For New York-born Ingo Raschka, the occupation of being a freelance animator brings up a lot of questions. After graduating from California’s Institute of Arts last year, Ingo’s been working as a freelance animator based in Los Angeles, although he admits, “I don’t really know what I am doing since I don’t have a car or a drivers licence”. What Ingo does have is a number of supportive peers, animators too, who share his “passion for making animation and enjoy the confusion and precocity of life as an independent artist”.
Animation does seem like a funny old world to get into, however, and the context of the industry – one where practitioners can spend hours, days, sometimes months even, working on a couple of frames – is a little intimidating. Thankfully, it’s one that fascinates Ingo: “I’m especially interested in the history of what we call a ‘pipeline’,” he tells It’s Nice That, “a term which refers to a kind of ‘formula’, or how the process of animation is broken up into a series of steps to expedite the process of making massive amounts of animated programming (specifically for TV) in a time-efficient way,” the animator explains. Saving and keeping time is integral to any animator’s practice if they want to keep their sanity, and one Ingo appears to take very seriously.
Admitting that when he first got into animation he was “kind of like ‘wow, you literally just have to draw every frame?’” he has since got hooked. Like many practitioners, he’s still fascinated by pieces of “animation that require a huge amount of work,” such as the work of Studio Ghibli. However, in his own practice, Ingo’s tried to find a middle ground, especially after finding that in the industry “you should never force yourself, or your employees, to do huge amounts of work just for the hell of it. As an animator who often gets underpaid for time-consuming scenes – you’d better have a good reason!”
Which leads us to Ingo’s own independent practice and 2012, a short animation he released earlier this year which has already amassed over 20,000 eager viewers. The film, which plays out the storyline of two characters on a Tinder date, puts into practice his animation technique research. In particular, 2012 plays with cel-painted animation and several “animated cheats” that can be applied, “such as reusing cels, backgrounds and entire shots, using loops to give the illusion of moving cameras, drawing characters and backgrounds as if through a telephoto lens to cleverly avoid animating things moving in perspective,” he says, only naming a few. Yet, “like an idiot,” finding the temptation to make the film his best yet to difficult to resist, “I decided to make my latest film in a supremely labour intensive way, which was to hand paint it on cels”.
When it came to physically making the film, Ingo didn’t actually end up using actual animation cels, “which are awkwardly large, expensive and reportedly warp when painted on,” he tells us, opting for overhead projector transparencies instead. The process then began, where Ingo animated every shot, first by drawing each layer on paper “using a thick dark pencil stroke so I could separate the line from the background easily,” he explains. He then scanned each frame to delete the white background in Photoshop, editing the line to be a pure black, before running the cels through a regular printer, “printing each doctored drawing onto its own separate cel". This process saw him leaving a translucent line layer of each scene and, with the trusty help of his friends, he then painted each of the cels. Interestingly, each of the frames which combine to make 2012’s narrative are also very small, the size of an index card, which “saves money because you don’t need as much paint, and it saves time because it doesn’t take as long as to paint each frame.” During the editing process, Ingo was also careful, making sure he knew exactly how much animation he had to do, because “why spend energy animating something if you are just going to cut it out?” Simple…
With all of these process details delicately thought out, the actual narrative of 2012 is a whole other story. “The idea for the film is pretty scattered (like everything I do),” the animator tells us. “I don’t think I’ve ever honestly talked about what this film means to me, or if I even know.” Following the usual scene of a date, Ingo’s characters meet up, have an awkward drink, head to a couple of restaurants in search of a spot which may make this whole ordeal seem a little less awkward. But it ends in disaster, with a car crash where one character, the man, dies.
However, the intriguing parts of 2012 develop from what is left unsaid between the two characters, considering that the idea was that “they never really communicate – they’re on different planets the entire time”. This, and the films dramatic ending, is where the animated short is up for interpretive discussion as the real villain in the scenario is not the boy or girl on the date, but their own expectations of how the evening could go.
Ingo presents this through his editing, purposefully trying to emulate the feeling of expectation. “Whenever you are expecting to go to an event – say, on Friday – over the course of the week, you have a certain picture of what the event will look like,” he explains. “But, when you get to the actual event, it’s never going to match the image in your head, but that image doesn’t disappear it sticks around and can inform your experience of the event itself during the event itself. So your brain comfortably contains both the romanticised, untold version of the event, as well what really happened… So the date was supposed to feel like a projection or a memory, different timelines of what may, or may not, have happened overlapping and intertwining to display a convoluted, human version of what happened."
This, in turn, is the crux of 2012’s winding, confusing but ultimately can’t-look-away narrative that has held viewers with an equally intrinsic animation process to match its storyline.
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