Multi-award winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Chris Hinton is a master of technique. This charismatic professor of animation at Montreal’s Concordia University is a director who moves easily from indie work to commercials to filmmaking at the National Film Board. Chris has animated, written, directed and produced over a dozen NFB films, including Blowhard (1978), Lady Fran-ces Simpson (1978), Giordano (1985), Oscar®-nominated Blackfly (1991) and Watching TV (1994). As an independent filmmaker, Chris has animated and directed The Gift (1981), Fiprecan (1983), A Piece of the Action (1983), A Nice Day in the Country (1988), Twang (2002), Flux (2002), Before and After (2003), Oscar®-nominated Nibbles (2003) and cNote (2004).
cNote brought Chris together with another creative mind, Michael Oesterle, an award-winning “new music” composer. They matched the dynamic and animated movement of visual art with the bold musical strokes of the modern classical composition. In 2006, cNote garnered a Genie Award for Best Animated Short. The magic this animated pas de deux created could not end there! Following this success, Chris and Michael wanted to work together again and Véronique Lacroix, Artistic Director of Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, connected them to the right opportunity: the double celebrations of the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City (1608-2008) and the naming of Liverpool, UK as the European Capital of Culture for 2008. Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal will present Ciné Transat which will feature the works of three composers and filmmakers from Québec City, Montreal and Liverpool. Michael and Chris will be working together to represent Montreal by combining animation and music built around the theme, Urbanité
Michael Oesterle started to write a special three-part concerto that will be played during the celebration and serves as the base for Chris’s new creative explosion. Influenced by the Futurist and the Abstract Expressionist movements in art, Chris developed Chromaconcerto, his new visually- appealing eleven-minute film over one year, going back and forth to develop the right imagery. He created and combined many short sequences to finally produce a piece that was minimalist by design and taking the opposite approach of bright colours, special effects and complex camera moves.
"I wanted the animation to be very simple, reflecting the subtleties of the piano and the delicacies of the music. It is a quiet piece done in a graceful fashion as ultimately, we want to provide the audience with a new way of listening to the music and engaging them in a manner they didn’t expect! For the audience, it will be a completely new experience. Not only will they be more engaged but also they will be more connected to the music. Synchronization is critical to have the right impact.
In order for the orchestra to play live music with animation on the big screen, I needed to create visual cues on the film to prepare the conductor for what is coming. With my careful selection these cues, it is possible to create anticipation for the audience to hear the music differently. It was interesting to me to note that Michael found the music different to listen to when it was played in sync with the animated images. I have placed visual cues on selected sounds that would not be as interesting, which creates surprises and anticipation and keeps the audience interested from beginning to end. You can never anticipate what is coming as it works against everything you could imagine.
I created the animation with Toon Boom Studio, making full use of the drawing tools. Some global camera moves were also done in Studio. However, I knew exactly the values of depth of field I needed to have to get the right positioning so I was creating my drawings accordingly. Studio works spectacularly for me.
I have also created background cycles of 20 to 30 drawings in Photoshop that are similar but not identical and that move subtly to bring additional energy. All compositing was done in After Effects,” explained Chris.
Chromaconcerto has been completed recently and will be used in conjunction with the original score as well as a new one. The synchronization needs to be checked for that second option but we are confident that Chris has all the cues neces-sary to make it a masterpiece on its own. Chro- maconcerto will also be submitted to festivals and will surely cause juries to rave.
"Chromaconcerto has triggered huge interest from the music community. We are discussing the idea of making animated shorts as well as musical works from two or three composers available on the net for people to create their own musical experience,” stated Chris.
Chris is already working on an even more daring project. In addition to combining animation and music, he is now adding a new dimension: dance. Inspired by Montreal Jose Navas’ dance company, Compagnie Flak, Chris plans to use images shot in 4k as a natural platform to experiment with animated motion, saying "Animation and natural human motion will blend into one in perfect harmony, having the visual art highlight the beauty of the dance and music." This is another artistic endeavour that Chris will approach with skill, enthusiasm and brilliance.
Case study / March 2007