UWE: Sound and Rotoscoping

Sound
My Graphics B.A. (Hons) program at the The University of the West of England offered modular courses in Year 1 and 2. The modules are designed to develop the student in areas which would be beneficial in their self-directed project in Year 3. As I had a project in mind involving  film and animation for Year 3, it was necessary for me to become accustomed to working with sound. The sound modules enabled me to experiment creatively and explore different possibilities. The more I experimented, the more ideas were generated. A Play Without Words: The Suicide was a  sound module project in Year 1.  The project had to be under 1 minute in duration, voices could be recorded though not in dialogue form. The process of the assignment made me consider the following questions: How is the suicide committed? Which sounds/ sound bites will be used bites? How much time is needed recording outdoor ambience’s? Which sound effects should I employ? In which order will I use the sounds? At which points should the audio levels be high/low? Do I want the listener to understand what is happening? Will my concepts be too abstract or pretentious? The process allowed me to be creative, original and audacious. I could learn how sounds worked together. Also, there were times when I created new sounds accidentally. Smooth transitions from one sound to another were very challenging and often frustrating. Too much going on at once would end up as a cacophony of disorder. By the end of the first sound module I had taken a lot of notes which helped me reflect on how I worked through the process. The experience gained from the modules and my reflective diary became invaluable to me when working on a rotoscope project in Year 3.

Rotoscoping
Rotoscoping involves the process of drawing on film. A lot of early Disney films were rotoscoped and more recent examples can be seen in Richard Linklater’s work. He employed the rotoscoping technique in films such as Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).

The first time I used this technique was when making a short film called The Duellists in my final year at university. The process- Initially, I shot about 9 minutes of footage on Super 8 film then transferred the 8mm film onto a camcorder. After editing ,the film was about 4 minutes long.  To animate, my portable 14″ TV was placed face up on the carpet while I positioned myself over the TV with pen and paper. An animator’s peg bar was cello taped to one side of the screen to ensure that the paper would always be placed in exactly the same position. I drew about 3 frames every second. As you can see it’s VERY jerky!  I can still vividly remember the laborious process of clicking the VHS frame counter every time I drew a frame. By the end of the week the VHS player was seriously damaged the and tape was just one big glitch. At the time I never contemplated making the sequel for sanity reasons! All in all, it took around 700 drawings before being shot under an old EOS stop frame camera. The sound score is mainly Morricone, though I used soundbites from other well-known films. Looking back at this animation 18 years on, the work employs the same principles as DIY punk ethics. Basically, a heap of shoddy charcoal drawings awkwardly mashed together. The result being a confusing manic montage. After editing the rotoscoped version, it was whittled down to 2:32 seconds in duration.   I still have the Super 8 footage-for a future project, I intend to make a digital version of The Duellists.        

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