cinéma d’auteur animation films as well as commercial productions. A mix of animation art and industry. A mix of traditional animation techniques and new media technologies. AnimaCampus Tallinn provides young professionals from East and West the opportunity to learn from top animation experts and build international networks in the inspiring European Capital of Culture atmosphere.

PROGRAMME

The programme of AnimaCampus Tallinn consists of the following activities:

Inspiration talks:

•     Lectures, presentations and panel discussions to address the breaking issues in the animation history and today. * Open to all participants, guests and public.

Hands-on trainings:

•     Practical workshops, case studies and meeting-the-expert sessions in different fields of work promoting direct interaction between young and experienced professionals. * Open to participants and guests.

Mentoring and guidance:

•     Specialized master classes. * Open only to participants.

•     Individual project consultations. * Open only to participants.

Networking and entertainment:

•     Film screenings at the Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams.

•     Excursions to Estonian animation studios and Museum of Puppets.

•     Match-making sessions.

•     Social events and concerts in the evenings.

REGIONS IN FOCUS

In 2011 AnimaCampus Tallinn is setting its focus on the following regions: Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland), Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), South Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). Emerging animation filmmakers from the above mentioned countries are eligible to apply through the open call for entries. However, motivated applicants from the other European countries wishing to explore the animation scene in those regions are also encouraged to send their application.

WHO CAN APPLY?

·         Young animation professionals or advanced students (age up to 35), who are fluent in English.

·         Filmmakers with different professional backgrounds are welcome to apply. It doesn’t matter whether you are a director, producer, animator, sound designer, scriptwriter, cinematographer, production designer, effects designer or multi-talented visual artist – if animation is your passion, you are eligible to apply!

 

HOW TO APPLY?

The application consists of two parts:

1) Register and fill in the online application form at: http://vp.eventival.eu/poff

2) Submit the following materials by regular post:

·   CV & filmography (max 1 page / on CD)

·   Personal motivation letter (max 1 page / on CD)

·   Photo of the applicant (on CD)

·   Sample of work (approx 3 minutes / on DVD).

The work sample can be a short film, excerpt or series of clips from previous work. Please state clearly in the beginning of the clip, which was your input to the chosen piece of work.

Materials should be sent to:

AnimaCampus Tallinn 2011

Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams

Telliskivi 60A

10412 Tallinn

Estonia

All the application materials must be submitted in English.

The deadline for a complete application is August 1, 2011 (postmark date).

PARTICIPATION FEE, SCHOLARSHIPS & ACCOMMODATION

Participation fee is 100€ for students and 150€ for young professionals.

AnimaCampus Tallinn offers 75 selected participants Part Scholarship covering the accommodation and meals. The rest of participants have to cover the costs of accommodation and meals themselves.

A limited number of participants receive Full Scholarship covering the participation fee, accommodation and meals. Applicants with limited financial means and/or from South Caucasus and Central Asia are preferred in this case. To apply for Full Scholarship, please fill in the appropriate field on the online application form and explain shortly in your motivation letter the reason you believe you are eligible.

AnimaCampus Tallinn does not cover travel expenses for the participants.

SELECTION OF PARTICIPANTS

AnimaCampus Tallinn organisers in co-operation with regional partners will select participants based on their application and work example. The final selection will be made by the end of August and published on AnimaCampus website. All the applicants will be notified by e-mail.

GUEST ACCREDITATION

Representatives of animation industry, festivals and schools can apply for Guest Accreditation, which gives the access to AnimaCampus public events as well as the Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams screenings. Accreditation forms will be available in September.

CALL FOR FILM ENTRIES!

All the AnimaCampus applicants can also submit their recently finished animated short films to Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams. Please see the rules and application details at: www.anima.ee

For further information please contact:

anima@poff.ee

www.anima.ee

 



CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - Anifest ROZAFA 2011 — a Festival By and For Children
Saturday April 30th 2011, 5:31 am
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The second edition of Anifest ROZAFA in Shikodra, Albania will take place 12 – 18 September 2011.  The festival invites animators of all ages to submit films to this festival By Children and For Children.

