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Benjamin Ducroz

Benjamin Ducroz is an accomplished motion designer who lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Since discovering his start-stop animations we’ve been enthralled by his intricate aesthetic and meticulous experimentalism. His dynamic animations and videos explore the forms, patterns and movements found in nature and man made environments, portraying them in the most dramatic visual array we’ve encountered.

His work has been exhibited and screened in galleries and festivals all around the world including the International Animation Festival (London), Onedotzero (UK), 2010 World Expo (Shaghai), Asian Art Biennale (Taiwan), Australian Centre for the Moving Image, F5 festival (USA) and Rencontres Internationales (Paris/Berlin/Madrid).

Despite the scope and raw depth of his work there is relatively little information about him on the web. We took up this opportunity to uncover the finer details and background behind the man himself and the intricate workings behind his creations.

Please can you introduce yourself, tell us where you are from, what it is that you do and what you’re currently up to?

My name is Benjamin Ducroz. I live in Melbourne Australia, and grew up in Chamonix France.  I’ve been a practicing artist for the past 8 years, I direct, model build, animate, design and compose sound. I just finished a project for the new Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital, designing the cabinet and interface for the digital donors board.

What three things have influenced you the most in life?

1.  Nature
2.  Friends
3.  Skiing

What’s your art and design background, what theories, ideals, artists and designers do you appreciate and respect the most?

I studied Media Arts at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where I specialized in Experimental Animation and Video Art.  Like most I take influence from many different sources, but I guess mostly by 20th century art & design.

Throughout university I was into post modern theory & philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Jean Baudrillard as well as the ideals, art and design of Dada and Russian Constructivism. I’m a big admirer of the work of the animator Piotr Kamler and find the work of Len Lye truly inspiring

Who and what has been responsible for provoking your interest in the techniques that you employ in your works?

I love the moving image, I’m specifically interested in the moving image as a mechanism, a combination of still frames displayed in sequence to create the illusion of movement.

I’m also interested in mass produced objects, where and how they are placed in space.  An example of this is where there are millions of stop signs in the built environment, each in their individual place. If I were to photograph thousands of these stop signs and play them back in sequence, I would have the same image made up of many images. This technique could be applied to many mass produced objects.  I guess this idea, was the initial driving force behind some of my early animation work.  I applied this idea to simple primitive shapes and altered instances of them to create my latest object based animations. This happens to be a technique that is commonly used in stop motion animation and is called replacement animation.

Alongside my object based animation, I make paper based animations, with these animations I have enjoyed creating forms that shift into other forms in a cause and effect relationship.  As they do so they transform their surrounding space. these works are influenced by both Abstract and Op art.

When did you start to experiment with start-stop animation? Why have you remained loyal to this technique and what are its advantages and limitations?

I came to making stop-motion animation after finding I was cutting my videos frame by frame and rearranging the frames into other sequences.  Along with using this technique I am obsessed with the aura of real objects.

I find it more satisfying creating motion with my hands, though at times it has been frustrating. Unfortunately I get this if I feel the idea is not strong enough or if I’m not enjoying myself when I make the project.  Its happened twice and it’s tough when you decide not to go ahead with a project when your right in the middle of it.

Stop-motion takes a lot longer, requires more perpetration than Computer Graphics. It’s harder to make changes and can end up being more costly.  For these reasons, unfortunately, many clients don’t go for this option.  Which is unfortunate, because stop-motion graphics is fun.  Apart from the business aspect of it, gravity can be really hard to deal with at times.

What mediums do you prefer to use and why?

It depends what I’m making, usually I like using wood, balsa for small models, pine for larger models. Balsa, is really malleable and it’s quick to get certain structures and objects made.  Although not ecofriendly, I also enjoy cutting foam for some projects.

Please can you expand on the digital side of your work – What tools, software, cameras and so forth do you use?

I use Cinema 4D to make forms, animate and previsualise my models.  I also use the animation feature in Photoshop, and after effects to compile and composite sequences.  sometimes I use Pepakua Designer to make paper models.

Over the past year I’ve been working with C&C routing services to get models made, although currently this is expensive to do, but it’s certainly something that is really exciting to work with.  I’ve also been working with plastic rapid prototyping machines, but this has proven to be difficult so far.

With cameras I currently use a Canon EOS 7D, and hire USM lenses accordingly.  I use Dragonframe stop-motion software and a Canon intervelometer at times.

Can you explain how you developed and executed ‘press+’ – what techniques and mediums did you employ to create this work and what digital wizardry did you use to achieve the final aesthetic?

