Pinscreen animation

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Pinscreen animation is a technique used for making animated movies with a device called a pinscreen. This device is a screen lit by the two vertical sides and filled with a vast number of movable pins. The pins can be pushed back and forth, casting their shadows on the screen to create images.[1] It makes unique visual effects, but because of the carefulness the technique requires and its time-consuming side, it has been and always remains very rarely used.

Origins[change | change source]

The pinscreen is a device invented in the early thirties by Alexandre Alexeïeff, a French engraver, illustrator, and filmmaker of Russian origin. Alexeïeff conceived this device to make animation movies showing the same kind of textural effects that its engravings.[1]

Pinscreen device description[change | change source]

The device is a white screen with a multitude of little holes on all its surface. Each hole is filled with a pin that can slide back and forth and the screen is lit by the two vertical sides, allowing the pins to cast their shadow on the screen. If all the pins are pushed in the screen, they can't cast any shadow and the screen appears entirely white. Conversely, if all the pins are pushed out of the screen, it's total darkness. Depending on how far the pins point out of the front of the screen, their shadows are shorter or longer, allowing the artist to create images in different tones of gray.[2]

Animation technique[change | change source]

Each of the frames created on the pinscreen is photographed before creating the next frame. When strung together, the frames create the illusion of movement.

Pinscreen movies and legacy[change | change source]

Alexeïeff and his partner Claire Parker completed, in 1933, the animated movie "Night on Bald Mountain", before making another movie in 1943, "En passant", for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Many years later, The NFB acquired a full-sized pinscreen and in 1972, Alexeïeff and Parker were invited back to the NFB and gave several workshops on pinscreen animation to a group of filmmakers. One of the most interested Quebecer filmmaker in pinscreen animation is probably Jacques Drouin. He made several animated movies using that technique : "Trois exercices sur l'écran d'épingles d'Alexeïef" in 1974, "Mindscape" in 1976, "Nightangel" in 1986 that was co-directed with Bretislav Pojar, "Ex-child" in 1994, "A Hunting Lesson" in 2001 and "Imprints" in 2004. It's with his movie "Mindscape" that Drouin expressed his own style with the pinscreen technique for the first time, a style different from Alexeïeff's. On the technical plane, Drouin also innovated with "Nightangel", in which he colours the pinscreen images by filtering the light sources.[3] Recently, animator and illustrator Michèle Lemieux has made "Le grand ailleurs et le petit ici" with the NFB's pinscreen.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jean, Marcel. "Techniques - Écran d'épingles"[permanent dead link]. Retrieved on 6 January 2013.
  2. Jean, Marcel. "Techniques-Pinscreen" Archived 2013-09-15 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 14 January 2013.
  3. Jean, Marcel. "Techniques - Pinscreen Archived 2013-09-15 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 14 January 2013.
  4. Tremblay, Odile. "D'ombres et d'épingles" Retrieved on 14 January 2013.