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Loving film, Loving Vincent

Film is a magic trick; twenty four frames per second are projected to create the illusion of movement. In the days before digital projection you could look at the strips of celluloid and see those individual still images.

Traditional animation requires each of those images to be drawn and coloured, a mammoth task to produce even the shortest piece of film: 1,440 frames for a mere minute of screen time. So monumental an undertaking is it that people thought Walt Disney’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a foolhardy venture. Thankfully for him and the future of animated film making Seven Dwarfs was an enormous success.

Today, the majority of animated features are computer generated in part or in whole; but traditional methods still endure. The films produced by Japanese Studio Ghibli are an absolute wonder to behold and Britain’s own Aardman Studios still delight with the likes of Wallace and Gromit, using stop frame animation to bring pieces of plasticine to vibrant life.

Loving Vincent (2017) has taken traditional animation in an amazing new direction. The film tells the story of young postman visiting the late Vincent van Gough’s home town, where he encounters villagers who knew the troubled painter while he was alive. The tale itself is intriguing, but what sets Loving Vincent apart is the way in which it has been made.

Every frame of the film is an oil painting in the style of van Gough’s work. Live actors were filmed and then a team of 100 artists transformed the footage into paintings. 853 paintings were created and used multiple times to produce the film’s 65,000 frames. This technique is a world first for animation. Whether the subject matter interests you or not, the craftsmanship involved is something to admire.

Tom Brookes

From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 26th February 2018.

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