Before Press + I worked with Samuel Acres to make Popcycle. With Popcycle the animation was made first, followed by the sound. In this instance itwas not easy, but by the end it worked out.  After Popcycle was complete, I asked Sam if there was a track he’d like me to respond to.  He provided me with the track and I made the animation to the track in Cinema4d, mapping out key events in the track and joining these events together.

In regards to the digital component of the project, I reached a point where I had composed the entire sequence. Once this was done I then printed all the frames. Then revisited key events and modified them even further by hand with water colors, ink, ripping scratching etc.  Afterwards I scanned all the frames back into the computer, added added camera extra camera moves and cuts in after effects but no compositing. I guess this process makes the piece look the way it does.

Phosphene’ explores similar techniques used in ‘press+’ – Please can you explain the creative brief behind this work and why it is called ‘Phosphene’?

With Phosphene I experimented in the same way as Press+, without modifying the paper frames by hand.  There was no brief, I simply made more forms, which I wanted to string together.  I also wanted to experiment with capturing these paper frames in a ‘real’ scenario, as opposed to scanning.  I used a DSLR with a short focal length, so all the perspective were made in the camera.

Why is it called Phosphene?

Ever since I was a kid, I remember laying in bed in the morning and looking at the light coming through the window with my eyes closed.  I was mesmerized by the forms I could see with my eyes closed.  After I made the piece, it reminded me of the forms I saw and still see to this day.  Aparently these forms are called phosphenes.

Despitethe relative short length of you productions, they can take up to 6 weeks to create them. Can you please expand on the creative process behind ‘Strings’ and share with us why each project can take so long to develop?

If I’m working to a soundtrack it’s usually a lot easier and takes a much shorter amount of time to create. Some projects take longer than others depending on what’s involved. The more steps or processes there are in the project, the longer it takes. ‘Strings‘ was entirely made on the computer, so it was made in a shorter period of time.

Your latest work ‘Points In Space’ presents Melbourne’s central business district as a whirlwind of activity – Did you achieve everything you set out to capture with this project?

Points in Space‘ turned out to be one of the most enjoyable works to make. I had an image in my head of how I wanted it to turn out, and it did so exactly. Though, most people think the animation is composited over the time lapse, this was not the case and it was made in camera.  I guess I’m a purist at heart, and find it more gratifying when work is real.

With ‘Points in Space’ I set out to achieve an effect of mixing time lapse with frame animation.  I wanted the animation to respond to the flow of those intersections in Melbourne.

The work displayed in gallery context is presented in a parallel dual channel. Two frames were taken for each shot, hence there are two unique versions of the film.  These two films are played simultaneously, creating a stereoscopic like effect.  You have to see it in context to get the full effect.

Please can you expand on the music you use in your videos – I’ve noticed ‘SingleSignal’ and ‘Samuel Acres’ have been involved with the sound design – How did your relationship with these two musicians occur and did you set out from the start what kind of atmosphere they had to convey with their sounds?

SingleSignal is myself and long friend / housemate Nic Whyte,  it’s our bedroom band I guess.

We’ve been making sounds together for the past 3 years now. When we make the scores for the work we’ve always done it in multiple takes, and select the one that fits best.  We use analogue synths, drum machines, guitars and guitar pedals.  Samuel Acres and Michael Prior are old friends from art school, they studied sound art and sound design,  I’ve left them to their own devices because I love what they do.

Where do you envisage your works being showcased int he future – do you plan to get involved more with music or abstract projects?

I had an exhibition of all my work up to 2009, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan.  Since then my films have mostly been showing in short film programs and festivals, usually in the abstract screenings.   I have 8 films which all go for less than 2 minutes, which I have all in HD, but have never been shown in a gallery context…I’d like that to happen.

From all the shows you’ve exhibited at, which have been the most prominent and why?

I have mostly screenings that are prominent because my videos have not been in many shows.  In terms of screenings I guess getting my work shown at F5 in New York, Vimeo Festival and Onedotzero is a good thing.

What new projects are you working on and what are your aspirations for 2012?

I am venturing to the very far north West of Australia to work in a remote Aboriginal community, teaching animation, film and making films with the community.  I haven’t taken anything on over the past few months. In 2011 I did a lot of things, I need time to refect and think about what to do next, I’m sure I’ll come up with something soon.

Any words of wisdom / warning you’d like to share?

For those of you who make abstract animations, keep pushing the envelope and have fun!