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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Aug(De)Mented Reality


Stick-figure drawn as if it is giving a High-Five to a real human finger, and saying "High Five!"

Tonight’s animation turns everyday life into animated wildness.

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Much of modern animation relies on computers, sometimes to the exclusion of traditional techniques like cel animation. Marty Cooper, a.k.a. Hombre_McSteez is storyboard artist and animator who has found a new way to mix real life and cartoon whimsy. He takes traditional drawn animation cels and uses his iPhone 5 to merge them with photos of real objects in unexpected ways.

Tonight’s selection, Aug(De)Mented Reality is a series of short toons set throughout the urban environment, taking prosaic objects like books or dumpsters and giving them surprising new life. The cel animation achieves many effects that would normally take digital post-processing, as described by tech blog engadget:

When he finds an interesting location, he both draws dozens of frames to match the scene and captures it all with an equal number of photos; from there, he stitches together short videos that bring everything to life.

The stop-motion technique leads to animations that are best described as an analog take on augmented reality, with interactions that you couldn’t reproduce after the fact without digital effects. An imaginary monster will cough up a real cat, for instance, while a mailbox will eat its own letters.

Cooper spoke a bit more about the origin and execution of this technique in an interview with the New York Daily News:

[H]e developed his unique style a few months ago while doodling on a whiteboard in his office. He started to hold his characters up in front of the room and began imagining if they came to life in this setting. He then started to draw the characters on the clear animation cels and is now animating short films through his own technique that includes an iPhone 5s. He will create several cels by drawing the character a little differently on each one and then film it with his phone’s ‘Stop Motion’ app.

The cels then blend together to create the animation, he said.

Actually filming the shorts was a daunting idea for Cooper who imagined it would be a difficult process but he said he was amazed at how well it turned out. ‘I thought no way it would work out, but after the first thing I shot I was blown away at how it looked,’ he said.

Filming is a fairly simple process, he said, but the biggest challenge is making sure the sun is behind him when shooting outdoors and keeping his hand steady and in the right place when holding all the cels. ‘That definitely can be difficult – especially when it’s windy,’ he said.

In addition to his YouTube channel (you might enjoy “An Introduction to Marty Cooper“), you can also find more examples of his cel art technique on his Instagram and Tumblr.

Thanks to MyFDL’s cmaukonen for this suggestion.

Earlier this week Elliott brought us the beautiful animation Memory Stream.

Have you seen any great cartoons lately? Tell me about them in the comments.

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Image by Krystal T released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and