Monday, December 19, 2016

Monochrome Music, part 1

It's easy to believe that black & white films are a dead art form. Modern audiences are so conditioned to believe that color is "superior" to black & white that almost all motion pictures and television shows are now filmed in color. Every few years a director will film a major motion picture in black & white – mostly for the shock effect – but that's simply the exception that proves the rule.

However, somewhat surprisingly, beautiful black & white films are still being made… in the form of music videos. This might strike you as strange: music videos tend to embrace innovation, so why would they employ something as old-fashioned as black & white?

Music videos differ from theatrical films in that they have a ready-made audience (the fans of the featured performer) who generally don't have to pay anything to see the video. Someone who would never buy a ticket to a black & white movie will probably watch a black & white music video without complaint. This allows music video directors to add black & white to their arsenal of creative techniques.

Feli – Creioane colorate (2015)

One of the most striking ways to use black & white is to combine black & white and color elements in the same scene. "Creioane colorate" (Coloured pencils), from Romanian singer Feli, does this beautifully.

English lyrics:

Super Junior – Sorry, Sorry (2009)

The black & white imagery in "Sorry, Sorry," from South Korean pop group Super Junior, emphasizes the shape of the dancers as they move… especially in the backlit shots where the dancers are seen only as silhouettes.

English lyrics:

Madonna – Vogue (1990)

Madonna's "Vogue" uses black & white to evoke the cool elegance of high society.

Silent Siren – Kakumei (2014)

The technical term for black & white is "monochrome" (one color), but black is not the only color that can be used. This video from Silent Siren, an all-girl pop/rock band from Japan, uses both traditional black & white shots as well as color shots where the colors are so muted that the scenes are nearly monochrome themselves. These muted color shots are reminiscent of old-time sepia-tone photographs.

English lyrics:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Observing Human Nature, part 1

One of the most common themes in short films is observing human nature. These films can be humorous (when poking fun at our eccentricities), contemplative (when examining our more serious sides), or even depressing (when confronting the darker aspects of humanity)... but they are almost always thought-provoking.

Alarm (2009)

This hilarious animated film comes from the Mesai animation group in South Korea. A young man faces a situation that many of us can sympathize with, at least to some extent. But, fortunately, most of us don't have the extreme reaction that this guy does.


Perfection (2004)

This live-action film is a cautionary tale about the obsessive pursuit of perfection... using the children's game of the same name. From ZuZu Films, written & directed by Karen Lin.


Empathy (2016)

This animated film gently examines how we often see only what we want to see, instead of what is really there. It was created at Canada's Vancouver Film School.

Monsterbox (2012)

In this heartwarming animated film from the Bellecour Écoles D´Art in France, a shopkeeper must deal with a troublesome customer... and her, er, pet monsters.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Live-Action Animation

Creative short films can be divided into two general categories: traditional live-action films where the actors play out their roles in real time in front of a movie/video camera, and animated films where the film is created one frame at a time using various artistic techniques (drawings, paintings, computer generated graphics, etc.).

It is possible, however, to create an animated film using live actors, via the stop motion technique. In a stop motion film, the actors and other props are carefully positioned, and then a single still photograph is taken which will become one frame of the final film. The actors and props are then moved slightly and another still photograph is taken. This continues until all of the frames for the film have been photographed, which can require several thousand photographs even for a short film.

Actors who appear in a stop motion film can find the experience tedious and uncomfortable, but the resulting films can be quite startling.


Unfortunately, there is no information available for this quirky little film.

DI-RECT – Still Life

Created by photographer Mark Janssen and director Mink Pinster, this film was inspired by the song "Still Life" by the Dutch band DI-RECT, and uses that song as its background music. Over 3,000 photographs were taken to create this film, with actress Sigrid ten Napel, her hair, and the various props and background elements carefully repositioned between each photo.

Kina Grannis – In Your Arms

This incredible music video for "In Your Arms" features an animated background created with thousands of multi-colored jelly beans, with singer Kina Grannis performing and interacting with the background art. It was all done with stop motion photography: the singer had to lay on a sheet of glass above the jelly beans and be carefully posed for each of the nearly 2,500 photos that were needed to create the film.

The second video takes you behind the scenes to show just how this film was made.

By the numbers:
22 months
2,460 frames
1,357 hours
30 people
2 ladders
1 still camera
288,000 jelly beans


This film, made from over 4,000 still photographs, was created by students at a Japanese high school for their school's cultural festival. A cultural festival is an event in which the public is invited to visit the school to view exhibits and entertainments prepared by the various classes.

