The stereograminator

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index
‘The pool, with the Old Man (1865?)’, animated GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator

Now here’s something of tangential interest to us, but of interest nonetheless. The New York Public Library has a collection of around 40,000 nineteenth century stereophotographs – that is pairs of photographs designed to be looked at through a stereo viewer to give an illusion of depth. Such stereo viewers were hugely popular, and large numbers of stereo cards survive in archives and libraries.

The NYPL has opened up its collection online in an ingenious way. It has digitised the entire collection for anyone to browse, but the great pleasure of course is in seeing the images in 3D, as originally intended. So they have created an online tool, the Stereograminator (great name), enabling anyone to select a pair of images, to crop and resize them as appropriate, then to convert them into an animated GIF (you can choose slow, medium or fast for the alternation of the images) and 3D anaglyph (requiring 3D glasses, of course), with the results viewable to all via their online gallery.

Anaglyph version of the above

It’s an ingenious bit of popularisation through innovation, with a bit of what we in the library world rather painfully call ‘crowdsourcing’ i.e. getting you the public to do some of our documentation work for us. Here, with the help of site visitors, the NYPL will hope to have its entire collection converted into animated GIFs, such as the one above – and over 15,000 have been created already. Having created your GIF, you can then embed it in your blog or website, as I have done above. The resultant online gallery makes for odd viewing, with all of these images wobbling at you, but it’s addictive fun.

Other, static, nineteenth century stereograph images can be found online courtesy of the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, and the University of Washington Libraries.

Looking back on 2011

News in 2011, clockwise from top left: The White Shadow, The Artist, A Trip to the Moon in colour, Brides of Sulu

And so we come to the end of another year, and for the Bioscope it is time to look back on another year reporting on the world of early and silent film. Over the twelve months we have written some 180 posts posts, or well nigh 100,000 words, documenting a year that has been as eventful a one for silent films as we can remember, chiefly due to the timeless 150-year-old Georges Méliès and to the popular discovery of the modern silent film thanks to The Artist. So let’s look back on 2011.

Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès in Hugo

Georges Méliès has been the man of the year. Things kicked off in May with the premiere at Cannes of the coloured version of Le voyage dans la lune / A Trip to the Moon (1902), marvellously, indeed miraculously restored by Lobster Films. The film has been given five star publicity treatment, with an excellent promotional book, a new score by French band Air which has upset some but pleased us when we saw it at Pordenone, a documentary The Extraordinary Voyage, and the use of clips from the film in Hugo, released in November. For, yes, the other big event in Méliès’ 150th year was Martin Scorsese’s 3D version of Brian Selznick’s children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which Méliès is a leading character. Ben Kingsley bring the man convincingly to life, and the film thrillingly recreates the Méliès studio as it pleads for us all to understand our film history. The Bioscope thought the rest of the film was pretty dire, to be honest, though in this it seems to be in a minority. But just because a film pleads the cause of film doesn’t make it a good film …

And there was more from Georges, with his great-great-grandaughter Pauline Duclaud-Lacoste Méliès producing an official website, Matthew Solomon’s edited volume Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon (with DVD extra), a conference that took place in July, and a three-disc DVD set from Studio Canal.

For the Bioscope itself things have been eventful. In January we thought a bit about changing the site radically, then thought better of this. There was our move to New Bioscope Towers in May, the addition of a Bioscope Vimeo channel for videos we embed from that excellent site, and the recent introduction of our daily news service courtesy of Scoop It! We kicked off the year with a post on the centenary of the ever-topical Siege of Sidney Street, an important event in newsreel history, and ended it with another major news event now largely forgotten, the Delhi Durbar. Anarchists win out over imperialists is the verdict of history.

Asta Nielsen in Hamlet

We were blessed with a number of great DVD and Blu-Ray releases, with multi-DVD and boxed sets being very much in favour. Among those that caught the eye and emptied the wallet were Edition Filmmuseum’s Max Davidson Comedies, the same company’s collection of early film and magic lantern slide sets Screening the Poor and the National Film Preservation Foundation’s five disc set Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938. Individual release of the year was Edition Filmmuseum’s Hamlet (Germany 1920), with Asta Nielsen and a fine new music score (Flicker Alley’s Norwegian surprise Laila just loses out because theatre organ scores cause us deep pain).

We recently produced a round-up of the best silent film publications of 2011, including such titles as Bryony Dixon’s 100 Silent Films, Andrew Shail’s Reading the Cinematograph: The Cinema in British Short Fiction 1896-1912 and John Bengston’s Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. But we should note also Susan Orlean’s cultural history Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, which has made quite an impact in the USA, though we’ve not read it ourselves as yet.

