Melbourne based Animator, Elliot Schultz created these hypnotising Zoetrope contraptions by mixing a turntable with delicate embroidery and strobe lights. The result is just amazing and has been gaining a lot of interest on the interweb. For a behind-the-scenes take a look here and read our questions below for Elliot.
OZ – How did the idea for the project come about?
I came up with the idea after I was introduced to the work of animators Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker. They invented their own device called the Pinscreen which they used to animate their short films. What I love about their work was that they intentionally confined their process to the limitations of the Pinscreen, and their films are unique due to the techniques they had to devise along the way. There’s an excellent video released by the National Film Board of Canada (https://www.nfb.ca/film/pinscreen
) which shows them demonstrating the machine to other animators.
The process invented by Alexeieff and Parker really appealed to me, so I decided to also confine myself to unconventional media to see what the resulting work would look like and whether it would inform my process. I decided to use machine embroidery as I already had experience with it and was aware of its many limitations including definition and colour. The tactility of embroidery led me to explore pre-cinema formats and devices such as the Zoetrope and Phenakistokope, and ultimately encouraged me to present the animation as an installation to allow viewers to watch and interact with the animation physically.
OZ – What were some of the challenges you had to face during production?
ES- The final format I used is very similar to that of a Phenakistoskope which proved to be very restrictive for animating. Gone are many of the comforts of animating for screen, such as variable lengths of time and having elements enter and exit the frame. Phenakistoskope animations have a strict and very brief running time, they must be seamless loops, and each frame is also spatially and temporally related to one another. If one frame of animation is drawn too far to one side, it will encroach on the the previous or next frames.
These restrictions were definitely frustrating at times, but they also provided an opportunity to experiment. In my ‘Wriggling’ animation which features white worms all squirming to the centre of the disc, each worm spends one revolution of the turntable wriggling to the starting location of another worm closer to the centre. The worm it replaces has also just spent one revolution wriggling closer to the centre and so on. Even though there is only 14 ‘frames’ of animation on each disc, this simple replacement technique allows me to animate worms which viewers can continuously watch for close to 100 frames.
Another unexpected challenge was making sure the installation was engaging for the viewers and encouraged them to interact. In some initial demonstrations, I set the lights to strobe continuously. Even though the feedback was positive, I noticed people found it hard to watch the animation for an extended period of time, and they were hesitant to interact with them. One solution I came up with was to cycle the lights between strobing for 10 seconds and being lit solidly for 5 seconds. This not only gave viewers a chance to occasionally rest their eyes, but also partially revealed the ‘trick’ by seeing the discs spinning without animating, and made people more inclined to touch the discs and see how the animation worked.