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Sunday, August 17, 2008

100 years ago today

Can't believe this almost slipped by my radar, but 100 years ago today the field of filmed animation was born. Émile Cohl, working class son of a rubber salesman and seamstress, wound up creating "Fantasmagorie"-- the very first filmed animation feature in history.

Done in chalk on a blackboard, the film is obviously primitive, but like cave drawings, it set the mold for later innovation by guys like Disney, Avery and Lasseter.

To read more about Cohl (a name he actually adopted, it wasn't his given name), there's a Wikipedia article and this succinct but moving biography.

To view the film and additional commentary, check out this post at

Now imagine going from chalk to photorealistic CG animation in just 100 years-- and think about the next 100!

Stop motion on the iPhone?

Once Apple opened up the iPhone (and iPod Touch, which has no camera, mic, speakers, GPS or cell radio) to 3rd-party applications, the flood of new apps has been dizzying.

For example, there are two hand-drawn animation apps: FlipBook and Flickbook. MacRumors has a brief note on those, and TUAW has a hands-on review of FlipBook.

More interesting to me is Watch It Change (which I think is a terrible name, but whatever)-- a stop-motion animation app. Using the iPhone's decent (but not spectacular) camera, WIC allows you to easily snap and assemble a sequence of footage. Naturally, you're gonna want to mount the iPhone in some secure way. The makers of the app realize this, and provide a clever stand for sale on their website. TUAW has a video of the app in action.

With more cameras like the N95 getting video and application capabilities, it'll be interesting to see if any of this catches on for animation. As we know, "The Corpse Bride" was shot using still cameras, so I don't see why not, save for the fact they are tough to mount reliably.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I miss Brad Dharma

Any animation fans who were around in the 90's will remember the semi-popular "Liquid Television" that aired late at night on MTV. As you may also know, the biggest thing to come out of that was the serialized "Aeon Flux." However, I always felt the tongue-in-cheek "Brad Dharma: Psychedelic Detective" had great potential. Cool lead character, neat mythology, and witty puns and references... The animation wasn't the greatest, but the mix of photos (like Ralph Bakshi would do in some of the LOTR movies) and cultural references were sublime.

I've tried to track down the creators but ran into several dead ends (I know who did it, but can't locate him). Boy I'd love to resurrect this!