There were all the usual festivals, with Bologna championing Conrad Veidt, Boris Barnet and Alice Guy, and Pordenone giving us Soviets, Soviet Georgians, polar explorers and Michael Curtiz. We produced our traditional detailed diaries for each of the eight days of the festival. But it was particularly pleasing to see new ventures turning up, including the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema in Scotland, which launched in February and is due back in 2012. Babylon Kino in Berlin continued to make programming waves with its complete Chaplin retropective in July. Sadly, the hardy annual Slapsticon was cancelled this year – we hope it returns in a healthy state next year.

The Artist (yet again)

2011 was the year when the modern silent film hit the headlines, the The Artist enchanting all-comers at Cannes and now being touted for the Academy Award best picture. We have lost count of the number of articles written recently about a revival of interest in silent films, and their superiority in so many respects to the films of today. Jaded eyes are looking back to a (supposedly) gentler age, it seems. We’ve not seen it yet, so judgement is reserved for the time being. Here, we’ve long championed the modern silent, though our March post on Mr Bean was one of the least-read that we’ve penned in some while.

Among the year’s conferences on silent film themes there was the First International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema held in February; the Construction of News in Early Cinema in Girona in March, which we attended and from which we first experimented with live blogging; the opportunistically themed The Second Birth of Cinema: A Centenary Conference held in Newcastle, UK in July; and Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s, held in Frankfurt in September.

In the blogging world, sadly we said goodbye to Christopher Snowden’s The Silent Movie Blog in February – a reminder that we bloggers are mostly doing this for love, but time and its many demands do sometimes call us away to do other things. However, we said hello to John Bengston’s very welcome Silent Locations, on the real locations behind the great silent comedies. Interesting new websites inclued Roland-François Lack’s visually stunning and intellectually intriguing The Cine-Tourist, and the Turconi Project, a collection of digitised frames for early silents collected by the Swiss priest Joseph Joye.

The Bioscope always has a keen eye for new online research resources, and this was a year when portals that bring together several databases started to dominate the landscape. The single institution is no longer in a position to pronounce itself to be the repository of all knowledge; in the digital age we are seeing supra-institutional models emerging. Those we commented on included the Canadiana Discovery Portal, the UK research services Connected Histories and JISC Media Hub, UK film’s archives’ Search Your Film Archives, and the directory of world archives ArchiveGrid. We made a special feature of the European Film Gateway, from whose launch event we blogged live and (hopefully) in lively fashion.

Images of Tacita Dean’s artwork ‘Film’ at Tate Modern

We also speculated here and there on the future of film archives in this digital age, particularly when we attended the Screening the Future event in Hilversum in March, and then the UK Screen Heritage Strategy, whose various outputs were announced in September. We mused upon media and history when we attended the Iamhist conference in Copenhagen (it’s been a jet-setting year), philosophizing on the role of historians in making history in another bout of live blogging (something we hope to pursue further in 2012). 2011 was the year when everyone wrote their obituaries for celluloid. The Bioscope sat on the fence when considering the issue in November, on the occasion of Tacita Dean’s installation ‘Film’ at Tate Modern – but its face was looking out towards digital.

Significant web video sources launched this year included the idiosyncractic YouTube channel of Huntley Film Archives, the Swedish Filmarkivet.se, the Thanhouser film company’s Vimeo channel, and George Eastman House’s online cinematheque; while we delighted in some of the ingenious one-second videos produced for a Montblanc watches competition in November.

It was a year when digitised film journals made a huge leap forward, from occasional sighting to major player in the online film research world, with the official launch of the Media History Digital Library. Its outputs led to Bioscope reports on film industry year books, seven years of Film Daily (1922-1929) and the MHDL itself. “This is the new research library” we said, and we think we’re right. Another important new online resource was the Swiss journal Kinema, for the period 1913-1919.

It has also been a year in which 3D encroached itself upon the silent film world. The aforementioned Hugo somewhat alarmingly gives us not only Méliès films in 3D, but those of the Lumière brothers, and film of First World War soldiers (colourised to boot). The clock-face sequence from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (also featured in Hugo) was converted to 3D and colourised, much to some people’s disgust; while news in November that Chaplin’s films were to be converted into 3D for a documentary alarmed and intrigued in equal measure.

