I use my Mac for rotoscoping

Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly animator Bob Sabiston explains his Mac-based craft.

MacFormat: What is rotoscoping and how did you get involved?
Bob Sabiston: Rotoscoping is basically hand-tracing over video. It used to be done with tracing paper, film and a lightbox. Now it’s done with graphics tablets and digital video footage. I think I got kind of burned out on the laborious 3D animation I was doing back in 1994 and wanted to try something different, more spontaneous, easier.

MF: You created Rotoshop, the world’s first rotoscoping app, on Mac OS. What makes the Mac ideal for this kind of work?
BS: I’ve always used Apple Macs – ever since my exams in high school, in fact. But that said, current-day Apple iMacs with their giant screens do make for excellent and inexpensive animation workstations.

MF: What impact has the iPad had on your work?
BS: It hasn’t had any impact on our animation – yet. Perhaps soon we will be producing content for it, I don’t know. However, lately I’ve really been getting into programming other types of stuff for the iPad/iPhone. I’ve got two apps, Voxel and Headspace, which are much better on the iPad with all of its screen real estate! They are creativity apps – one for building LEGO-like models and one for 3D mind-mapping. I actually don’t want to do a drawing or animation app for it – I just don’t like drawing with my finger and sliding it across glass.

MF: You’ve worked on big films such as A Scanner Darkly. What is your take on Hollywood?
BS: Hollywood seems like this very insular system. They make all these $50 million animated movies and some of them work, some of them don’t. But we could quite easily make a cool-looking movie for so much less – say around $4 million. You would think it easy to organise, but it doesn’t work that way – it’s as if Hollywood thinks the movie will be worthless if it doesn’t cost $50 million. So, I think they could try making one less big movie and instead put that money into 10 or so cheap, experimental ones every once in a while.

MF: Where do you think the future of rotoscoping lies?
BS: I don’t think it will ever be a huge thing, but it will probably always be around in some form. I personally would like to keep doing it. It’s fun, and when it is done well I feel like the artistic results can be just as interesting as what Pixar does. ●


This interview originally appeared in issue 225 of MacFormat, the UK’s best selling Apple magazine.
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