Along with the International Competition, the festival conducts seminars and workshops. In the 2010 workshop group, the children made a two minute animation titled “To Face the Consequences”.

The festival has a hard and fast rule that any film that violates human rights, especially children’s, as defined by the Convention of Human Rights or Convention of Children’s Rights will not be accepted.

Films must have been completed after 1 January 2008 and be no longer than 30 minutes.

You are required to include an English language dialogue with your entry form and DVD.  Please include photos from your film.

The festival stresses that it is very important that you print on the front of the envelope FOR CULTURAL USE ONLY- NO COMMERCIAL USE.

You can read all festival rules and regulations and down load an entry form on the Aniifest ROZAFA website:

www.anifestrozafa.com

If you have additional questions you can contact the festival General Director Artan Maku at:

info@anifestrozafa.com

The festival is waiting to welcome you and your film to historic Shikodra, a city rich in legends and monuments.



THE HUNGARIAN POST MODERN WORLD OF GYORGY KOVASZNAI
Sunday February 06th 2011, 8:03 am
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I was not familiar with the Hungarian animator, writer, and painter Gyorgy Kovasznai until I met animation historian and curator Brigitta Ivanyi-Bitter.  We sat on the jury of Animator Animation Festival in Poznan, Poland together last year.  She gave me a copy of her beautiful book about Kovasznai’s life and work.  It is based on her three years of research that culminated in the large-scale retrospective of his work at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest in 2010.  Her book is a companion to the exhibition.

Self portrait
Self portrait

Born in 1934, Kovasznai lived and worked from the late 50’s until his death in 1983, one of the most politically charged periods in modern Hungary.  His films and paintings mirrored the disillusion with the People’s Republic of Hungary and its Soviet imposed policies that ultimately let to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Working at Pannonia Film Studio, the animation arm of the Hungarian Film Corporation, Kovasznai translated the bold images and bright colors of his paintings to the screen in cut outs and collage techniques.  In addition to 26 short films, he completed one feature film, Bubble Bath:  A Musical Special-Effect Film to the Rhythm of a Heart BeatHe was at work on a second feature when he passed away at the age of 40 from Leukemia.

Kovasznai at work
Kovasznai at work

Gyorgy often worked in collaboration with his friend and fellow painter Dezso Korniss.  In 1963 the pair made Monologue using paper cut outs and collage techniques.  Pannonia Studio had difficulty obtaining permission from the government censors to release the film because they did not understand his work; it didn’t fit into the usual boundaries of animation.  To quote art historian Andras Renyi “Kovasznai’s actual aspiration was to animate painting, which involves a completely different type of work than that of an animation artist in general.”  The film was eventually allowed to premier in Budapest where it was well received by the audience.

The pair worked together again on the 1964 experimental animation Young Man Playing the Guitar at the Old Masters Gallery.  This film was the only animation produced by Pannonia Films to be banned during the Socialist regime.

His 1964 Metamorphoses won the Gold Ducat Award at the Mannheim Film Festival.  He gained international recognition when it won the Festival Prize at the Miskolc Short Film Festival, which helped to ease pressure from the censors.

Kovasznai spent much of his life questioning the situation of the proletariat and moral issues about a career as an artist.  He studied painting for two years at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts before dropping out.  He later wrote, “I left because I thought the teachers were untalented and the atmosphere was dull.”  His next two years were spent working in coal mines, to avoid compulsory military service.

Returning to Budapest he worked in a shipyard and, subsequently at a Bakelite factory.  During this period he created The Miner series – Paintings that were eventually used in his 1965 film The Joy of LightBased upon his memories of life at the socialist mine works, the sound track for the film was made from his recordings of the words his fellow miners.