The Soldier’s Courtship

Film discovery of the year? The one that grabbed all the headlines – though many of them were misleading ones – was The White Shadow (1923), three reels of which turned up in New Zealand. Normally an incomplete British silent directed by Graham Cutts wouldn’t set too many pulses running, but it was assistant director Alfred Hitchcock who attracted all the attention. Too many journalists and bloggers put the story ahead of the history, though one does understand why. But for us the year’s top discovery was Robert Paul’s The Soldier’s Courtship (1896), the first British fiction film made for projection, which was uncovered in Rome and unveiled in Pordenone. It may be just a minute long, but it is a perky delight, with a great history behind its production and restoration.

Another discovery was not of a lost film but rather a buried one. Philippine archivists found that an obscure mid-1930s American B-feature, Brides of Sulu, was in all probability made out of one, if not two, otherwise lost Philippines silents, Princess Tarhata and The Moro Pirate. No Philippine silent fiction film was known have survived before now, which makes this a particularly happy discovery, shown at Manila’s International Silent film Festival in August. The Bioscope post and its comments unravel the mystery.

Among the year’s film restorations, those that caught the eye were those that were most keenly promoted using online media. They included The First Born (UK 1928), Ernst Lubistch’s Das Weib des Pharao (Germany 1922) and the Pola Negri star vehicle Mania (Germany 1918).

Some interesting news items throughout the year included the discovery of unique (?) film of the Ballet Russes in the British Pathé archive in February; in April Google added a ‘1911’ button to YouTube to let users ‘age’ their videos by 100 years (a joke that backfired somewhat) then in the same month gave us a faux Chaplin film as its logo for the day; in May the much-hyped film discovery Zepped (a 1916 animation with some Chaplin outtakes) was put up for auction in hope of a six-figure sum, which to few people’s surprise it signally failed to achieve; and in July there was the discovery of a large collection of generic silent film scores in Birmingham Library.

Barbara Kent

And we said goodbye to some people. The main person we lost from the silent era itself was Barbara Kent, star of Flesh and the Devil and Lonesome, who made it to 103. Others whose parting we noted were the scholar Miriam Hansen; social critic and author of the novel Flicker Theodore Roszak; the founder of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart; and the essayist and cinéaste Gilbert Adair.

Finally, there were those ruminative or informational Bioscope posts which we found it interesting to compile over the year. They include a survey of cricket and silent film; thoughts on colour and early cinema; a survey of digitised newspaper collections, an investigation into the little-known history of the cinema-novel, the simple but so inventive Phonotrope animations of Jim Le Fevre and others, thoughts on the not-so-new notion of 48 frames per second, the amateur productions of Dorothea Mitchell, the first aviation films, on silent films shown silently, and on videos of the brain activity of those who have been watching films.

As always, we continue to range widely in our themes and interests, seeing silent cinema not just for its own sake but as a means to look out upon the world in general. “A view of life or survey of life” is how the dictionary defines the word ‘bioscope’ in its original use. We aim to continue doing so in 2012.

Wonderstruck

http://www.wonderstruckthebook.com

Wonderstruck is the new children’s book by Brian Selznick, whose previous novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which Georges Méliès features as a central character, has been filmed as Hugo by Martin Scorsese. In the new novel Selznick (a distant relative of film producers Lewis and David O. Selznick) again brings silent films into his distinctive mix of textual and illustrated narrative.

The new novel tells of two children, fifty years apart. One lives in 1977: Ben, a boy from Minnesota missing his dead mother, whose story is told in words. One lives in 1927: Rose, a New York girl fixated on a silent film star, whose story is told entirely in pictures. Silent films play a crucial part in the story, which in part documents the period when films turned to sound, with what looks to be a fascinating emphasis on the impact this had on the deaf community (both Ben and Rose are deaf, or partially deaf). This is a theme that the Bioscope has posted on before now, and it is something with which Selznick empathizes greatly, as this interview with CNN indicates:

It really began when I was working on “Hugo.” I saw a documentary film called “Through Deaf Eyes” and there were a couple things in it I found particularly interesting.

One was an interview with a young deaf man who had been raised in a hearing household and he talked about how it wasn’t until he went away to college and met other deaf people that he realized he was part of this larger community, this larger culture that he had been born into, that was really fascinating to me.

There was also a section about the transition from silent movies to sound and how this was a tragedy for the deaf community because with silent movies deaf audiences and hearing audiences could understand the same movies but after the transition to sound, the deaf audiences couldn’t follow the stories anymore.

