Formerly the exclusive province of Tumblrs and Internet commenters, animated GIFs have come up in the world over the last few years, a rise fueled by unexpected advocates. The ever-repeating motion-images have actually made it into the New York Times‘ web coverage this month, and not even in the form of a trend piece. That ubiquity, and the medium’s facility for simple storytelling explains why artists have begun to step their GIF game up in a big way.
Along with Jesse Roff and Liam Kirtley, brothers Adam and Ben Toht make up the Brooklyn-based production shop The Saline Project . While known for making music videos for beloved bands like Modest Mouse and The Roots as well as TV and commercial work, the crew has lately turned its attention toward the GIF. These are cut from a different cloth than standard issue versions, however.
“Monsters, Villains, Heroes, and Victims” is a project that consists of 13-pieces of high-def 3-D “lenticular” GIFs.
“We do a lot of fooling around and experimentation, and ‘Monsters, Villains, Heroes and Victims’ (or MVHV) came out of one of those experiments,” Adam Toht tells us. “Really it’s a mash-up of a bunch of things that we love dearly. We’ve always been drawn to dark, iconic characters and the look and feel of film noir.”
Says Ben Toht: “We loved the idea of doing a series of portraits of villains, or “anti-heroes,” in a ‘even the villain is the hero of his own story’ sort of way. The Wolfman (as played by Adam) was the first one that we did. And we were psyched. We immediately had a long list of characters that we wanted to do.”
As of now, The Saline Project, who won an Emmy in 2002 for their opening credits sequence for Discovery’s 9/11 doc, 110 Stories, is still at work on some of the pieces in their Brooklyn studio, but they’re previewing several of the finished editions online. As you can see, these are a world away from the average TV-inspired GIF. And they’re built painstakingly from the ground up. “We shoot the portraits in our studio, dimensionalize the images and build the backgrounds in the computer, with 3-D models and photographic elements,” says Ben Toht.
Adam Toht calls the images 3-D photo collages. “They’re built in dimensional space inside the computer,” he says. “And something about the GIF technique just works really well with these images. We always try to make work that sparks an emotional connection. That seems to be what makes things good/great. And there’s something about the dimensionality of these images that gives them more impact. Makes them more exciting than stills. We love them. They’ve been so fun to make.”
Below, you can watch The Jungle, a brief 3-D video by The Saline Project that uses a similarly vivid approach.