Animation students at Carnegie Mellon University were recently tasked with reimagining classic film footage of a galloping horse from the late 19th century. They did not disappoint, drawing on Burger King, space aliens, rainbow centaurs, and modern art for inspiration.
Still from animation by Natalie Moss
The footage in question was taken by British photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge. He was asked to settle a bet for the Governor of California, Leland Stanford, who insisted that when a horse gallops, at a particular point all four feet are off the ground simultaneously. Aside from one brief distraction — Muybridge was tried and acquitted for killing his wife’s lover, in the O.J. Simpson trial of the 19th century — he devoted himself to the task, and succeeded in photographing a horse galloping, using 24 cameras, each triggered by the breaking of a trip wire on the course. The images proved the governor right.
Rotoscoping is a technique whereby the animator painstakingly traces over film footage, frame by frame. It was used a lot in 1930s cartoons (including Disney’s Snow White), and more recently in the music video for Ah-Ha’s 1980s hit, “Take on Me,” and Richard Linklater’s 2006 film, A Scanner Darkly. And now CMU professor Paolo Pedercini’s students have put rotoscoping to good use re-imagining Muybridge’s iconic footage from the 1870s. What’s your favourite?