GIRAF Animation Festival streaming Canada-wide Nov. 19-28

Sonolumin

Diana Reichenbach's short is about "the relationship of light, sound, and space" — the feeling you get from how those elements interact, and the blurring between the senses when the synchronized sound and image hit just right.

Still from abstract animated film Sonolumin

Whether you call it light-painting, pika-pika, or something else altogether, there's no denying the magic of animation made using long exposures of bright light sources. The drawings made with this technique crackle with neon energy, alive with their own energy and with the motion of the hands that created them. And because they are captured in the real world, the drawings also echo on the landscapes, creating a secondary image with a beauty all its own.

Photography is always at least a little magical, in the way that it slices a moment away from the flow of time and turns it into an object in its own right. Animating with light painting adds several layers to that, though. The use of long exposures means that each image isn't so much a moment but a compression of time, capturing the movement of light in a static image. But then those static images are used to create motion, so you end up with an illusion based on an illusion based on an illusion. No wonder light painting always looks at least a little haunted.

Commissioned by the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, GA, Diana Reichenbach's Sonolumin is meant to be watched in a planetarium dome—hence the circular image. Watching it on a screen at home, though, the circle gives a different impression. Sometimes it feels like a peephole, like you're glimpsing a realm of magic that might just disappear if it knew you were there. Sometimes it feels like a planet, or a crystal ball, something self-contained and complete. It would certainly be a treat to see it in its intended environment, but even as it is, it doesn't feel out of place.

As the synopsis says, Sonolumin is a film about "the relationship of light, sound, and space." It's about the feeling you get from how those elements interact, the blurring between the senses when the synchronized sound and image hit just right. While many pika-pika films feel almost like doodles, embracing the unpredictability of working with light, Reichenbach's film seems more coherent, even with all its visual abstraction. Through the wonder of the music, the electricity of the lights, and the shimmering colours painting their surroundings, Sonolumin brings its landscape to life, showing off a vitality that was always there, but hidden just outside our reach.

dir: Diana Reichenbach
syn: SONOLUMIN is a stop-frame animated 360° fulldome film exploring the relationship of light, sound, and space.

The film was captured in real world space using light and long exposure photography captured frame by frame. Pictured here is a fisheye version of the film, which when projected onto a dome shaped theater (planetarium) becomes an immersive audio/visual experience. The film has also played in traditional theaters in the format you see here.

2018