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motion504 turns poems into animated films

Broadcast design and animation studio motion504 has created original animated pieces for the 3rd annual Motionpoems event, which showcases visual explorations of previously published poetry.

motion504 creative directors Scott Wenner and Amy Schmit and 3D artist Adam Tow all contributed their creative storytelling interpretations to this year's selection of poems. The films recently premiered at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and will also be released on the Motionpoems website throughout 2012.

Scott Wenner chose a black-and-white look for his interpretation of French Movie by David Lehman. First came extensive research on the type of camera used in the French New Wave era of the 1950s and '60s, which was created in 3D.

Scott then found interesting elements to highlight from the poem, deconstructing scenes into the smallest single element in a way that was still relevant and somewhat abstract. The result is a piece that uses a combination of 3D scene work and photographs.

"This poem was difficult to work with because it's very descriptive and specific, and references the French way of doing movies," says Scott. "I wanted to do something more unexpected in terms of visuals and sounds to go along with the words. Using the more suspenseful elements from the scenes, such as a glass dropping, actually assisted the words rather than compete with them.

"We also pulled back on the voiceover and sound design so that it came across as more conversational, and not overdramatized. It was important that everything felt realistic and cohesive, especially when moving from photos to 3D."

Amy Schmitt's film (above), based on the poem When at a Certain Party in NYC by Erin Belieu, uses a flat illustrated style with plenty of movement to add life to a 2D world. Transitioning through different scenes of New York, the piece follows the journey of the female protagonist through colorful illustrations, punctuated by the dry sarcastic tone of the male voiceover, provided by motion504 Founder Andy Reynolds.

"I've always had my eye on this poem and was drawn to the idea of a beat poet," explains Amy. "I wanted the pace to be fast and to flow into a stream of consciousness. Andy's read really lends some hardness to this film, contrasting the female character with the cynical undertone of the poem itself."

After selecting Thoreau and the Lightning by David Wagoner, Adam Tow spent time doing research, sketches, storyboards and 3D previsualization for the concept. His challenge was finding a balance between a literal translation of the poem and maintaining a sense of mystery.

"Given the environmental nature of the poem, a lot of thought was given to how much vegetation and plants to incorporate, and how they should look," says Tow. "I wanted to show a desolate place juxtaposed with the liveliness and memories of the farmer, combining past and present into one flowing story."

Motionpoems.com is the brainchild of designer/animator Angella Kassube of HDMG and Minnesota poet Todd Boss. The project is designed to make poetry accessible to a media-savvy generation by bringing the magic of animation to poems by some of the best living poets in the world. More information is available at motionpoems.com.


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