Music and art fuses in new short film project

Issue date: 15 March 2005

Issue date: 15/03/05

Music and visuals are being fused to form unique short films in a link-up between animators from the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design at the University of the West of England and the Royal Academy of Music.

Starting from a blank sheet, without either storyboard or score, animation students are paired at random with a musical composer to create a one-minute film. After the initial meeting, much of the collaboration takes place in the ether, using internet and e-mail to exchange ideas and work towards a finished result.

“Usually, a composer either creates music to fit a film, or in some cases (famously, such as in Fantasia) the film is drawn to fit in with the music,” said Chris Webster, senior lecturer in animation at UWE.

“In this case, neither partner is pre-eminent – it is a true collaborative experience, what I call a ‘sandpit project’, where the most important outcome is the creative process itself.”

Chris is interested in the way the creative process takes place. As a professional animator (he created the children’s cartoon Superted in the 1980s), he might start work on a film by jotting down a list of ideas, viewing a film, watching the way people’s faces move when they speak. He comments:

“Is this the same for a composer starting from scratch? Do they sit down and play a musical instrument? Study the pitch of a baby’s cry? Get inspired by nature?”

Students have five weeks to come up with a result, meaning a great deal of hard work, as creating one minute of animated film is very time-consuming. On the other hand, for a composer, limiting themselves to one minute is a huge challenge. It is a tiny canvas on which to project shape, colour, movement or development in the music.

The types of films created are determined by the animators and composers, reflecting their individual interests and current practice. As a result the films vary from the abstract to those with a formal narrative structure. Animation processes used range from computer generated images to traditional drawn techniques, from plasticine model animation to sand on glass techniques. The sound is equally varied, with some composers opting for electronic music while others use acoustic instrumentation and vocals.

As Chris says, “This is the whole point of the exercise – to see the two artistic worlds, come at each other from different directions, and watch the creative sparks fly!”

This is the second year that the collaboration between UWE and the Royal Academy of Music has taken place, and the project has grown from five films produced last year to eleven films this year. Next year the work will be extended with an even more ambitious linkup, involving films of three to four minutes in length.


Editor’s notes

1. The Bristol School of Animation is a professional training unit affiliated to the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design at UWE. It has a national and international reputation for the provision of high quality teaching and provides a wide range of courses that vary in length from three days to three years. Training is provided in all aspects of animation production, set design, sound design, interactive multimedia and CG animation. For more information on the courses available, including professional development, undergraduate, postgraduate research, short courses and summer schools, visit

2. The Royal Academy of Music is Britain's senior conservatoire, and since 1822 has prepared students for successful careers in music according to the constantly evolving demands of the profession. Students study varied programmes including instrumental performance, composition, jazz, media, musical theatre and opera, gaining University of London degrees from undergraduate (BMus) to PhD level.
For more details see and for information on composition courses e-mail

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