Digitized Direct Animation: Creating Materials for Electroacoustic Visual Music Using 8mm Film

Jonathan Weinel, Stuart Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


“Direct animation” (also called “drawn-on animation” or “camera-less animation”) involves the direct application of paints and other artistic materials to celluloid film in order to construct animated visual material. This article provides a brief overview regarding the historical use of this technique in the work of other experimental film-makers, before discussing the use of this process to create Mezcal Animations #1–3: a piece of psychedelic visual music with electroacoustic sound. To compose this piece, reels of 8 mm film were first bleached before applying inks to create the visual materials for the piece. The resulting visual materials contain various desirable æsthetic properties, resulting from the use of the analogue medium, when magnified under projection. However, in order to combine these materials with electroacoustic sound, and provide a more reliable format for performances, it is desirable to digitize the materials. For this piece, the film was digitized using a DSLR camera; while this may not be the ideal method of digitization, it succeeds in providing a quick, low-cost and convenient solution. Once the film has been digitized, a soundtrack can be created using typical approaches to the composition of electroacoustic music. The æsthetic qualities of direct animation create some interesting challenges for composing an electroacoustic soundtrack; these are briefly discussed with regards to Mezcal Animations #1–3. Through the course of this article, we therefore demonstrate a novel, low-budget compositional approach for creating visual music compositions in a digital context, using electroacoustic sound. The strategies discussed may also be of interest to other composers wishing to experiment with this technique, or for other composers who explore psychedelic æsthetics in their work.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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