Cell from This is Just Fashion, 1976
Cell from This is Just Fashion, 1976

In addition to animation and painting, Kovasznai was a prolific writer, leaving a sizeable literary output.  He wrote ten plays, several short stories and two novels, one of which, Times, was autobiographical.  Traveling in the underground literary and artistic circles he presented his writings at reading events organized secretly in private apartments, worked with illegal theatre groups, and directed his plays in private performances as well as taking part in private gatherings to listen to new classical and popular music from the West, all of which were illegal activities banned by the Soviet regime.

Brigitta Ivanyi-Bitter’s book is a must for anyone interested in Post Modern Art and Animation in Hungary.  The 332 page book is packed full of beautiful full color reproductions of Kovasznai’s paintings and film stills as well as photographs tracing his life from childhood to pictures taken of friends who gathered at the Feszek Artists’ Club for the Kovasznai banquet and commemorative evening in 1992.  The English translation is excellent and makes for a very smooth read.  The foreword written by Lorand Hegyi, one of Europe’s foremost curators and art historians, sets the stage for Brigitta’s analysis of the artist’s life and work.

After reading about Gyorgy’s life and work, the 3 DVD’s included in the book bring it all to life.  Included on the Short Films, 1963-1982 are a selection of works, including Young Man Playing Guitar at the Old Masters Gallery, the 1964 film that was banned by the Hungarian censors, and his last film Reportrait, completed in 1982.  A separate DVD contains the 1980 feature length film Bubble Bath:  A Musical Special-Effects Film to the Rhythm of a Heartbeat.   The third DVD contains the 2010 documentary by artist and director Igor Lazin is a formal analysis of the 1992 anima verite Reportrait by colleagues and contemporaries of Kovasznai.  It also contains a CD ROM with all of the digital reproductions from the book.

Twenty pages of appendices include a chronological biography and detailed filmography.  A complete listing of Gyorgy’s writings is divided into plays, novels, poetry and film scripts for easy cross-referencing.  Also included in this section are essays and studies, published criticisms and published essays.  Brigitta has also included a very detailed bibliography of publications that she used in her research.  For me the alphabetical glossary description of friends and colleagues who appear in the book was extremely useful.

For a firsthand look at Kovasznai’s work visit the English language website:  http://www.kovasznaigyorgy.hu/en/ which has a gallery of art work and biographical time line as well as  a section on Gyorgy’s writings  where you can hear an audio recording of his 1959 play in four acts, Conquesting the Mars.

The lovely coffee table sized book is priced at $56.00 USD or 43 Euros >TO ORDER e-mail:  info@kovasznaigyorgy



Recipes for Reconstruction
Monday December 20th 2010, 12:52 pm
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Recipes for Reconstruction: The Cookbook for the Frugal Filmmaker, by veteran independent animator and filmmaker Steven Woloshen, is the perfect introduction to the art of camera-less filmmaking.  From artistic strategies in creating fermented and decayed film footage to re-assembling damaged film prints into unique visual experiences, Steven gives us simple, detailed instructions for creating our own manipulated films.
Like any good cookbook there is a clear, concise list of materials and ingredients that are needed along with very easy to follow instructions for the processes used for all of the short films in the book.  A DVD of the films is included in the book to allow the reader to follow the creation process to the end result and lend visual inspiration for us to go to work on our own.
In the preface the Canadian animator pays tribute to two of his early inspirations, the late Stan Brakhage and Len Lye while tracing his own experimental path to manipulating exposed film footage.  Each chapter is introduced with personal antidotes about the inspiration that led to the films creation.  Zero Visibility was his attempt to recreate the harrowing experience of crossing Montreal’s Victoria Bridge in a blinding snow storm by using a fermentation process to achieve decay.  The “what you will need list” includes exposed film, water, icing sugar, yeast, and three or four clear plastic garden bags.  The step by step instructions conclude with “it is best to begin this fermentation process in the early summer months.  The best results should be achieved sometime in the end of December.” Each film description concludes with the results that he achieved and photos of the process, along with Woloshen’s original notes and diagrams.
Recipes for Reconstruction is the perfect book for the first time filmmaker who doesn’t want to invest in expensive equipment.  Building a film printer is the most technical piece of equipment you need to construct.  The printer assembly requires such everyday materials as a small dark colored shoe box, black masking tape and a flashlight or 15 watt incandescent light bulb.
The book is a wonderful way for teachers to give students of all ages an inspiring introduction to film making and should be in every school library.   For professional animators and film makers the DVD of the nine films alone is a priceless addition to any film collection and might even inspire them to get out and plant some film in their garden.
For more information or to purchase the book, contact Steven Woloshen at:

