Bristol-based stop motion artist Roos Mattaar has been busily working away on her latest animation, a music video for experimental rock band ‘My Octopus Mind.’ The animation is a surreal journey to a mysterious planet where a mechanical being is hard at work, creating a machine. We sat down for a cuppa with Roos to find out more about how she came up with the ideas, puppets and imagery for a music video that is truly out of this world.
How did you get involved in the project and how much input did you have in the story for the music video?
I got in touch with the band through my friends Heather Colbert and Marie Lechevallier, both fellow stop motion animators and members of our shared stop motion space ‘Hangar Puppet Animation Studio’. Marie knew the band very well and had been working with them to compose music for her own upcoming film but was busy animating at Aardman. She passed it on to Heather, who just completed several beautiful animated music videos, but it wasn’t the right timing for her. So the opportunity was passed over and I took it on.
When I got the project, Liam O’Connell, the lead singer of the band, already had several ideas about the story he wanted to portray with this song. It was still only a concept though, and there was a lot of creative freedom to add my own ideas, interpretations and suggestions to form the final story.
The central idea was about a maniac welder, who is the main character. He is creating a machine to turn himself into a flying man, but finally comes crashing back down to earth. The second character is ‘Earth Moma’, a powerful wild diva that morphs between a planet and a woman. From that starting point and after an initial discussion, I was free to create my own vision.
How was the main puppet designed and made?
The main welder character is almost fully made from metal, showing the exposed ball and socket joints on the armature and built using found objects and tin cans for the rest of his body and face. Aardman Animations had kindly donated their spare, unwanted armature parts and metal cut offs as a gift to our new stop motion studio space here at Hangar Puppet Animation Studio. So, I started out rummaging through piles of junk metal and old armature parts, and used what I could find to re-purpose and re-build to make them into a new character.
I looked at existing images for inspiration and did some rough sketches, but mostly I tried to just let him evolve from what I found, making it up along the way. The core of him is the armature silver soldered together, then I used some model board for sections around his hips and torso, making shapes out of weathered tin cans. Some final details are made of leather, wire, mesh, etc.
You create some pretty neat practical special effects. Can you tell us about these?
Thank you. I had a lot of fun with the practical effects. I ended up using quite a variety of methods and materials for the different smoke, fire, stars, etc. For example I filmed one of the guys next door to our studio as he was welding, just keeping the background dark, and then also took still pictures with a short shutter speed which became the stars of the space environment. All the elements in space are from real photographs, only placed into a digital 3d space.
For the main smoke effects I used paint squirted into a fish tank. I saw the effect used in old films by Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman and had been wanting to try it. It is such a simple idea, but so effective. Other than the paint effect I also just filmed the steam of a tea kettle, smoke from incense, etc. I also used wire wool in various ways: burning wire wool creates a really interesting twirling fire effect, which I used on top of the glowing textures in Mother Earth’s belly. I also filmed the little dust particles falling from the wire wool when rubbing it, which became fire sparks when the welder is close to the fire. I really enjoyed experimenting and coming up with the different methods to achieve the effects I wanted. The most challenging thing, I think, was to combine and make it all work in the final composite in After Effects, and it all became quite a lot to handle for my laptop.
What’s next for you?
I have been working on developing a new personal stop motion project between jobs, which I’m hoping to get off the ground through one or another funding route. Fingers crossed. The film will be about dark emotional experiences, told as a metaphorical fantastical story. Meanwhile I am excited to be going off to Wroclaw in Poland next month (July) to animate on the short film ‘A great worry’, based on a Polish children’s book and directed by Zbigniew Kotecki.
I have some non-animation related model making coming up after that and will be doing some more animating for the stop motion short film ‘Tregeagle’, directed by my friend Simon Tytherleigh. There should be some puppet making for another film as well, and hopefully developing my short film further somewhere in between.