When Dutch motion designer and animation director Erwin Van Den IJssel was commissioned by creative festival Playgrounds to make this year’s titles, the organisers had just decided to move the event online for the first time. The Playgrounds team wanted to provide a sense of community and inspiration for the swathes of designers working from home and struggling during the crisis, and in turn, Erwin knew from the outset that his treatment should celebrate the aesthetics associated with our shared situation.
“From the start I wanted to do something highly collaborative, and something that would feature the current circumstances rather than hide them," Erwin explains. "To create kind of a tribute to working from home, together." The same day he spoke to the festival, the director was in a meeting with his colleagues at production house The Panics, and quickly realised his chosen format. "It struck me how everyone is suddenly looking at the same thing; these online grids of different webcam views, little portals into everyone's homes. I thought it would be interesting to combine this very modern thing that we have suddenly all become very familiar with, with something as traditional as stop motion animation."
Erwin set about planning the animation and creating the 962 stills, then dividing the sequence into different parts. These were then printed and distributed to all of his 22 participants at The Panics, who pop up throughout the titles holding up their collection of frames. The whole thing took three weeks to make, including sound design and music by Amp.Amsterdam.
The process wasn't without hiccups, of course. With all the print shops closed, printing was done at home too, but with almost 1000 pages to print there were some "technical difficulties" including Erwin having to clean something serendipitously called a corona wire in his printer... it also meant they had no access to a borderless printer, so the team had to manually cut all the pages (that's 3848 edges, if you're interested). Erwin learned a lot, he says, but "embarrassingly, my biggest challenge (but ultimate victory!) was figuring out how to print double-sided in the right orientation for the final shot. I'm honestly ashamed of how many wrong attempts this took."
Having seen some "great Zoom memes" and the like, Erwin says he hadn't seen a similar approach to Zoom stop-motion yet, but was "kind of afraid that I would wake up one day to find that someone else had created something similar!" Nevertheless with the ongoing lockdowns, this project is ultimately very relatable, he says, "so I really hope we get to see more clever, unexpected ways of using this format".
The final results are a testament to creativity in any conditions, not to mention an innovative use of Zoom. "More importantly," Erwin concludes, "we just had so much fun creating this together. At least for ourselves, making these titles has been a way to make a little light out of an otherwise quite serious situation. I hope it does the same for people who watch it."
GalleryErwin Van Den IJssel and The Panics: Playgrounds festival titles
Erwin Van Den IJssel and The Panics: Playgrounds festival titles