The Infinite Universe is a project I started working on in August 2017. It’s an experimental, hand-drawn animation that required over 600 drawings for a total of 1 minute and 40 seconds of footage. Animation has always been my passion, and you can’t work on any project without the persistence and dedication (and perhaps some slightly obsessive-compulsive behavior) required to finish it.
I worked on this animation between my other jobs and was able to get an assistant animator, Peter Schmidt, to help with the special effects. Together, we were able to complete the mini short in May 2018. The process was laborious; combining digitally hand-drawn frames at 24fps (meaning 24 drawings for one second), some rotoscoping from live footage, and masking and compositing to introduce real watercolor textures into the characters and abstract shapes. The space sequence was a mix of watercolor timelapses and digital animation.
Unlike the process, the concept behind the animation was simple. I originally wanted to do a “loop” animation, meaning the last frame goes back to the first frame. Story wise, I went a bit metaphysical. We all come from atoms, we live, we love, we die. The boy and girl in the animation come from the same material, they merge, they separate, they crash into one another, interlinking and simultaneously dissolving before going back to the universe. The universe is inside all of us as much as we are part of it.
Originally, the idea was sparked by a boy I was dating at the time who wanted me to do a small animation for his, let’s call it, brand. I was excited about the idea of working together on something, but ended up deciding to make it my own thing. If he still wanted to, I’d let him use the final product. He helped me shoot partial footage that I could use for the rotoscoping part of the animation, such as the boy falling, the kiss...
Of course, as these things go, we broke up that September, but I had no intention of abandoning the project, because I knew something beautiful would come out of it. It was very hard emotionally, at times, to work on this project knowing that the character was based on him, but it’s also not the first time I have based my work or my characters on people that I’ve been involved with. I find my work is deeper when based on real people. And from a technical point of view, changing character design halfway through the project was not an option. Sometimes if you want to finish a project, you just have to see it through and bite your tongue. Otherwise, it’s too easy to give up and never finish a piece of animation.
Now I’m happy this little film is finally over and proud of how it turned out. Me and this boy don’t talk anymore, but at least I have been inspired and motivated enough by the sorrow that relationship caused me to do something creative, out of the ordinary, and beautiful. I’m often fueled by heartbreaks. I think most artists are. I once wrote an entire screenplay and painted hundreds of pictures after a separation.
I had never done animation this experimental before. I was excited to explore the possibilities and also to challenge myself. Traditional (and digital) animation is always a learning process; you always find new things, spend time resolving problems, and find out a little bit about yourself along the way.