When I initially heard Erica Verbich’s pitch for the animation assignment – an elderly woman describing her surrounding to her blind husband – I was immediately intrigued by the idea of visually representing a blind man’s experience. I imagined an assignment with a lot of creative freedom that could lead to an interesting visual experience. The idea for the assignment eventually changed and we decided we would interview a visually impaired person in hopes of getting insight to the way they live without sight. We imagined getting interesting, in depth explanations about their visual, or lack of visual, experience as well as insight on how they interact with the world around them. After hearing the interview with Mathias, I was initially disappointed with the result. We were not expecting such a positive story. We expected to hear how his lack of sight was a major disability, but instead it did not seem to make him any less able. Contrary to our original expectations, it was clear that this story would tell of his ability to live a regular life despite his lack of sight. Basically the story we ended up telling was not the one we had initially set out to. However, I feel the story we told was far more powerful than we had first imagined. Through both the soundtrack and the visuals I feel we were able to tell a compelling story. The audio worked as a guide while the visuals worked to both confirm what was being said and at times say more, leaving a lot to be interpreted by the viewer.
In order to tell the story, which would drive the animation, the first step was listening to the interview with other members of the group and taking note of which moments were the strongest. After considering which moments were the strongest and what kind of story we wanted to tell, we made a final cut of our interview. We each had time to listen to the audio and think about how we wanted to represent each moment visually. Each of us had moments we liked best and we met regularly to discuss how we could make them work together. The part I was most interested in was the when Mathias describes the way he sees:
“If you want to see exactly how I see or have an idea…Just look at my hand and try to describe me.”
I automatically imagined the way he needed to use his peripheral vision to see. I got the idea of putting a hand at the center of the screen and blurring out Mathias in the background. I created a rough version of what I imagined and wanted to re-create for the animation. We all agreed this would be a good approach for this part and so I began thinking about how to make it work.
From the beginning my ultimate goal, from the technical side of this assignment, was to learn to rotoscope. I had always been interested in this technique and wanted to incorporate it into the assignment as much as possible. What I decided to do finally was rotoscope over the video of Mathias explaining his visual experience. I would then bring up his hand in the center of the screen and blur him out in the background. It was a fairly simple process, but it took a lot of time to complete. Although my first go at Rotoscoping was extremely laborious, it did not discourage me. I think despite the commitment required, the outcome is well worth the effort. I was extremely pleased with the results of my work and I can assure you this will not be the last time I employ this technique. Next semester there will be an open assignment, which I have already begun thinking about, and I’m quite sure I will find a way to incorporate this technique.
Knowing that collaborating with 11 other students would not be easy and that each of us had different ideas and strengths, we decided to allow each other the freedom to explore whichever animation technique we felt most comfortable with. We did however set certain aesthetic boundaries in order to maintain a cohesive work. We decided that we would stick mostly to black and white, using color sparingly where it added to the visuals. Once we began thinking of how to transition from one part to the next we came up with the idea of using a sound wave, which could run as a recurring theme throughout the piece allowing us to move from one segment to the next. Most of what we ended with came from experimenting with different ideas and techniques. One person would suggest one idea, then the rest would build from there and when it came time to create it, we had to face the affordances of the software we were using and adjust to make them work. Despite having a very positive experience within a group, I look forward to working alone for the next assignment because it would allow me to explore more of the ideas and techniques I’m interested in. I feel that ultimately I will be able to experiment more and take more creative risks.