When I finished “Hugo,” I wanted to take what I had learned in terms of telling a story with words and pictures and try to do something new with it.

I had the idea to tell two different stories, one with words, one with pictures. In trying to figure out what story would make sense just with pictures, I remembered “Through Deaf Eyes,” and I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of a deaf person in a way that echoes how they experience their own life, so you would get their entire story visually.

The plot just kind of grew from there.

Through Deaf Eyes is a 2007 PBS documentary, features details of which (including videos clips), can be found on the PBS website.

From the illustrations available on the Wonderstruck website it looks to be in the same compelling hand-drawn style as The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Interestingly, the site’s promotional video makes great play with action on different planes, suggesting the 3D influence of Scorsese’s Hugo – they’ll be thinking of the film version already, no doubt.

Wonderstruck has just been published, and Hugo is released in cinemas next week. Advance notices have been enthusiastic, and cinemas seem likely to be filled with an unlikely mix of families with children, modern film buffs checking out why Scorsese has gone down such a route, and early film enthusiasts seeing their world recreated with as much historical authenticity as producers Disney may allow. At any rate, Georges Méliès is due to become a name known and his art appreciated by millions of children across the world. How happy he would be.

There are clips, downloads, images, background information and much more on the official Hugo site.

Bioscope Newsreel no. 34

http://wedidthis.org.uk

The Bioscope’s occasional news service returns with the usual varied mix of silent films happening here and there which don’t otherwise feature on this blog.

Remembering the Somme
On today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, let us draw your attention to the most notable film of the First World War, The Battle of the Somme (1916). As recently reported, the film is about to go on tour in the UK with orchestral accompaniment, the score written by Laura Rossi. Not many silents get to be toured with an orchestra, and though the orchestras invovled are amateurs, the costs are inevitably high, and should you wish to help support such a bold venure financially then you can do so by visting the ‘crowfunding website WeDidThis. The tour opens in Leicester tomorrow. Read more.

3D Charlie
We reported last year on the plans of an Indian TV company to produce an animated 3D Charlie Chaplin series, but there is news of plans by a Turkish company to attempt 3D conversions of some of Chaplin’s original films to form a 90-minute film entitled Chaplin 3D – The Little Tramp’s Adventure. One’s first reaction is to throw up one’s hands in horror; the next reaction is to hope to have a chance to see just what it might look like. Intriguingly, they have gone to the best sources for their footage: Serge Bromberg and David Shepherd, with Robert Israel signed up to provide the music. The results are reported to be impressive. Hmm, we shall have to see. Read more.

Remembering Kristallnacht
Sunday 13 November will see an unusual example of silent film presentation at Belsize Square Synagogue in London. The Zemel Choir (“The UK’s leading mixed voice Jewish choir”), in commeroation of Kristallnacht, will be presenting a 1936 silent film, Hatikvah, shot by a German-Jewish filmmaker, showing pioneering Jewish settlers in Palestine. Intriguingly, the choral and orchestral accompaniment will in part derive from some of the generic silent film music scores recently unearthed at Birmingham Central Library. It’s an unexpected outcome of that exciting discovery, and one wonders to what other ends those scores might be used in time. Read more.

On Irish screens
There seems to be quite a bit of publishing activity on the Irish silent cinema (and pre-cinema) front at the moment. Hot on the heels of Gary Rhodes’ Emerald Illusions: The Irish in Early American Cinema comes two new books by Kevin Rockett and Emer Rockett, shortly to be published by Fourt Courts Press. Magic lantern, panorama and moving picture shows in Ireland, 1786-1909 covers the history of proto-cinematic experiences in Ireland up to the first film shows, while Film exhibition and distribution in Ireland, 1909-2010, “traces in forensic detail the social, cultural and business practices that comprise the Irish cinema phenomenon”. Read more.

Remembering Barbara Kent
The Bioscope neglected to note the passing last month of Barbara Kent, at the age of 103. Kent was perhaps the last of the headline silent film stars, having played leading roles alongside Garbo and Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil, in William Wyler’s terrific The Shakedown, and in Paul Fejos classic late silent Lonesome. Among the many obituaries, Ronald Bergan’s in The Guardian has perhaps the most detail. Read more.

(And just a little extra item – those of you in the UK, should you by some strange chance finding yourself watching The One Show on Tuesday evening, you will see yours truly talking about film star competition winner and Buster Keaton co-star Margaret Leahy, with the redoubtable Gyles Brandreth.)

‘Til next time!

Staging illusions

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sccs/activities/stagingillusion

Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy is a two-day conference taking place 8-9 December 2011 at the University of Sussex, whose themes, while not directly referencing silent cinema, are highly relevant to it. So here’s the conference blurb:

Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy,
December 8th and 9th, University of Sussex

Keynote speakers: Professor Vanessa Toulmin (Director of the National Fairground Archive), Dr Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths) and Professor Sally R Munt (Director of the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies).

Plenary speakers: Dr Astrid Ensslin (Bangor), Dr Melanie Chan (Leeds Met), Professor Nicholas Till (Sussex), and Dr Jo Machon (Brunel).

Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies & the Centre for Material Digital Culture present:

From magicians and mediums to immersive media, and from the circus to cyborgs, the celebration and/or mistrust of illusion has been a central theme across a range of cultures. Notions of fakery and deception remind us that our identities that are performative. The figure of the ‘mark’ of the fairground scam remains culturally ubiquitous, perhaps more so than ever, in an era of (post) mechanical reproduction. Is new technology a flight from the real or merely a continuation of older cultural forms? Is it necessary, or even possible, to define reality in relation to the illusory? What realms of ‘otherness’ remain to be embraced? This international conference will discuss staged illusions across a spectrum of historical, geographical and cultural contexts, featuring original and exciting papers and performances.

Panels interrogate staging illusion from diverse perspectives, including: 3D cinema, the paranormal, the music hall, digital trickery, the fairground, magicians and illusionists, theatre, science, the museum, the magic of cinema, the gothic, digital gaming, social networking, the circus, advertising, illusory bodies and genders, theme parks and digital animation. Over two days the conference will also showcase illusory performance pieces, installations and magic.

Panel speakers so far confirmed: Jon Armstrong, Adam Bee, Victoria Byard, Diane Carr, Eleanor Dare, Cristina Miranda de Almeida with Matteo Ciastellardi, Lane DeNicola, Yael Friedman, Aristea Fotopoulou, Kate Genevieve, Jonathan Gilhooly, Dr Rachael Grew, Birgitta Hosea, Jacqueline Hylkema, Jane Insley, Lewis Johnson, Laura Ellen Joyce, Frances A. Kamm, Ewan Kirkland, Chara Lewis with Kristin Mojsiewicz & Anneke Pettican, Liang-Wen Lin, Joe Marshall, John Carter McKnight, Jenny Munro, Constantino Oliva, Professor Deborah Philips, Burcu Yasemin Şeyben, Jayne Sheridan, Peter Sillett, Frances Smith, Marian St. Laurent, Nozomi Uematsu, Owen Weetch, John Wills.

No programme as yet, but registration is now open, with the cost £190 (£85 for students). There’s a downloadable booking form on the conference site, and you can follow developments on the conference blog or via its Twitter feed.

Bioscope Newsreel no. 14

Busy times continue, meaning that the Bioscope is rather just ticking over at the moment, but here are your Friday news snippets. Weighter posts will follow in good time, I promise.

Harold Lloyd in 3-D
The iconic clock-face sequence from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (1923) has been digitally remastered, colourised and converted to 3D, with the approval of his granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd. Says Suzanne,

The tasteful colorization and 3D conversion that Legend3D has performed on my grandfather’s Safety Last clip has given it new life. Harold Lloyd’s film masterpiece from 1923 has been updated for audiences old and new, preserving the magic and dignity of the original film.

Some may beg to differ. Read more.

Our Hospitality on Blu-Ray
New from Kino next month will be the Bioscope’s favourite Buster Keaton film, Our Hospitality (1923), on Blu-Ray and a special 2-disc DVD edition. It comes with a Carl Davis score performed by the Thames Silent Orchestra and a score compiled by Donald Hunsberger. It follows on the heels of Kino’s Blu-Ray releases of The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., Sherlock Jr. and The Three Ages. Read more.

Scotland’s first Hollywood star
A feature film is to be made of the life of Cissie Loftus, Scottish stage actress whose success in America led to the leading role in the film A Lady Of Quality (1913) and a long career on stage and occasionally on film (her last film was The Black Cat in 1941), though with a tragic personal life. Read more.

The death of 16mm
Filmmaker Tacia Dean in The Guardian bemoans the end of professional 16mm printing in the UK with the closure of Soho Film Lab’s printing services. “Many of us are exhausted from grieving over the dismantling of analogue technologies. Digital is not better than analogue, but different. What we are asking for is co-existence.” Read more.

