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Creator and Artist Stories

Meet kamapazzo, the escalator-powered animator

By Mia Quagliarello

Community Manager

We recently announced that we’d be adding some new kinds of posts to this blog, and today we’re happy to run the first from the Creator’s Corner, which is devoted to the process of videomaking and all of the people who wow us with their creativity, ingenuity and passion. You can now find posts that used to be in the Creator's Corner in this blog, and we encourage you to leave a comment below with the username of anyone you'd like to learn a little more about.

First up, we caught up with kamapazzo, a 26-year-old motion-graphic designer who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has spent time in Beirut teaching workshops about visual and stop-motion animation. His “escalator animations” surprise and delight; read more about how they came to be below.

1) What gave you this idea?

I was at the Istanbul airport, standing with my luggage next to a very long escalator. I had nothing to do; I was just intensely watching the handrail, when suddenly I thought, “Hey, I can use it for an animation!” Then I realized how easy it could have been sticking on the handrail. Also, in that period I was studying the great work of Norman McLaren; at the beginning of his career he was painting directly on film. I thought that my escalator animation could have been a kind of tribute to his wonderful work of abstraction. McLaren is my first inspiration. He was always experimenting with new techniques, including inventing a way to make sound painting directly on film.

So, when I came home from the airport, I made a test with the stickers, as I was not so sure about the result. But actually it was working; I liked the images and I decided to develop a full abstract movie. I started to prepare all the shapes and stickers without having a script or even thinking about a story. I just wanted to use this public space and play with it as a kid, letting my imagination flow. Having fun in the creative process is very important for me; that’s the only way I know to do something fresh, something that could catch the audience unprepared.

The escalator animation could be considered as the following chapter of a video I did last year in Berlin, using a photocopier. I'm enchanted by creating animations starting from things and objects people use in everyday life. With a little bit of imagination, you can see motion and animation everywhere around you.

2) How did you do it?
I started preparing all the paper's shapes: for each one of them I did nine different sizes so that when they moved on the steps you can also see the dimension changing. Then I went shooting for a full day with four friends of mine. A friend and I were on the bottom of the escalator and we were just leaning the shapes on the steps that were going up, and another friend stayed on top sending the shapes back on the steps that were going down. On the opposite side the camera man, Jacopo, was shooting just the side where the escalator was going up.

It was a very funny day, actually. The escalator was located close to a university, and it was full of students that got really surprised. Some students even asked me if they could take some hearts or clouds. Then I drew all the animations on the stickers and I went to the escalator a few times during the night while it was stopped. We pasted the stickers on the handrail, and then in the morning we went back there to shoot them. Actually, I had lots of troubles due to the winter cold: the stickers didn’t stick to the handrail.

3) How long did it take you?
Building all the materials and shooting took me about two months, and editing, the longest part, about three months. I've also spent one week preparing the soundtrack. So in the end the whole work took me about six months.

4) Why did you pick this escalator?
First off, I was fascinated by the hypnotic movement of the escalator; it runs all day long in the same way. I wanted to break this repetition with a kind of game and let people imagine public spaces in a different way -- more funny and more creative. I like to imagine this world as a place with no rules, where you can act more freely and take life less seriously. Another reason is that I wanted to mix my passion for animation with my passion for urban installation.

5) Tell us something about this video you'd never know by looking at it.
During one of the shooting days a police officer came to us asking what were we doing and if we had a permission. We said we were just shooting a commercial for a very famous Italian pop band. At this point he said he loved them and left without even asking [to see] the permission.

6) What's next in your world of escalator animation?
I will go on working in public spaces. The final result always surprises me. When you make experimental videos, a lot of problems come up that you never thought about before; until it's done you don't really know where you're going. Maybe you start with an idea and then it's not going fine, so you have to change everything. I already started drawing a new animation with a script, and it will be done on a common object that people use everyday. Can't say more until it's done. It will be a surprise!