WEDNESDAY 5 OCTOBER
Pakhuis de Zwijger
Playgrounds Festival is a gathering that unites some of the best young talents in animation, motion graphics and filmmaking. This one-day Amsterdam session was filled with inspirational and energetic speakers who shared experiences and thoughts regarding their creative processes. A commonality among them, despite differences in style, was the refreshing emphasis most of them placed on enjoyment, curiosity and the restless desire to experiment as a fundamental element in their workflow. The recurrence of object-oriented processes in their digital work, as the action of experimentation, was found in many of the examples, referring to a very material and hands-on approach, rather than computer-centric experiences. It was a pleasure to be reminded (perhaps easy to forget for those not directly involved in these types of work) that in the realm of digital tools, the bodies, objects and their qualities, such as textures, weight and physics, are at the forefront of the artist’s mind.
The morning session began with a presentation by the members of Dvein, the multidisciplinary studio responsible for creating the liquid animations in Spider Man III. During their presentation they shared the different steps involved in making one of their most beloved projects: the opening title sequence for the design conference TOCA ME (2008). This piece is centred around the birth of organic typographic monograms, each representing the speakers at the festival. Dvein achieved this by constructing actual prototypes for each of the monograms, which they burned and melted. In other words, frying up whatever they could get their hand on, until ‘the studio stank of burned plastic and cheese.’ This footage was later re-composed digitally to create the disturbing and beautiful animated sequences. They also recalled that occasionally when a client asks if the images in their work are all 3D animations and they respond ‘no’, they can always sense a tiny bit of disappointment.
Similarly, Physalia, a mixed-media company based in Barcelona, began their talk by introducing their studio space with plentiful love. One of the members from the collective confessed that he sleeps there at least three times per week, work or no work. The space was very much described as a playground that’s filled with wood, fabric and other materials, evoking a laboratory or a construction workshop. They’ve become recognised for manufacturing their own tools, which helps them carry out independent research into new ways of communication and storytelling using unusual combinations of media. Physalia, as other speakers at Playground, celebrate DIY culture. For example, their film Resonance (2011) became possible thanks to a ‘lightbox‘ that allows computer-controlled conditions in lighting and movement. It’s basically a type of darkroom in which isolated objects can be photographed and rotated mechanically. They created this lightbox as a personal project related to capturing vegetable growth, starting with the question: ‘what would happen if…’ A premise that’s behind many creative projects.
It was then the turn of Kyle Cooper on stage. Cooper has been described as the man responsible for taking titles sequences to the level of storytelling art. He’s authored renowned film openings such as Seven (1995). For Cooper, the opening sequence of a film has the power to aid the narrative construction, instead of just being an accessory. A title sequence can act as prologue or opening scene of a film; for example, what Cooper did for The Incredible Hulk (2008), where the entire story is retold in two minutes. Cooper almost never uses digital effects in his work; even extreme cases such as his sequence for Final Destination 5 (2011) is a hand-on material process. The footage was obtained by breaking actual glass with some very real objects. When talking about the process Cooper’s excitement was evident: ‘the patterns in the glass are perfect,’ he said. In theatres the film was screened in 3D, emulating for the audience the experience of having objects and glass thrown directly at their faces.
Finally, acclaimed video director and very charming speaker David Wilson brought a touch of genuine surprise to proceedings. He performed a live demonstration of the technique he used in the video We Got Time (Moray McLaren), where he achieves a gorgeous animation using no more than turntables, drawn panels and mirrors. Towards the end of his talk Wilson shared the fact that he makes his money from commercials, but that when he is dealing with music videos he chooses to invest what corresponds to his salary into the making of the piece. Music videos are his protected space. Towards the end of his presentation, Wilson moved away from the music videos and towards the independent short animated films he’s submitted to Bare Bones, a London-based fanzine and film screening event. ‘Bare Bones encourages you to let go of your work; to submit something that is not perfect but that you have just created because you wanted to, because you enjoy it and you wanted to share it with others,’ said Wilson. With that sentiment the festival came to a close, setting the same tone with which it began: creative people that have immense love for their work.Tweet