Feature: Reader's Digest

Posted by Rebekah Cook on

Dutch animator Quentin Haberham, who is currently studying at the National Film and Television School in the UK created this short in only three days for a student project, about an unsuspecting bookworm betrayed by the object of his affection. His pixilation film is a fascinating combination of human puppetry, object animation, and a custom-built 3D set.

Constructing the set for Reader's Digest

Colorfully layered walls and foreground props keep each camera angle from looking flat. Close up shots of the yellow book follow a pointed gaze from the actor (00:32), and more emphasis is given whenever the manual focus ring is used (00:15), drawing attention from background to foreground.

Readers of Stopmotion Explosion may be familiar with pixilation, which involves animating real-life objects and people one frame at a time, instead of using miniature figures. Digital still cameras are typically used for this. The images are then converted into video files using a frame conversion program.

Many pixilation animation techniques can be seen in this film. Note how the character "slides" across the floor, instead of taking steps. (Some animators have their characters jump in the air every time they capture a frame, creating the illusion of flight). From the actor's entrance, to his disappearing act inside the cupboard, the animation is excellent. The book throw (00:45) is especially smooth, which could have been done by a capturing several frames with a high shutter speed (click click click!), or possibly erasing a holding rig frame by frame during the edit (more time-consuming!).

Acting, or live modeling, for this branch of animation is not for the fidgety of heart. To compensate for distracting micro-movements, facial expressions and scripted actions are exaggerated both for dramatic effect and to draw attention to the desired detail on screen.

Behind the scenes of Reader's Digest

The bookstore itself plays the villain, luring its patrons into a clever ambush. The pipe on the ground alludes to a previous victim, while the cheerful bell at the end announces the next one. The sound design helps tell the story, too. The soft woodwind melody hints of both casual curiosity and impending danger. Throaty groans from the bookcase give a disturbing realism to the effects we can't quite believe.

See how the stacks of books on the cabinet fall and rise as they chase and drag the reader through the hungry doors? Next time I visit an old bookshop I'll insist a friend come along for back-up....