There are no subtitles for this film, so there are small parts of the film that you won't be able to understand (unless you happen to be fluent in Japanese), but that shouldn't prevent you from enjoying this crazy and inventive film.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Domino Art

Although this blog is primarily concerned with creative short films, there are also short films that merely record creative endeavors produced in another medium.

The Amazing Triple Spiral (15,000 Dominoes)

The Domino art presented in this film is not the largest or the most complicated Domino toppling setup ever created... but it is one of the best examples of this art form.

The Amazing Triple Spiral in REVERSE!

Here's the same setup with the video running backwards, so you can watch as the Dominoes magically reassemble themselves.

Domino Toppling is an Art Form

In this video, the creator of the Domino art featured above answers those critics who claim that Domino art is not really a legitimate art form.

Life as a Series of Games

Domino art is not limited to just being used as a strange form of kinetic art. In the following animated film, created at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, Domino toppling is used as a narrative device to lead the viewer through a series of games that depict the various stages of life.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Film Festival Promos

Film Festivals will often commission short films to be used for purposes such as promotional trailers. These films tend to be both extremely short (often with run times of less than a minute) and quite inventive. Here are five that I like.

First up are two trailers from the Raindance Film Festival.

The Raindance Film Festival in London is the largest and most important independent film festival in the United Kingdom. Raindance showcases features, shorts, and music videos by filmmakers from the UK and around the world.

Raindance Trailer 2006

"Daughter" is a quirky little film from Japan with a great tag line at the end.

Raindance Trailer 2013

This trailer is the longest film in this set (run time 1:45), and is one of the funniest short films I've seen.

Next we have three films produced by Gobelins for the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. These films open the daily screening during the festival (a different film is used each day). The Annecy Festival, held in Annecy, France, is the world's top reference for animation films.

Annecy Opener 2007

"Keep Walking" uses a variety of art & animation styles to celebrate the simple act of walking.

Annecy Opener 2011

"Jazzin'" features an energetic 1930's-era jazz dancer.

Annecy Opener 2014

"Hors champ" is unusual in that it is a dark, bleak film... something that is difficult to do convincingly with a run time of less than a minute. The film concerns a cameraman who is filming on the front lines of World War I. (Advisory: graphic violence)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Exploring the World of Short Films

As an art form, the short film has long suffered from a lack of exposure to the general public. They are too short to be shown in movie theaters (outside of the occasional anthology film that collects several short films into a full-length movie), and their varying running times makes it difficult to work them into a TV schedule.

With the advent of video sharing sites such as YouTube this all changed. Short films now have a platform that makes them easily available on a world-wide basis. And, because many short films are not created as commercial products, producers are often eager to post their creations online. The result is that there are literally thousands of short films now legally available for online viewing.

In this blog I'll be sharing some of the short films that I've enjoyed. I won't claim that any of these films are the "best" in any sense, but I do hope that people will find them interesting. I thought I would start off by presenting my current favorite short films in four separate categories: hand-drawn animation, computer-generated animation, live action, and music video.

Out of Sight (2010)

This wonderful and charming film was a graduation project created by three students at the National Taiwan University of Arts. They brilliantly used hand-drawn animation to depict how a blind child perceives the world around her, and how her imagination envisions that world.

More information about this film:

Nebula (2014)

This computer-generated animation tells the story of an unlikely meeting. The musical soundtrack is particularly well done. The film was created at the famous French visual arts school Gobelins L'école de L'Image (Gobelins, the school of visual communication).

More information about this film:

Lila (2014)

This beautiful and creative live-action film by Carlos Lascano is about an artist with a vivid imagination, who can find the inspiration for her art almost anywhere. I dare you watch this film without smiling at least once... (I don't think it's possible).

More information about this film:

Tiny-G - Minimanimo (2013)

This upbeat and energetic music video comes from the South Korean pop group Tiny-G. Tiny-G had an unusual premise for a pop music group: all of the girls were quite short (I believe that the tallest was only 5 ft 2 in tall)! Weird premise notwithstanding, these girls made good music, but sadly were only active for about three years and only released a handful of songs.

Most of this song is sung in Korean, but if you listen closely you'll hear a few phrases in English. This is fairly common in both Korean and Japanese pop music, as both countries have a fascination with the English language.

English lyrics for this song: