Post by Leonie Jones, AV Program Developer
No, it’s not a joke…the answer is 7. It took 7 Powerhouse Museum staff, including 4 curators, 1 conservator, 1 registrar and 1 media producer to create the 2011 Christmas e-card.
The brief was fairly straight forward; keeping in line with the Museum’s sustainability policy, create an e-card which showcases objects from the collection. The card was to be approximately 30 seconds long. This year it was decided by members of our Curatorial department that our collection of tin toys would be the stars. A suggestion was made that perhaps stop-animation would be an interesting technique.
So, my task was to create a 30 second video of tin toys from our collection that both engaged and entertained the viewer. The first task was casting. Curator, Debbie Rudder by my side, I ventured deep into our basement storage area where a large portion of our collection objects are stored. After sorting through shelf after shelf of literally hundreds of toys, I eventually narrowed the field down to several contenders. Given that the selection were all wind-up toys, I had initially thought to make a short video of the toys each banging their little drums, clashing their symbols and flipping the pages of their song books. The next step was to clear this with our Conservation department. After receiving the go-ahead to see which of the toys was still operational, I ventured back down to the basement, again accompanied by Curator, Rebecca Bower, but this time also byConservator, Tim Wilson.
We gently removed each of our potential stars from their shelves again and, one by one, Tim gingerly wound the little keys. As I stood there I imagined that the last time many of these keys had been turned may well have been by the small children who had once owned and adored these toys. We held our collective breath only to discover that 2 of the 6 toys were still operational. Time then for a change of concept and back to the original suggestion of a stop-animation.
This decided, the objects were moved by our Registrar, Scott Winston to the Powerhouse Photographic studio for photographing. I graphed out the general movement of each of the toys across the screen and then, overseen by Tim Wilson, began the laborious task of placing and photographing each tiny movement of the little limbs and instruments as they marched across the screen. The stop motion was shot as progressive still images on a Sony NEX VG10 interchangeable lens video camera. This camera allows for stills to be shot in a native aspect of 16:9 which meant that they were a one-to-one match with our editing and output aspect.
The next task was to re-size the images to 1920 x 1080 pixels to fit HD video format and import the images into Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. I imported them at 12 frames per second and interpolated them back up to standard 25 frames per second. Various sections were time-stretched to give the video a particular cadence.
With the basic action completed, I then used Adobe After Effects CS5.5 to animate the ‘Seasons Greetings’ message in a curve across the screen. I used After Effects and a particle generator plugin to animate the sparkles which follow the writing across the screen as well.
I wanted to match the time period and age of the toys with the aesthetic quality of the image itself. So, using a range of filters from Sony Vegas I added scratches, grain, jitter, dust and flicker as well as colour correction to make it feel as though the video itself had been pulled off the shelf with the toys. I then complimented this image with a soundtrack which was a version of Jingle Bells from an old 78 record.
This technical round-tripping from Premiere Pro to Sony Vegas to After Effects and back to Premiere was done using the integrated features of Adobe CS5.5 and the Avid DNxHD lossless intermediate codec.
I like to think that the end product is ultimately very festive, a whole lot of fun and also engages people with a delightful part of our collection.
So, sit back, enjoy and from all of us at the Powerhouse Museum we wish you a safe and magical festive season.
Christmas e-card by Leonie Jones
Studio photography by Geoff Friend
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0