swoloshen@hotmail.com

Steven Woloshen

Steven Woloshen


The price of the book:  $40.00 USD (also $40.00 CAD), 25 pounds sterling, or 30 Euros + shipping
A limited number of copies are available in Los Angeles at:
The Center For Visual Music (http://www.centerforvisualmusic.org/Fischinger)
453 South Spring Street,   Suite 834
Los Angeles, California 90013 USA
212/683-1514



More From Simon Taylor and the Animation Mentor Program
Wednesday May 27th 2009, 10:30 am
Filed under: Educational
Comments Off

May 22nd 2009

Hi all! Time certainly flies when you’re having fun. Class 2 went by in a flash with my mentor Jon Collins and now I’m in Class 3 with freelance animator Dana Boadway.

As before, each assignment builds upon what has been learnt previously so this term I’ve been pushing body mechanics further with a heavy lifting assignment, a push and a back flip (based on Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘em laugh” routine from Singin’ in The Rain). I can’t wait to get into the acting soon but that’s still a few weeks away!

I’m currently in the blocking stage of my back flip animation but I’d like to share something I learnt from my first assignment this term, a heavy lift. When you’re still learning the basics of animation don’t stray too far from your video reference! Exaggerate of course but don’t go doing something almost completely different. My heavy lifting assignment went a little bit wrong because of this as I couldn’t find footage of something heavy enough for what I wanted. I then thought to myself, no problem, I’ll just make it look heavier when it comes to animating it, good grief I shouldn’t have done that! Anyway, lesson learnt and my next assignment came out a lot better.

After Class 1 the structure of the assignments changed from a new assignment each week to one every three or four, which gives everyone the luxury of polishing their shots to a very high standard. In the industry we certainly wouldn’t get the chance to spend a month animating an eight second shot but it’s certainly a fantastic opportunity at this stage.  As well as the huge amount of time we’re given, the enthusiasm and feedback from the mentors and fellow students help to add that extra level of quality. To see my Animation Mentor work so far you can watch this video here: http://www.vimeo.com/3105513

Going back a few months now I thought I’d talk about how I got started at Animation Mentor and the enrollment process. If memory serves I think I first heard about them through a website called The 11 Second club (www.11secondclub.com), which is a monthly animation competition with the prize being a critique of your work from a professional animator. Animation Mentor sponsors this competition so when I saw the level of work coming from them I looked for as much information as I could find and a few months later after I’d finished University I enrolled.

There’s no previous experience necessary when you enroll, the main bulk of the enrollment process really was there to test your enthusiasm for animation, it seems forever and a day ago now but I remember having to write a brief essay on why I wanted to be an animator and it’s always interesting to talk to other students about their stories as well. Everyone seems to have a defining moment when they decided that animation was what they wanted to do, for me it was a combination of watching Aardman’s character Morph on Tony Hart’s programme “Hart Beat”, Rolf Harris’s “Rolf’s Cartoon Club” and the Wallace and Gromit shorts.

Right o, I’d best get back to my assignment now. I’ve just started a part-time job so time management is getting more crucial. My upmost respect goes out to all the AM students with full time jobs and families!

Thanks again to Nik and Nancy for letting me invade your blog!

All the best everybody!
Simon