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butcher / inspiration from emptiness

Animator Chris Butcher races away with the top prize in the ‘Open: Stopmotion’ category of the 2011 Redbull CANIMATION Awards, a new yearly competition in England offering budding animators an opportunity to progress their skills and careers in the field through a series of prizes. Winners are awarded internships at top animation studios: Aardman, The Mill, and 12foot6. Their films are also featured in this month’s ‘Ad Break Takeover Documentary’ on Channel 4 in Britain, as well as taking part in the British Animation Awards Public Choice Tour 2012. We speak in depth with Chris about his approach.

Chris is a 2009 BA (Hons) Animation Graduate of the University of Bedfordshire and is also a Barbican IdeasTap Award Winner 2011. Here he speaks with Dragonframe about his film and early inspirations:

    In the Red Bull piece, I wanted crisp white lighting and backgrounds. In my other work I’d always used angle-poise lamps which gives everything a really incandescent orange look, as if lit by street light. So I found a disposable baking tray (the kind of thing you could fit a turkey in) and attached two strip lights inside. It worked superbly, because the naturally shiny surface reflected the light and the sides acted as barn doors to focus it. I attached that to a broom handle; which in turn was tied to a hat stand – my guerilla lighting rig. In all, I went through 23 cans of Redbull to construct the car, and two chemically dependent kidneys to use the cans! I shot with a Canon EOS 450D and worked the Dragonframe keypad controller with my feet to capture shots, leaving my hands free for animation.

    The biggest challenge was in the final sequence, when the four cans crush simultaneously to become wheels. I had to get the cans to their tie down points and then secure them, without it looking forced. To achieve this, I used the auto-toggle function to align the cans near perfectly between the two frames.

    One of my first animation inspirations was when I was a kid watching ‘The Golden Child’ with Eddie Murphy; the bit in which a Pepsi can gets animated so it dances to “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. I’d say my biggest influence would be the work of Jan Svankmajer. There’s a part in ‘Jabberwocky’ where a pen knife is being animated on a tabletop like a gymnast traversing the floor. What I really like is the objects in his work are often un-anthropamorphised, in that they retain they’re rigid nature and move as if of their own volition rather than seeming to be manipulated.

    I never use green screen or composition because I feel it somehow cheats the audience. I’ve never been good at CG work because I’m really tactile and just cant get a mouse to do what my hands can. Dragonframe makes my work so much easier and enjoyable- to see instant results gives me drive to churn out more shots; it suits my needs to the letter.

– Chris Butcher

Thank you, Chris, and congratulations! -Dragonframe

Read another interview with Chris by Skwigly Online Animation Magazine.

This is the equally engaging film that won him the Barbican IdeasTap Award last year:

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