What’s a pixilation?

| January 21, 2008

The Bolex Brothers’ The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb and Norman McLaren’s Neighbours are famous pixilations. I showed you a pixilation right in this blog, then a friend of mine asked me “What’s a pixilation?”. I answered him, then I browsed on the web where I found Wikipedia’s definition of pixilation which I don’t like. According to Wikipedia “pixilation” is a stop motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject in a film, repeatedly posing while one or more frames are taken and changing pose slightly before the next frame or frames. The actor becomes a kind of living stop motion.”

I’d like to clarify that time lapse, pixilation and stop motion are different techniques!

While it’s true that pixilation is a form of stop-motion, pixilation has its origins in the “trick films” famous for their use of special effects (George Meliés) which marked the early years of film-making. Pixilation is often used to save time, instead of making a series of drawings, humans are placed in a series of postures by repeating each frame three times.

In this technique the interaction of actors and objects in a three-dimensional setting which introduces a series of references to reality is very important . This has an influence on the choice of subjects dealt with in films that use this technique. The final effect is that of an unnatural movement like in an old movie.

While a stop-motion object usually doesn’t alter our film perception, pixilation and time lapse do. The difference between the last two techniques is that while in pixilation the filmmaker records occasional frames, in time lapse, instead, every frame is exposed at predetermined intervals. The last technique alters our perception of time by collapsing it.

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