Bending time and perception

by Artist Development Fellow

Brooke Griffin ’14, a resident of Lowell House concentrating in Visual and Environmental Studies with a secondary in Computer Science, was awarded an Artist Development Fellowship to intern at Bent Image Lab, an animation studio in Portland, Oregon known for its production of music videos, short films, and commercials. Griffin will study animation and technical direction for 3D. On campus she has produced a number of short animation sequences for films and and is a freelance graphic designer creating posters, logos and brochures. She plays French horn in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, for which she also designs the concert posters. Future plans include working either as a software engineer or studio animator.When I first tell people that I am studying animation, they tend to assume that I am interested in creating children’s cartoons for a living. Lucky for you (and unlucky for me), what I do is far more complicated and far less profitable than that! This summer, I worked as a CG intern for animator David Daniels at a studio called Bent Image Lab. Daniels is the leading pioneer of a type of animation called Stratacut. This is where everything begins to get rather complex, so perhaps it’s best I refer to a more official definition:

"Strata-cut animation is most commonly a form of clay animation in which a long, bread-like 'loaf' of clay, internally packed with varying imagery, is sliced into thin sheets, with the animation camera taking a frame of the end of the loaf for each cut, eventually revealing the movement of the internal images within." (from

So essentially, a camera is moving through a long block of clay and capturing all changes in the clay’s internal structure in the form of an animation. You will know that you have fully grasped this concept if you watch a minute or two of this video (a compilation of Daniels’ work) and are completely dumbfounded as to how this is possible: my ten weeks at Bent, I worked on an independent CG project to simulate Stratacut in a virtual environment. Using a software program called 3D Studio Max and a plug-in written by Daniels’ son, I experimented with a variety of techniques to test the limits of this software. Unlike real-life Stratacut, this program does not work with clay or involve sculpting internal images. Instead, the software interprets a video clip as a series of individual frames, and then stacks these frames one behind the other to create a "loaf" similar to a Stratacut block of clay. This loaf can then be manipulated in an infinite number of ways, since we are no longer working under the limitations of the physical world.A final thought on Stratacut before you leave to take an aspirin and a warm bath:

"Stratacut is created only through an in-depth understanding of space-time, because in stratacut, you build your imagery not just in X, Y, and Z space, but also considering time as a dimension, and the most important one. Students who have undertaken the challenge of creating stratacut animation will tell you, it is not for those unwilling to bend their perception of animation, and time in the process." (from

[Caption: 188-260 Two Blocks - frame 860]

[Caption: Frame 1750 Dark Shadows]

[Caption: Mirrored Image]