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Strata-cut animation

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Strata-cut animation

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Strata-cut animation is a form of clay animation (itself one of many forms of stop motion animation).

Strata-cut (with or without a hyphen, also spelled "straticut") animation is most commonly a form of clay animation in which a long bread-like "loaf" of clay, internally packed tight and loaded with varying imagery, is sliced into thin sheets, with the animation camera taking a frame of the end of the loaf for each cut, eventually revealing the movement of the internal images within.

Pioneered in both clay and blocks of wax by German animator Oskar Fischinger during the 1920s and 30s, the technique was revivied and highly refined in the mid-90s by California-Oregon animator David Daniels, a past associate of Will Vinton, in his mind-numbing 16-minute short film Buzz Box. Daniels has also used it as background imagery as other forms of animation or live action is superimposed over it.

Designing the interior contents of a clay block (or wax block, which is more difficult to use, as it is less malleable than clay) is a complex art form in and of itself. Obviously, abstract images and patterns are easier to do than recognizable images or character-driven moving images. Both the pace and forms of the movements of the internal imagery have to be considered when building the block (or loaf). A kind of non-high-tech "underground" quality of the all-moving imagery is usually the result, which has its own level of charm, unique to that process.

Interesting abstract images can be created by folding strips of different-colored clay together, and then flattening them out again so they can be folded again, repeating this process until the final result is a relatively tight mosiac of "weaved" patterns, interesting to the eye, even in its static (unmoving) form, but even more so when animated via the strata-cut process. Eventually, a series of blocks of these mosiacs can be combined into single blocks (loafs) and also combined with non-abstract imagery.

Although David Daniels' Buzz Box film is his showcase for all these techniques, he has also used variations of them for a variety of TV commercials and bits made for the Pee Wee's Playhouse series during the mid-90s.


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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