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Into the Mircoworld Uses New Technique

Birmingham's Second Home Productions has developed an innovative new animation technique for its latest animated sequence "Into The Microworld."

The film brings together the digital domain of computer generated images, stop-motion animation and technology developed for producing engineering prototypes, moving Second Home to the forefront of new animation production.

The two-minute sequence was produced as part of preparatory work for a forthcoming film by BAFTA-winning director Michael Baig-Clifford on the life and work of Wolverhampton-born artist Willard Wigan -- the world's first "micro-sculptor."

Second Home's co-founder and director of the sequence, Chris Randall, said, "This particular project involves the use of replacement puppets for each frame of action -- a variant of stop-motion animation. By combining technology normally used in engineering with traditional model-making techniques, we've brought together old and new to create a new animation style and workflow."

The process of producing the animation answered a specific creative brief and continues the company's commitment to produce interesting and beautiful work.

First, a CGI animation was produced featuring a walking and breathing cycle of an animated character -- one of the young Willard's sculptures that magically comes to life in the script. From that CGI sequence, individual frames were exported and printed in 3-dimensions using a Z Corporation ZPrinter. The printer, normally used to produce 3-dimensional prototypes for the engineering industry, prints in layers using an inert starch-based material as the principal component.

Once printed, the 18 models and their 35 removable heads were worked into by hand by Second Home's team of model-makers. This resulted in each model having a unique hand-finished quality, emulating Wigan's unique craft. Second Home then built a large-scale set of floorboards, a metal ruler, dressmaking pin and countersunk screw -- all approximately 40 times actual size to give a sense of relative scale.

The sequence was shot and post-produced in Second Home's studio in central Birmingham over a period of six weeks. It is now available to view on the company's website and YouTube channel.