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Alternatives to animation?

February 10, 2014 by   

When I watched this video it set off a few lightbulbs in my head about the video project I’m working on for our class. I’m dealing with a few concepts that would be served well by animation, but of course I don’t have the skills to pull that off in the time we have, so I’ve been struggling with how to communicate things like text in a way that looks professional. It appears to me like this video was produced with tools that we all know how to use (the filmmaker mentions Magic Lantern!), and there is no animation, but it nevertheless manages to illustrate Ira Glass’ audio track through a combination of creative problem-solving and tightly-polished staged shots. The blackboard shot is a favorite: with good handwriting and a well-composed shot we can use decidedly low-tech tools to create attractive results.

Something else I’ve been considering: do you think it would have been possible to create an engaging video using only one of the media (i.e. blackboard/chalk or spaghetti)? In this case, where the entire video depends on live-action “animation” and the shots don’t involve much movement, I think the variety is critical for holding our attention. If you could find someone with impeccable handwriting, however, would you consider using the blackboard exclusively?

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.


  1. says:

    I definitely think the variety of situations is important because it creates a kind of unanswered question: What will the next situation be? you might be able to create something out of one of these but it would have to move more in some way. Like you would have to do stop motion of the spaghetti leaving the bowl or something and spelling words as it moved, or the words on the chalk board changing through stop motion. The static quality of the shots work because of the difference.

    It is a great way to create some interesting “graphics” without relying on some type of software.

  2. says:

    Maybe you could even have different derby girls in derby outfits holding blank signs, or show action by having them do motions such as rolling in with a bright blue sign toward the camera, and in post you could put text over the signs? I like the idea of using chalk though, if you stuck to 2 or 3 different chalk colors and make some cool signs with cool hand-writing. It’s a time to get artistic and have fun, like this video! I dig the message of the video as well. Right on.

  3. says:

    This is such a wonderful quote! I agree with Jarratt, the reason this video works is the amount of variation that goes into each word being placed in the frame. If you wanted to use derby girls, like Lauren suggests, than You might be able to use one static shot and let the characters in the shot change so that it seems as though they are seamlessly going in and out of the frame. I think this would be the easiest way to get what you’re looking for without having to vary your shooting locations.

  4. says:

    For some reason this video will not play on my computer. I seem to have that problem with Vimeo on my PC sometimes – it’s rather frustrating. But I will say this – if you can successfully write with spaghetti, then do it. Maybe mix in some alphabet spagghettios?

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