Animation and Restoration: Developing early animation techniques into new technologies
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
Through a range of public engagement activities (film screenings,
workshops, collaboration with animation studios including Bristol's
Aardman Animations) research on early Russian animation has led to an
increased awareness of innovative technological developments from pre-
Revolutionary and Soviet Russia, including experiments with stop-frame
motion, colour and stereo-scopic vision. `Russian' technologies differ
from those of European and American cinema and Beumers has identified
differences of approach in film technologies that have facilitated
exchanges of methods aimed at promoting the adoption of more efficient
technologies in contemporary filmmaking. Her research has promoted the
restoration and digitisation of rare historical materials, permitting
their distribution to a wide audience in the UK, Germany and Italy.
External partners involved with the digitisation process have developed a
3D system used in animation today in Russia and Estonia. The research has
permitted the development of a prototype animation Touch Table with local
company Aerian Studios Ltd. The Touch Table, which animates old optical
devices, has been on public display at museums and film festivals. A
resulting iPad application `Walking Pictures' is freely available on the
App Store. The prototype has generated new commissions from other museums,
which will provide significant new business revenue.
In a separate development, the Estonian Ministry of Culture, NIKFI
Moscow, and the Russian State Film Archive Gosfilmofond have agreed, on
the basis of Beumers' research and the proposed project, to accelerate the
digitisation of films.
This project arises from continuous research into Russian animation,
first funded through a Lever-hulme Trust grant from 2007 to 2009
(detailed below). During the course of this research, Beumers discovered a
privately owned archive in St Petersburg, containing unique footage of
both drawn animation on paper and the earliest puppet animation in the
history of cinema (made between 1906 and 1909, thus preceding historically
known films by three years). These were made for amateur purposes but were
produced to extremely high standards. These research findings were
published in outputs 1, 2 and 5 listed below. The films were presented at
Pordenone Silent Film festival in 2008 and toured (along with an
exhibition and major animation and film events) in Europe and the US: see
events and responses.
Through her work rescuing and analysing the Shiryaev film archive,
Beumers has placed the origins of Russian film in a wider context of key
moments of technical innovation in film history. This work has generated
two lines of impact: a demonstration of `how pictures learnt to walk',
drawing extensively on the archive, and the development of animation
technologies. The project has spearheaded the restored Shiryaev archive,
with the paper films restored digitally by David Sproxton (Aardman,
Bristol) and some 17.5mm trick films digitised by Prestech (London).
Beumers' ongoing research builds on this work on early animation.
Investigating stop-frame techniques and other techniques, Beumers'
research developed into areas of special effects, especially in Soviet
cinema of the 1930s-70s. During this period, numerous unique and labour-
intensive effects were created: thus, for example, the appearance of
weightlessness in space and interplanetary journeys were copied by
American cinema when producer Roger Corman bought the rights to several
Soviet films and re-edited them for American distribution.
This research explored the first experiments with colour and 3D in Soviet
cinema, notably in animation (which serves as the `cradle' for special
effects), in the 1930s and 1970s respectively. Soviet film studios created
colour animation by using three-colour film strips - a technique that can
no longer be projected, but after digital restoration these films can be
seen again in their original intended form. In the 1970s the Scientific
Research Film- and Photo Institute (NIKFI) in Moscow also developed a
technique for 3D films, which can likewise no longer be projected on
standard projectors, but it is now possible to capture the films
digitally. On the basis of this body of research, the Estonian Ministry of
Culture (because animated 3D films were made at Tallinn's Nukufilm in the
70s), NIKFI Moscow, and the Russian State Film Archive Gosfilmofond have
agreed to accelerate the digitisation of films.
Beumers joined the University of Bristol as a Lecturer in 1994 and was
Reader in Russian Studies when she left the institution in 2012. The
research referred to here was carried out whilst she was employed by the
University of Bristol, and the impact is a direct result of this research,
which has been published in the form of authored and edited books and as
journal articles and book chapters in Russian and English.
References to the research
1. (co-editor and translator): Alexander Shiryaev: Master of Movement,
edited with Victor Bocharov and David Robinson. Le Giornate del Cinema
Muto, 2009. Can be supplied on request.
2. (author) `Transforming Animation History', pp. 37-52, in Alexander
Shiryaev: Master of Movement. Can be supplied on request.
3. (author) A History of Russian Cinema. Oxford and NY: Berg,
2009. Can be supplied on request.
4. (author) `Rossiiskaia mul'tiplikatsiia 2009g. Vzliad iz-za rubezha'
[Russian animation of 2009: a view from the side], in Irina Shilova, Ol'ga
Ziborova (eds), Khroniki kinoprotsessa 2009, Moscow: Kanon+, ROOI
Reabilitatsiia, 2011, pp. 88-105. Can be supplied on request.
5. (author) `Aleksandr Shiryaev: popravka k istorii animatsii' [Aleksandr
Shiryaev: corrections to the history of animation], Kinovedcheskie
zapiski, 94-5 (2010), 340-61. Can be supplied on request.
6. (editor) Directory of World Cinema: Russia. Bristol and
Chicago: Intellect, 2011. Can be supplied on request.
Details of the impact
Beumers has developed this research base to explore technologies which
were ground-breaking for their time; they are, however, no longer usable
for adequate demonstration today as the projection technology is no longer
available. These films (which have never been shown before) have therefore
been digitised and restored in order to display the original effects.
