Seattle International Film Festival. © Digital Kitchen 2009

I was pleasantly surprised to come across this beautiful piece by Digital Kitchen, Seattle International Film Festival 2009. Not for its intentional reference to and inspiration from Lotte Reiniger’s work, rather it is the technique that grabbed my attention.

For the production of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Lotte Reiniger, Carl Koch, Walter Ruttmann and Berthold Bartosch had developed a special multi-plane animation table built from a wooden frame that held a number of glass frames at different levels from the camera. (A technique often and wrongly associated with Disney as the pioneer.) Using various layers and playing with the distance from the camera, a wonderful effect of depth could be created within a scene. The multi plane also enabled many special compositing effects, Bartosch being the specialist in this domain, using sand, soap and other materials to create varying textures and light diffusion effects. These helped in intensifying the magical quality of the scenes as well as in developing starry skies, magnificent sea journeys and dream-like scapes.

Production Still © Digital Kitchen 2009

It is clear that Digital Kitchen used the exact same multi-plane technique in creating the festival teaser. No soap or sand seems to have been introduced but they had used a diffuser layer of glass as part of their process. What I find surprising then, is that they actually did this in a time when AE would have reproduced a similar, albeit less attractive, effect. I have no recollection of contemporary animators using this technique, nor do I believe it has been reproduced since Reiniger’s creation on such a faithful scale. The results, of what must have been quite a painstaking procedure, clearly demonstrate a beautiful piece and one that perhaps nods to a gaining interest for more analog work.

>>> Insightful post on the making of here
>>> The Art of Lotte Reiniger – A short documentary