Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I have David Daniels' baby!!

It's true:
David Daniels earned fame in the independent animation world as the inventor of the stratacut technique of animation. Normally, when someone invents a new filmmaking technique, it gets ripped off by someone a lot bigger who gets credit for it. For example, bullet time was not invented for the Matrix; an independent filmmaker named Dayton Taylor had been using what he called a "Timetrack" camera years before The Matrix came out. And a recent art school graduate named Javan Ivey devised "stratastencil" animation, which now shows up in this Pharell video. David Daniels' stratacut claymation is unique for the fact that it hasn't been stolen by anyone big -- he's still the one and only master of stratacut over twenty years after he unveiled it in his film Buzz Box [you MUST click on this link].

Stratacut animation is achieved by sculpting a "log" of clay with images embedded inside. You set up the camera so it's looking at a cross-section of the log, and then you start slicing thin layers off and taking a new picture each time. The animation is all programmed into the log of clay: if you wanted to have a circle grow, you would construct a cone shape and slice it from the thin end to the fat end. Thus, time is translated into depth, resulting in 2D animation whose 3rd dimension is time. This seems simple when you're only making a circle grow, but stratacut gets a lot more complicated:

Stratacut on this scale boggles the mind. Not just my mind, but EVERYONE'S. And that's why no one has stolen it yet. David's the only one who understands it!

Here's the point: David Daniels is one of the founders of Bent Image Lab, and I had the pleasure of meeting him today. About 30 seconds after I shook his hand, he gave me that stratacut baby from right off his desk (it's for a mutual friend, but heck, I still felt like it was Christmas). He was generous not only with his stratacut sculptures, but also with his time, and we talked about college, film careers, and the future of stratacut. I told him he should come do a lecture at Harvard (this is the second time I've blurted this out to a professional animator), and he said he'd try!

In other news, Tooey's August cake party was this last weekend. She mailed me an invitation that said, "Eat Cake! (this Sunday at 2pm) Poop Cake! (later)". It was a nice reunion with the people from last month. I tried to make a conquistador helmet but it looked like a dunce cap.