Have you ever seen a stop motion movie? The Nightmare before Christmas, Coraline? The process of making these movies is very time-consuming. Imagine making all the figures, sets and having to shoot the scenes one by one. If you have mistakes, then you might have to do it all over again. As an artist, it is common to strive for perfection. Even I would admit there was a list of small details I refused to let go over the years. But does it matter how much time we put into a piece of art? What if the process can be shortened with technology? Does that make the art less valued?
I came over an article introducing Protocube, a company that produces 3D printed colour figurines that are used for stop animation productions. The process is simplified, accurate and more efficient.
As you can see, the product is indeed very impressive, it is detailed and thoughtfully designed. All of this is done by computer and machinery, it is just one of the amazing things that 3D printing can do.
I have reservations when it comes to 3D printing for art. Though I like the idea of it, it always bothers me how the process is so much more simplified than it used to be. Take animations, for example, in the older days you have 2D animations, you draw it completely by hands. Now, with technology, you can use computers for more accurate graphics. Then came 3D animation, a process that simplifies the repetitive work that you can find when drawing the same element over and over again. To me, the spark is somehow gone.
Here is the making of a stop motion video. You can see that they have used the laser cutting technology when making the characters, but other things were all done by hand, the background, gifts, trees, snow etc.
John Lewis ‘The Bear & The Hare’ – The Making Of from Blink on Vimeo
This is Hayao Miyazaki, one of the greatest animator of our generation. His animation takes dedication, time and countless hours of revising, testing, and improving. I have been fasinated by his work since I was a child and he has embedded the idea of craftsmanship in my head. Somehow, it has affected me on how I see the evolution of craft making itself. Everything is technology oriented nowadays. You can build everything with computers, an algorithm that is suppose to enhance our lives, make everything easier. If everything can just become an equation, we have already lost the essence in our craft.
Come up with an idea for a new Disney movie, learn how to draw in 3D softwares and skip the whole ‘frame by frame’ process. Why? Because it is less time consuming and saves the studio much more money than 2D animation. Have you see any new 2D animation feature films lately? I haven’t. With art comes money, but it also costs money. Maybe in the end we forget that artists don’t make the decisions, the sponsors do. Try to be independent and make your own traditional stop motion film or 2D animation, you will feel great. But you might also feel broke, and overshadowed by the mainstream productions.
I find myself in a crossroad here. I am fascinated by the complexity of 3D printing, but I am also grieving for the disappearing art forms that will soon become history through time. Perhaps there is some lines that I will not cross, especially when it comes to art. Art restoration is different from creating a new piece of art. The prior is to restore the work by someone else, accuracy is the foremost important, so 3D printing is the way to go. The later should not be a process that shortens with time, unless you are creating 3D printing art instead of replacing another art form, it shouldn’t be different because it makes less profit. It is art, and art should not be defined by how much money it can make. If that’s the most important thing than everyone should just go make movies like 50 shades of grey, that’s a great piece of art that our generation should remember, a great piece of sh*t.