Jeff Scher Profile

A profile of New York animator Jeff Scher who makes rotoscoping seem alright. Video offers lots of good shots of his studio and him working in it.


  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    wow! awesome, beautiful work!

  • peter wassink

    “one half is conventional cinema which essentialy records time, animation is the other side of cinema where you manufacture time”
    according to his own definition he should be placed on the conventional side of cinema.
    I have seen some of his animations on the NYTsite and they all get a very enthusiastic response from the readers. I don’t share their admiration, can’t they see he’s cheating!

    Anyway good luck to him.

  • Peter H

    Jeff Scher is an artist and a filmmaker and what he creates is fine art – in all senses of the phrase – but he is interested in visual effect not animation, as an illustrator who works by tracing over a photograph is not interested in drawing.

    For an animator the satisfaction is in creating the movement, and literal rotoscoping removes his/her freedom to do this. For the rotoscoper the movement is guaranteed – his/her concern is the visual appearance of the shot, and how much – or little – of each frame needs to be rendered (and in what manner) in order for the underlying continuity to register on the brain.

    Each to their own, but for me the magic of animation is the creation of movement, rather than the organising or embellishing of it.

  • http://hellohue.blogspot.com Hellohue

    Interesting piece, thanks for the upload. Got to agree with Peter Wassink about Jeff’s definition of animation and whether or not it could be said he ‘constructs’ time or not, by using rotoscoping to the extent he does.

    Nonetheless, an interesting point about what could (and should) be done with animation, being something apart from motion pictures, in further abstractions than cartoons/caricature. The shadow film was mesmerising and his colours were beautiful.

    Any other animators that seem to have harnessed and reigned the power of captured movement through rotoscoping?

  • Ariel

    Not to take anything away from Jeff’s beautiful work but a person who rotoscopes, is more of an “artist” than an animator.

    He takes live action footage and traces over it to create a new “visual”, right?

    There’s no “animation” involved. He’s not thinking about how interestingly he’s going to move his subject. He’s thinking “how interestingly he’s going to “visualize” a video.

    Again, stunning work. I just don’t know how how “animated” it is.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    I like his style, and I’d call it rotoscoped animation. Artistic choice always includes a choice of input, be it from memory, from life drawing, or from tracing. It doesn’t matter. Only the result counts. He also chose not to change the movements he used, which is OK.

    Compare this with the work of Giancarlo Toccafundo, who’s highly acclaimed for his poetic work, which essentially is a bunch of video printouts from life footage, each used as a basis for his paintings. And I remember dozens of films by different artists where some interview turned into animation by this very same technique. Oh, and Richard Williams comes to mind, who did some advertising spots which _looked_ like rotoscoping (of course they were not). And don’t forget the “Lucy in the sky” sequence in Yellow Submarine, which is very close to Scheer’s style.

    I think it’s animation because: it’s drawn frame by frame, and it’s drawn by hand.

  • the foreign office

    So, Disney Snow White and Bambi are not animation, ah? Jeff Sher is great, and the movement that he creates is much more intriguing, and pleasant, than all those “generic” movements, boring as a hell, and all the same.

  • NC

    I’m sorry but doesn’t anyone else see a clear rip-off of Ryan Larkin’s work?

    I mean it’s like a splatter artist who’s just ripping off Jackson Pollack but by saying he’s different we just accept by his own words that he’s different.

  • http://www.segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    I’m not a big fan of rotoscoping, but I’m impressed by this. Scher is making choices about how to color each frame and also when he interjects text, so even though he is starting with something which has the timing already done, he is making temporal changes. I would say he’s in between live action and animation.

    slowtiger: Richard Williams was certainly talented enough to hand make animation that looked rotoscoped, but he did often rotoscope. And it’s nitpicking but Scher’s style is close to “Lucy in the sky” (not the other way around), since George Dunning’s piece came first

  • dronon

    It’s good to see positive examples of rotoscoping. It reminded me of an article defending the practice back in an old issue of FPS magazine – I’m not sure if this is the essay (archived), but it’s an intelligent if short read on the subject.

  • david

    i can’t believe this doesn’t have 150 plus comments. Oh maybe it’s because no one cares about independent animation anymore. Oh well. Thank goodness for dreamworks.

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    I’m amazed at how many people came here just to deride the use of rotoscoping, yet they seem fine with the computer manipulated puppetry of cgi animation. Jeff Scher works on EVERY frame of the film, and he is manipulating the time. He shoots the live action on one’s (sometimes at different speeds) but he films tha animation at different timings – one’s two’s three’s. That’s obvious. The man is actually doing ART but the cartoonists feel compelled to drag him down, and it just doesn’t jive. Go back and watch a Dreamworks film again, and leave the art to those who enjoy it.

  • http://liesjekraai.blogspot.com/ Liesje

    Thank you, Michael. I read this post a day or two ago and was infuriated by the stupidity displayed in the comments. I came close to writing a retort but stopped; I just find it so tiring sometimes…

    I could watch L’eau Life every day and not get sick of it.

  • Maria Sequeira

    I just want to add that I’ve studied Jeff Scher’s film, “No Time” and have learned a lot about animation from doing so. If you like this kind of time-slicing approach, take a look at the work of Robert Breer, such as his “Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons”.

  • Ariel

    Liesje: You seem frustrated with people who don’t believe rotoscoping is animation. Why don’t you tell us then?

    Or should I watch your “what’s animation” film again? Which was really well done by the way. No rotoscoping! :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/thetinyorchestra Half

    I’m a big fan of Jeff’s work. His films are emotionally compelling, especially viewed on the big screen.

    These finite definitions of animation are the chains that bind us. There’s a big world out there. Why can’t it be expressed with rotoscope or Flash or stained glass?

    If animation is about creating life, you may have to admit that you’re getting tired of the same old exaggerated antics and clone stamp design that has flooded our industry.