Assignment n3: Milk of Amnesia (Film Analysis)

Milk of Amnesia is a vibrant rotoscoped watercolour film with a smooth flow, or as Fore descibes it, a “fast-paced, narratively fragmentary barrage of largely representation scenes”. (Fore, “Romancing the Rotocope”) The assemblage-based animation consists of a wide range of diverse scenes divided in short (1-5sec) shots that work as paintings by themselves, which is why the director prefers to call his works “motion paintings”. The backgrounds are constantly undergoing strokes of changes, establishing a flashy feel. Despite of its rough and dispersed nature, the film manages to maintain strong consistency. The coherent cadence of the motion picture is achieved through a unifying skillful usage of a blend between fast-paced time intervals and a rotoscoping technique with a rough drawing style and emphasis on movement. Every element is rather implied than depicted, causing “tension between individual frame and the whole”. Facial features and expressions of characters are never clear, while their bodies are often just a silhouette. Even though Scher uses multiple drawing/painting tools, such as pencil, watercolour, pen, marker and collage, the overall aesthetic of the film is homogeneous. The iconic relationship with original source is preserved, but the degree varies from mimetic line drawings to abstract configurations of colour, shape and line. These variations are developed in cycles alternating clarity with unclarity in a looping manner. Scenes are often united by an associative principle through a common movement, e.g. rotation (when swimmers are jumping, when ballerinas are dancing, when kids are swinging). Individual drawings are recycled periodically.

For our Documentary project, we decided to incorporate watercolour rotoscoping as an animation technique. So far I have executed two experiments using the method:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygBA47PFRkg
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1-PetZOq48

Reflecting on the faults of my attempt in the context of Scher’s successful works with the same technique played a good role in forming conclusions on how to improve my watercolor rotoscoping. A major mistake of the second test is that it does not put a strong enough emphasis on movement, but depicts surroundings, shapes and colours instead. What needs to be in focus is the drumming of the musician and the dancing silhouette of the girl. Even if the actions are represented through abstractions in a few of the frames, as long as the sensation of motion is persistent, the film will work, as exemplified in Scher’s film. However, as abstract as Jeff’s imagery can be, his human figures are always filled tightly with colour. In my second clip, the figures of both the drummer and the girl are often barely filled, which destroys the solidness of the image sequence. This is a main reason why my first clip is more successful, as there, the character stands out on the white background, and not vice versa. Moreover, the footage used for the second clip is that of a shaky camera. This creates unpleasantly sudden jumps of shots which could be avoided by using still camera footage for reference. Most importantly, I should prepare with more patience for my next rotoscoping session to plan and compose each frame properly and cut out less frames when depicting figures in a wide shot.
Works Cited

Fore, S. “Romancing the Rotoscope: Self-Reflexivity and the Reality Effect in the Animations of Jeff Scher.” Animation 2.2 (2007): 111-27. Web.

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