September 29, 2006
One of the pleasures of the Ottawa International Animation Festival is that you often get to see people use existing techniques in new ways. One of my favourite examples is Busby, a 1997 short that composited black-and-white images of hands and arms that paid tribute to the movie choreography of Busby Berkeley; another is last year's Fliegenpflicht für Quadratköpfe (Bow-tie Duty for Square Heads), in which the director played with props, perspective and considerable animation to present an interesting view of Berlin.
This year, that film would be pikapika, also referred to as Lightning Doodle Project. Animators Takeshi Nagata and Kazue Monno, operating under the name Tochka, gathered teams of volunteers from Mixi (Japan's answer to MySpace) and took long-exposure photographs of them making shapes in the air with cell phones, PDAs, and other light-emitting gadgets, moved them over a little, and then repeated the process. The end result resembles scratch-film work (the clickety-click soundtrack makes the whole thing evocative of some of Norman McLaren's experiments), but with a strange kind of intensity. It's also interesting that the nature of the technique allows you to see the forms of the people making the images. Most mind-bending is the thought that each image, which is the result of an extended period of time, then becomes a fraction of a second as an animated frame.
You can see a QuickTime of pikapika on Tochka's website.