Pig Tales Overview
‘Poverty is no picnic’ : concept
The animation narrative contrasts a rather romantic ideal of tribal Santhal life, with the realities of looking after livestock and poverty.
Santhal women work in the fields, forest and with livestock. Lives of ‘tribals’ are very much romanticised by upper caste Bengali culture – partly because Santhal communities are seen as a much freer/separate place for Bengali men to drink and mix/sleep with women. Tribal communities in Bengal and neighbouring Bihar are also very politicised by left wing movements on wages and communal rights to the forest. But for the women themselves, issues of poverty, lack of access to education and income and sexual exploitation are key issues. So the stories they told about goats and pigs fighting are often for them life and death issues affecting food security and independence.
My translations aim to contrast this romanticism (evident also in my own photos) with the reality of loans for ‘exotic’ foreign goats and pigs that cost a lot to house, buy and feed, that get diseases, fight and die because of lack of veterinary services.
The drawings, photos and video are from a participatory business planning workshop for a US-based INGO giving grants for livestock development to very poor women in disadvantaged communities. The local NGO had had difficulties communicating with the women because staff do not speak Santhali, except for some volunteers from the community. The power relations were very evident from the body language and interactions during the workshop.
The nature of the participatory empowerment process whereby drawings are placed on a collective diagram for discussion and analysis meant that the names of individual artists is unknown.
The narrative is bound together by the beautiful Santhali song that one of the participants sung for us just before we left. Unfortunately leaving was rushed and there was no way of finding out the meaning of the song, who wrote it (I think it was traditional) or the name of the singer.
Pig Tales: Experimental Vignettes
Creative Translation Overview Padlet
These drawings were the most expressive in terms of line styles. I started with these as my first animations as they were very simple and relatively easy to animate on iPad. Selected also because of photos and video for rotoscoping and evocative sound track.
- Different possibilities of linear and/or non-linear narrative sequence eg starting with the women’s fight – explanation of woman on woman violence or picture of Tupa Tupa all alone, rejected by his family.
- Earlier animation experiments simply animating the pig and goat line drawings on my iPad were another possibility, if I can make the animations longer and inject some tragic humour like ‘Oh Sheep’ by Gottfried Mentor.
Illusion of Life: realism/magic balanceThis animation combines different styles to contrast the message. But how can I increase the contrast between:
- the dreamy romanticism (eg adding more of the mistiness of Norstein’s puppet animation, even adding vaseline diffuse overlay?)
- the violence of the pig fight? (eg combining Jonathon Hodgson’s varied rotoscoping in ‘Dogs’ with jagged line work and the camera work of the boar fight scenes in Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke?
- the documentary envelope – should this have a colour overlay. I understand the Bengali discussion of plans for the shop, but how to make the meaning of the drawings visually clear to a non-Bengali speaker?
This animation is still a draft, rotoscoping from the video in TVPaint is still rough, as are manipulating photographs in Procreate on my iPad and final compositing in Adobe Premiere.
I am aiming on the one hand to showcase the raw artistic power of some of the drawings by women who never held a pen before, as well as the contrast between romantic views of outsiders and women’s dreams for use of the grants – that they have costed – and the realities of vulnerability and food insecurity, even with grants, in an area with very few services and that has been neglected by government.
Painterly section: Procreate was a good initial RSI-friendly software to start to develop the ideas, making cutting out the characters and draft backgrounds easy. For this short and simple clip, Procreate is probably a good option for further development with smooth in-betweens and cleaning up the artwork. But the animation is aiming to be romantically dreamy and does not need to be in sync with the audio.
Rotoscoping: The rotoscoping of the pig fight could be more dramatic using Disney techniques of squash and stretch, follow through etc. But is aiming to be fiercely poignant rather than cartoon -like. I could use camera moves to change the viewpoint, but this needs redrawing in TVPaint because it is pixel-based. Rotoscoping of the video of the singer needs to be redone to be in sync, but I like the way some elements are missed and the rotoscope fragments, adding to the romantic illusion overlay.
Fidelity to community voices and context? The narrative is constructed from my workshop notes, and shortens issues from my original workshop video.
Visual magic and creativity?
The painterly effects and pig fight are introduced for dramatic effect for a global audience, and well received by Western viewers if the technical issues are resolved. These would aim to be much more dramatic, drawing inspiration from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.
In taking it further in response to audience feedback, I would consider a bigger range of narrative options and ways of intensifying dramatic impact. Continuing using puppet animation in Procreate and/or TVPaint, refining the rotoscoping with final compositing in Adobe Premiere. Possibly using creative effects in After Effects.
Evolution of Animation Experiments
The account below gives my notes and more details of my initial animation skills development till March 2021)
Jamghoria Sevabrata: Community Drawings
For these experimental animations I decided to focus on the distinctive use of line by tribal Santhal women in West Bengal who had never held a pen before. Although the community drawings from ANANDI were potentially more interesting in terms of the views of empowerment, they would take much longer than the time frame of this module to animate well – something planned for future. West Bengal, and Santhali culture, was part of the research for my PhD and so I felt more comfortable trying to ‘translate’. I also had some photos, video and music I could use.
