John Mayer’s new video ‘Submarine Test January 1967’ is one to fall in love with. Virginia Mori’s delicate illustrations remind of romantic victorian times. It’s all good, but the animation is made entirely without post-production. How? Director Virgilio Villoresi used pre-cinema animation techniques, aka optical toys.
Luckily, there’s lots more where that came from. A hand full of wonderful music videos are created with optical toys like ombro cinema, zoetropes, praxinoscopes, phenakistiscopes and flip books.
Post-production is not really required in these clips because of the transparency of this kind of animation. Animation as we know it hides its process from the viewer. But the operation of optical toys forms a visible and inherent part of the work. What you see is what you get.
Browsing through his wonderful portfolio, you can tell that Virgilio Villoresi is a big fan of those pre-cinema techniques. He used ombro cinema for the John Mayer video, by moving a striped transparent sheet back and forth over static images. There’s even a lovely praxinoscope Spotted at 00:07!
A what? I could explain in words, but you’d better watch the impressive video ‘We got Time’ by Moray McLaren, where wonderboy video maker David Wilson went nuts with praxinoscopes. There’s even a making of-video of this. How transparent do you like it?
Something very similar to that is an optical toy called a phenakistiscope. Theodore Ushev created a very simple and playful video for Kottarashky & the Rain Dogs, with fifty hand painted vinyl records and one gramophone. This video ‘Demoni’ captures the pure joy of animation. Behold the magic of the phenakistiscope:
Yo dawg, I heard you like animations…
Returning to the issue of transparency of pre-cinema animation, we’ve found a special case in the video ‘Mix Tape’ by Big Scary. Creator Alice Dupre took zoetropes as a starting point, but she digitally animated this mechanical animation, offering her an escape from the limitations of the zoetrope. Just watch all the fun combinations of different zoetrope images.
And then of course, there’s the wider known flip book. You made one at some point in your life, right? Henk Loorbach and Andre Maat sure did, for the Kraak en Smaak video ‘Squeeze Me’. A lot! They keep the narrative simple and the colors bright, to focus on the flipping booklets.
Alright, one more for the road: ‘Lost the War’ by Paper Lions, made by JP Poliquin and Nathan Boey. This one focusses more on band performance, but hey: flip books!
Aren’t your hands already itching by now? Go and make your own!