Thus, various other types and levels of impact can be measured:
- the impact on audience expectations of animation and of special
- the impact on animators' quests to find new and more effective ways of
achieving special effects
- the impact on a comparative evaluation of the effect achieved in
different technologies, for example at Aardman and Nukufilm. This seems
particularly pertinent in the context of Aardman's announcement
(November 2011) concerning the outsourcing of stop-frame animation.
The impact created by this research is visible in two areas:
- a two-day event at the film festival `Encounters 2012', which included
two film programmes, a workshop, and roundtable discussions.
- the restoration and development of the technologies used as an
interactive museum Touch Table exhibit, also freely available as an iPad
app on Apple's App Store.
The internationally recognised film festival `Encounters' hosted the
screening of two programmes (both on 19 September 2012), some of which
would not have been restored and digitised without Beumers' work. The
first showing consisted of 3D films, including a colour fragment from the
first stereoscopic film, and three animated films made in the
Oscar-awarded Stereo-70 system in the 1970s. The second screening
presented five animated films created during the 1930s in a three-colour
technique developed by Pavel Mershin. The screenings were held in the
largest and most prominent screen in the festival complex, and were
attended by 154 people in total (71 at the first screening and 83 at the
second) [a]. As well as providing the audience with the opportunity to see
the first ever screening of these films outside of Russia, the event
enhanced the audience's knowledge of the inter-cultural nature of film and
of how this has shaped the films we see today.
David Sproxton, Chairman of `Encounters', commented that `for many in the
audience the technical expertise and imagination of the story-telling came
as a wonderful surprise and reminded us all that films, especially
animated films, can transcend the perceived barriers of national culture
and contemporary trends' [b]. The screenings also paved the way for future
impact, as Beumers agreed with Gosfilmofond and Nukufilm (who own the
films' copyright) that she may propose the pro-gramme to other festivals,
thereby achieving a broader impact on audiences, animators and film
makers. The films have since been shown at Orosz Animacios Filmnapok,
Budapest (March 2013) and the Flatpack Festival, Birmingham UK (March
2013). The films were also programmed for the Abandon Normal Devices
Festival, Liverpool (3-5 October 2013) [c].
The screenings were followed by a workshop on film restoration (attended
by 22 people) and a roundtable on 3D in contemporary animation (attended
by 25 people), both held on 20 September 2012. Informal discussions after
the two public debates were crucial to developing the future impact of
this project; first steps were made towards projects that will see the
restoration of kinopanorama and the inclusion of Estonian
animation in `Encounters' in 2013 with `Estonian Dreams', 6 films made
2008-12 and scheduled for showing on 21 September 2013 [d].
In recognition of this work Beumers was given an `Award for the
Popularization of Russian and Soviet Cinema' by Gosfilmofond on 1 February
Developing new technologies
Alongside Julia Bracegirdle (Animation Department, UWE), Beumers has been
collaborating with Aerian Studios Ltd to develop further these animation
techniques and produce a Touch Table. A prototype of this technology was
presented at the Research and Enterprise in the Arts and Creative
Technology (REACT) Showcase on 28 September 2012. The Touch Table is on
permanent display at the Theatre Collection of Bristol University's
Department of Drama but has also been shown at the Museo del Precinema
in Padua (April-July 2013) [f], which specialises in early cinematic
techniques. The research team have created a forward programme which
includes the Stummfilmtage in Bonn (August 2013) [g], the Watershed Arts
Centre, Bristol (September-October 2013) and the National Media Museum,
Bradford (November 2013). The Touch Table enables visitors to the museums
to use this innovative technology to explore the functionality of early
optical devices, such as the zoetrope, phenakistoscope and kinora;
visitors can view films of their choice by spinning them, thus replicating
the tactile experience of the original device through digital
technologies. The School of Modern Languages works closely with the
museums to ensure that the impact of the exhibit is measured through
qualitative questionnaires and by collecting visitor numbers.
In addition to attracting visitors to the museums and impacting on these
visitors, Aerian Studios have benefitted from the opportunity of learning
about and working with these new technologies, using this new expertise to
generate new Touch Table commissions from other museums, providing
significant new business revenue. In Aerian's view, `the project helped
raise awareness of the skills and ambition of our company, as well as
acting as inspiration to staff and existing clients — pushing us further
into the innovation space' [h].
The software, design and content of the Touch Table have been adapted for
a free iPad application, `Walking Pictures', which was launched in July
2013. The publicity which accompanies the application's release will
ensure that a wide range of people benefit from the technology.
Sources to corroborate the impact
[a] Audience numbers and feedback from the `Encounters' screenings
[b] Feedback from David Sproxton, Aardman Animation & Chairman of
[c] Orosz Animacios Filmnapok, Budapest (March 2013): programme
Flatpack Festival, Birmingham (March 2013): programme
Abandon Normal Devices, Liverpool (October 2013): programme
[d] Estonian Films at `Encounters' 2013
[e] Reference to Beumers Award from Gosfilmofond (February 2013)
[f] Museo del Precinema in Padua (http://www.minicizotti.it,
`How the pictures learnt to walk'), email@example.com:
`The touch-table works good [sic] also with a lot of visitors,
indeed during the European Night of the Museum the influx of visitors has
been very high and everybody enjoyed the touch-table' (7 June 2013).
[g] Introduction to Stummfilmtage programme, page 3:
and entry for 11 August (with image): https://www.facebook.com/StummfilmtageBonn?hc_location=timeline
[h] Letter from Aerian to document their experiences of working with
these new technologies.