‘Til next time!

Méliès in 3D

First Chaplin, now Georges Méliès. Much more of this and we’re going to need a new category for stereoscopy. Kristin Thompson, on the essential blog Observations on film art which she co-authors with David Bordwell, has written a piece on a season of 3D films that they saw recently at the Cinémathèque Française. Part of the season was a programme of early 3D films presented by Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films. And when we say early, we mean really early – Bromberg showed experiments made by French inventor René Bunzli in 1900, ten-second vignettes including “a mildly risqué scene of a man arriving to visit his mistress and another discovering his wife in bed with her lover”.

But the startling revelation is the 3D effect achievable from films which were not shot in 3D in the first place, which is where Méliès comes in. Thompson explains:

Méliès’s early shorts were often pirated abroad, and a lot of money was being lost in the American market in particular. Aftern the Lubin company flooded that market with bootleg copies of a 1902 film, Méliès struck back by opening his own American distribution office. Separate negatives for the domestic and foreign markets were made by the simple expedient of placing two cameras side by side. The folks at Lobster realized that those cameras’ lenses happened to be about the same distance apart as 3D camera lenses. By taking prints from the two separate versions of a film, today’s restorers could create a simulated 3D copy!

Two 1903 titles – I think that they were The Infernal Cauldron [Le chaudron infernal] and The Oracle of Delphi [L’oracle de Delphes] – triumphantly showed that the experiment worked. Oracle survived in both French and American copies, and the effect of 3D was delightful. For Cauldron only the second half of the American print has been preserved. Watching the film through red-and-green glasses, you initially saw nothing in your right eye, while the left one saw the image in 2D. Abruptly, though, the second print materialized, and the depth effect kicked in. The films as synchronized by Lobster looked exactly as if Méliès had designed them for 3D.

One’s first thought is how absolutely delighted Méliès himself would have been at this unexpected effect. The second – more remote – is whether other such instances of films being shot side-by-side for domestic and foreign markets (not an uncommon practice in the silent era) might be found which might demonstrate the same 3D effect. Would we want to see this, or might it be a vulgarisation comparable to the colorisation of black-and-white films? Vulgar or not, I’m rather thrilled by this glimpse of a hidden dimension to early film just waiting to be untapped. Hats off to the lateral thinkers at Lobster for having spotted the possibility.

Chaplin in 3D

Announcement of the Chaplin series being made in Mumbai

DQE, an India-based company which describes its activities as “Animation, Gaming, Live action production and global distribution” has announced its intention to produce a series of 3D animated short films for television, in collaboration with French production companies Method Animation and MK2. The subject of the 104 six-minute episodes will be Charlie Chaplin. The press release fascinatingly describes the character they will create as being Chaplin’s “Animated Avatar”, and promises that the films will preserve “the sense of humour and the emotional values present in all of Charlie Chaplin’s 70 films, all the while bringing out the quirky, burlesque and comic tone of the character he created”. The films will be ‘silent’ themselves, and though they won’t follow any of the story-lines of Chaplin’s own films, they will use gags from them, while putting Chaplin in modern situations, which sounds intriguing. Variety reports on seeing a 45-second clip in which an animated Chaplin performs “one of his trademark pratfalls” against a New York City backdrop, and shows him using a mobile phone which is shaped like an old-fashioned phone. The press release stresses this intention to combine past with present:

With a global production budget of approximately Euro 8 million, the first series will be developed in colour creating a timeless atmosphere and a unique look, blending early 20th century with present time, allowing for younger generations to identify with the Charlie Chaplin character. In keeping with the spirit of Chaplin, the short episodes will be presented without dialogue, giving enough space for the full scope of the famous character’s talents in pantomime. Completing the picture, putting particular emphasis on the choice of music and the sound design, will add to the laughter and emotion of the adventures of the legendary tramp.

The really intriguing element here is the 3D. The press releases promises that “the entire series will be produced in stereoscopic 3D bringing forth a fully immersed visual and emotional experience”. 3D television is gloing to be the next big media revolution (at least, that’s what the industry is baking on) and there is going to be a need for ready-to-use programming to help fill world schedules. The series will be developed for mobile, television, home video and internet platforms, naturally.

So this may be a smart move by DQE and partners (DQE has already found success with the 3D animated series Iron Man: Armored Adventures), producing a language-free content package which will have appeal across the world, though whether “21st century kids and the[ir] families” will identify with – or even recognise – Charlie Chaplin is something that remains to be seen.

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