Unlike caste Hindu or Muslim women, they do not have such a strong tradition of handicrafts that give them an immediate facility for drawing. Like older women in ANANDI, they tended to use very abstracted stick figures but add symbolic elements and gestures. Some of the drawings were the most expressive drawings I have seen, in many ways more artistically interesting than the more figurative drawings of people with more education or the line drawings I have from Africa.
In addition to the drawings I also had photographs and some video footage (badly shot while I was facilitation or in a hurry in bad lighting).
Romantic Visions 1: Goat Idyll
My first translations were very early animation experiments with line on my iPad, for a very simple playful effect, inspired by sheep 3D animations by Mathias Klein from FilmBilder.
Inspiration: Gottfried Mentor, comic social parody
Oh Sheep: FilmBilder Directed by Gottfried Mentor with animation by Matthias Klein
A tragi-comic political parody of two shepherds who do everything they can to distinguish and keep their two flocks of sheep apart. Every time the sheep manage to meet and mingle. When finally the shepherds think they have found the solution through branding, the sheep see themselves as different and fight to the death.
I used these line drawings to do a series of animations in Rough animator on my iPad, exploring effects of frame rate, duplicating and mirroring layers and creating quick story-lines.
Romantic Visions 2: Pig Mother
This second set of experimental animations aims to project a dreamy, romantic vision of happy caring women ‘mothering pigs’. Very unlike the harsh, cold commercial realities of sterile concrete pig pens and sending pigs to slaughter.
I take a painterly approach, using texture, colour and shape as well as line.
Inspired by a mix of Japanese hand-painted watercolour animation, monochrome puppet stop motion of Nuri Yorstein, animated watercolour (based on rotoscope?) of Ryan Larkin and integration of the very varied whimsical 2D, rotoscoped and cut-out styles of Gasparovic’s Satiemania.
iPad photo to Procreate to Rough Animator
I start by manipulating one of photographs on my iPad.
I started with full colour overlay in Procreate, replicating the colours from the photograph. Then I took this into Rough Animator for a line, and then coloured crayon version. Much finer
iPad video to sketch to Procreate
I then used the video to get more realistic keyframes that I printed out as jpgs.
From these I made a series of sketches. Taking these into Procreate I cut out and recoloured the drawings, overlaying and compositing them into a picture.
I then manipulated these to make a short animation. The second version has more perspective and less saturation in the background to give more depth. This is still too jerky and needs more in-betweening.
But I think the style is quite effective and many possibilities for further development as a longer and somewhat smoother animation – depending on whether I am trying to copy Stop Motion or handdrawn watercolour. Puppet animation would be more professional using Photoshop to create the puppets, then using puppet animation in After Effects.
Realities: Pig Fight
Inspiration: aggressive ‘boil’
This third animation ‘Pig Lament’ has a lot of creative potential – the furious purple pen drawing of pigs was what first attracted me to drawings from this workshop as a source for translation.
I wanted to animate the pig fight drawing, rotoscoping a real pig fight video clip, using aggressive line like the Santhal drawing. Drawing also some ideas about violence and final death scene from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Adding either pig fight sounds and/or the haunting song.
This could either be a simple ‘boiling line drawing’ like Jonathon Hodgson’s ‘Dogs, or a bold colour animation like those of Peter Millard. Or I could use energetic coloured strokes like ‘Layman, Shamam, Daydreaming’. This last would probably be best done in natural media painting onto acetate over printouts of the rotoscope.
In order to get a feel of the fight and possible keyframes, I selected video keyframes edited in Premiere. Then did some quick pencil gesture drawings from printouts. These were very useful, but it would be better next time to do these while watching the video, not just from photos.
Rotoscope ‘Kadiri Pig Fight’ video and Creative Effects
Rotoscoping over an edited version of the Kadiri pig fight video in TVPaint. These are not so successful and not as dynamic as I would like them to be.
The line drawing would be better as a gesture drawing from live video. The coloured version would be more interesting painting into that digitally or on acetate using printouts from the line animation as underguide.
Narrative Format 1, song thread: Pig Lament
The song in the video I find really haunting. Though I have no idea what it means – maybe an interesting point about translation.
But I think that adding a rotoscope of the singer for at least part of any narrative would add a degree of realism. I like the way the line drawing in the version in the right dissolves because I accidentally omitted some lines towards the end. I am planning to experiment a lot more with different rotoscope effects like the variations in Jonathon Hodgson’s animation.
Animatic 1: Pig Lament
First attempt to composite as a narrative with sound. I need to redo the rotoscopes and rethink this – colours, line, style and technique. I was aiming for something much more expressive and emotive.
Adding Creative Effects goes some way towards this. I particularly like the charcoal version and the watercolour grunge version. But I need to experiment more with settings. And possibly layer with different elements eg singer and pigs in different but complementary styles to signify different roles in the video.
I could also experiment more with framing, again separating different layers.
Format 2: Documentary envelope, Pig Tales
Could ‘envelope’ the animation between short ‘reality context’ introduction and ending using some video footage of women drawing and the workshop process, with examples of drawings.