This week, The New York Times ran two important stories about the democratization of animation. On Sunday, my profile of "Monsters" director Gareth Edwards tracked how the former special effects engineer managed to make a fairly cheap alien invasion movie while making it look a lot more expensive -- by creating his extraterrestrial beings all by himself using 3ds Max and Adobe Creative Suite. Today, the Times profiled a group of filmmakers whose stop-motion animated short, "Dried Up," landed a Student Academy Award and was created with the aid of the cheap Dragon Stop Motion software.
The idea that film production has grown increasingly cheap is certainly nothing new. But that's not so much the case for good-looking special effects, which seem to be popping up more and more in well-made low budget projects. It takes a few success stories for the truth of this technological progress to gain recognition. The two aforementioned examples join the earlier case study of m dot strange's Sundance feature "We are the Strange," which he animated in his bedroom. The significance of these accomplishment comes from the way they imply the capacity for a singular vision, no matter how fantastical, to come together. You don't need cutesy short-cuts around your money shots (a la "Blair Witch" and its ilk) if you know how to make your money shots on the cheap. And you don't need millions of dollars, either.
"We are the Strange," in brief:
The trailer for "Monsters":