MassiveMusic Amsterdam have teamed up with waterMelon and Czar Digital to help bring Designer and Animator Klaas-Harm de Boer’s charming Octomadness Zoetrope to life.
Taking inspiration from the work of Ghibli and Pixar, the waterMelon team challenged themselves to create a 3D printed Zoetrope for the 2014 KLIK animation festival in Amsterdam. MassiveMusic Amsterdam produced the installation’s soundtrack, as well as creating the music for the project’s accompanying film.
“The zoetrope was kind of like a personal project, I wanted to do something that was fun and involved 3D printing,” says Klaas. “When I saw the zoetrope at the Ghibli museum, which had been hand sculpted piece by piece, I just thought “Wow, that would be fun to do!”. I came up with a design and proposed the idea to my friends, one of whom works for KLIK. She said yes to showcasing the idea at KLIK, which was a really nice place to make it for and the ideal place to show it off.”
Armed with a desire to turn animation into something real, Klaas and his team constructed Octomadness - a combination of 3D animation and 3D printing which has been sawn, painted and glued together. The resulting zoetrope – which is typically an animation device that, when turned in a circular direction, creates the illusion of motion – features 64 unique characters, grandly topped off by a majestic pink octopus.
As the zoetrope turns it creates the mesmeric illusion of live motion. Three tiers of skateboarding birds, strutting monsters and morphing dancers were constructed to demonstrate the power and freedom of animation.
“At the time I was challenging myself with character design, experimenting with designing characters in 3D. I’ve been doing that for 10 years but I always want to do more with character design,” says Klaas. “It was a bit of snowball effect, in that I drew the characters then came up with the idea. Although I already had a few characters made, I came up with a bunch of new ones for Octomadness with which I experimented with their behaviour and their personalities, but it was also important for them to move nicely.”
He adds “There’s no specific reason to why I chose the octopus, it just seemed fun. I started drawing characters that I liked, one of which just so happened to be an octopus. With the arms, I could see how it was going to move so it became the most prominent piece. It’s all coincidence really, which I guess is part of the creative process.”
The MassiveMusic team, comprised of Joep Beving, Producer Moos Lamerus and Musician Tom Tukker, were brought on board by Czar Digital’s Digital Producer Vincent Lindeboom, who says “When I told Joep about the project he immediately said “Wow, we’ve got to do this!”. From the first time I spoke to him I understood that MassiveMusic are pioneering in different dimensions, one of them being the physical domain - they’re up for an experiment.”
MassiveMusic Producer Moos comments “It’s a pretty unique concept and the great thing about it was that we could really go in any direction, it was a physical installation that needed music. The Zoetrope needed a soundtrack, so the problem was what does this particular Zoetrope sound like?”
With his own ideas as to the style of music that would suit the Zoetrope, Klaas took three electronic tracks to Moos and the team. With the tracks placed firmly in their heads, the MassiveMusic team were given the freedom to create a sound that they thought would fit seamlessly with the installation and, with Klaas’ character designs kept in mind, the team came up with an entirely original soundtrack.
Moos says “After talking and sharing a lot of examples of music with each other, we came to the general consensus of what kind of feel was the right fit for the installation. We wanted the track to be really in sync with the different phases of the zoetrope to create this cycle that could go on forever. At first the zoetrope is completely still before it slowly begins to rotate. Then the stroboscope comes on, goes off and the rotation slows down, ending in no motion - and we wanted to capture that in our track.”
The installation was programmed into a small computer which could control the whole cycle, meaning everybody knew what was going to happen and at what time; the timing of the engine, lights and music were all under control. The music from MassiveMusic could be imported straight into the routine, who knew the timing of everything and were therefore able to make the perfect track so that, as the musical climax hits, the strobe lighting would kick in.
“The project brought with it some hardware challenges, like what kind of sound quality were we to expect, what frequency range and how do we keep the music player in sync with each successive loop of the Zoetrope. We had a lot of fun experimenting with that,” says Moos. “It forced us to approach it from a different angle and take into account certain constraints that you normally wouldn’t have, but because of these novel constraints the process becomes more creative. In the end that’s what it’s all about, solving a great challenge with your music.”
“The music adds a whole new layer to the project, I think it brings everything together and finishes it off,” says Klaas. “We exhibited it in a location that didn’t have big speakers so we had to turn it down and when you look at the project without music it’s a completely different experience! In the end it’s a really cool experience to see yourself make something like this. I was surprised, because what started out as just an idea ended up being a project with a 20-strong team. It’s a very nice experience and my dad was really proud!”
He adds “When you have a dream, you wake up and you think you want to make that but you can never make it exactly right. With the music, I had an idea in my mind about how I wanted it to be but I couldn’t get it exactly right and that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to see what other people come up with. It’s a very organic process. For me it was my first time working with MassiveMusic and they nailed it. I talked to Joep about the project for a little bit and he assigned Moos and Tom. When they came over I explained the project to them and they really quickly had an idea of what to make. I was surprised at how well – and how just how quickly - Tom came up with music, it was definitely a nice experience.”
“Right down to the last day we were making tweaks but Tom was available to quickly adjust the music, making sure it was perfect just in time for the show. It was really nice to work with them from a production side of things,” says Vincent. “The important thing is choosing the right person for each project and Tom fitted this style well. It was a pleasure to work with Massive. We’d really love to do another project like this, taking all the lessons we learned here and put it into another one.”