SIGGRAPH animated shorts

What is it?

A session of internationally-sourced digitally animated short films that screened earlier this evening as part of the 2011 Melbourne International Animation Festival. The festival runs until this coming Sunday at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

What did we think?

Despite suffering from the mixed quality that often ails short film groupings, the SIGGRAPH highlights nevertheless offers an interesting selection of films that demonstrate the extraordinary diversity possible within the still-emerging artform of digital animation. Some real gems stand out in the mix, combining neat stories with sublime visual aesthetics. The session was touted as an “annual wrap-up of hi-end, hi-concept digital splendours” and does not fail to deliver.

Our favourites include:

Nuit Blanche, by Arev Manoukian, for draping the skeleton of a simple story with an immaculate film noir musculature. The animation is in most parts hyper-real, somehow more substantial than the everyday – we can forgive the film for dedicating most of its 4 minutes and 39 seconds to the slow motion capture of water splashing, wine spilling and glass shattering because it does them so well. Watch the film here.

The Sandpit, by Sam O’Hare, does not in fact use digital animation, rather 35,000 tilt-shift photographs of New York taken across five days of continuous shooting. The crisp light, awkward movement and extreme depth of field imbue the film with the sense that the city has been miniaturised – a surreal impression to have of one of the world’s most vibrant and densely populated urban environments. Click here to watch the film, with superb musical score composed by Human.

Loom, by Ilja Brunck, Jan Bitzer and Csaba Letay, is an intensely choreographed piece that tracks “a successful catch”. Part nature-study and part techno thriller, the entire film is composed of extreme close-ups that successfully thrust the audience into the heart of the action. The jarring soundtrack and washed-out colours further disassociate the spider’s web from any real sense of place – the catch is a visceral act that obeys purely biological imperatives. Watch the film here.

Finally, Verena Fels’ Mobile presents a lighthearted and energetic film about a collection of farm animals suspended from a child’s mobile. The story is more than a little reminiscent of Pixar’s Birds, however Fels carves her own playful niche, imbuing each of her soft toy animals with personality and verve. Unfortunately, the film is not available online, however a trailer is viewable here.

The Melbourne International Animation Festival may not be as well-patronised as its big brother, the Melbourne International Film Festival (kicking off next month), but we are glad we put in the effort on a cold winter’s night to check it out. It offers rare insight into today’s cutting edge animation and, we are certain, tomorrow’s mainstream cinema.

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