STRATA-CUT is an animation technique which photographs layers of colored clay sliced piece by piece and then played back to simulate movements. The technique was invented by Oscar Fischinger and used to make the backgrounds in the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reiniger. It was later rediscovered and refined by BENT Image Lab co-creator David Daniels and was originally thought up by Daniels when he was 8 years old without any prior knowledge of the technique. Having not only animated on major television shows such as Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Peter and many commercials and music videos, David Daniels defined a new and insanely beautiful technique by building up clay in large long bricks called loafs and then slowly and meticulously cutting layers away from the brick and photographing every layer. If you think the technique looks simple then you are very wrong. To get the proper look and feel of the animation you so desire you actually need to pre-plan out all the various movements and colors. If you want n example of how complex the technique gets have a look at Peter Gabriel’s Big Time music video and look for the clay strata cut technique. You’ll loose your mind trying to figure out how it was done.
Daniels has gone on to create a website dedicated to the technique called stratacut.com where interested persons can learn the techniques for free from the instructional videos and tutorials provided by its inventor.
Here’s a video of Daniels explaining the technique.
Now if that video got you inspired you should definitely have a look at Daniels other work. For one thing Journey Through the Melting Brain is a masterpiece of animation technique that all lovers of stop motion and clay animation should explore. This film is a face melting adventure which will make your jaw drop and your eyeballs pop out of your head. The amount of clay used in this production was massive and actually takes segments from other works and places them together into one 4.44 minute composition. Strap on your seatbelt for this ride.
If you’d like to learn more about David Daniels and his technique please have a visit at the Strata Cut website stratacut.com.
Lotte Reiners film can be seen below: