Rotoball – a collaborative rotoscoped animation project

For the past three years, my students and I have participated in Rotoball, a collaborative rotoscoped animation project.  It was originally intended for high school students as a unique opportunity to connect with other students who are geographically distant. Rotoball began as a class project developed by David Gran for Advanced Video students at Huntington High School in 2005. David is now the media teacher at the Shanghai International School, where for the past three years he has run the Rotoball project. David and I are virtual friends who met four years ago through Craig Roland’s ning group, Art Ed 2.0. I guess you could say we are mutual admirers of each other. When David suggested the initial animation project in 2007, only eight schools participated, including Union City High School where I teach digital design and animation. Anything to do with animation always captures my interest and the opportunity for my students to participate in a global project was something I wanted them to experience.

Rotoball is a black ball that transforms into something different for each person who comes into contact with it. The process is simple; each animation must be exactly 15 seconds long. The animation can be as creative as you’d like, but MUST contain the following: you catching the ball from the left side of the screen. the ball transforming in some way. you interact with the transformed object. the ball returning to normal. the ball leaving the right hand side screen.

The animation does not have to be a rotoscoped animation.  It is the preferred form for this project, but any animation technique is accepted. So what, you ask, does rotoscoped mean? Wikipedia describes Rotoscoping as an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. This process is extremely time consuming and only the most dedicated and hard-working students choose to participate. The first year we were involved only two students contributed animations. The following year we had three participants but this year I expect a larger group to be interested because the parameters are not so narrow. A group of my seventh grade general art students are planning on creating a lego stop-motion animation for the project.

Once the animations are completed, they are sent to David in China, where he links all the videos together, and adds music. Rotoball 2008 and 2009 premiered at the Shanghai Student Film Festival to rave reviews!

This year thirteen schools have already signed up to participate and I would expect more to jump onboard as they hear about the project. The American International School of Japan in Tokyo, Glebe Collegiate Institute in Ottowa, Canada, and Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau, Alaska are three of the schools already signed up.

Rotoball and David Gran were mentioned in the June 4th, 2008 edition of Digital Directions. My own stop motion animation program is also described in the same article.

To see the final video click here.


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