This kooky animation project turns the idea of AR on its head.
Who knew that you needed little more than an iPhone to make flat, traditionally-animated cartoons look so real? Redwood City, CA-based animator Marty Cooper, who goes by the psuedonym Hombre McSteez, is a purveyor of a special type of cel animation, one that uses stop-motion techniques to superimpose animated characters on real-world backgrounds. His medium of choice for sharing the projects thus far has been Instagram, but a recent YouTube compilation of the best ones is called “Aug(De)Mented Reality,” cleverly playing on the augmented-reality experiences that are capturing the public imagination and increasingly becoming a medium for creativity.
Cooper’s mundane backgrounds are perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the project. First of all, they serve as the inspiration for the fantastical characters, complete with scientific names, that often interact with the human world in unexpected ways – including the “buzzsaw groundsquirrel (rodentae hypernicus)” and a lost string bean named mehwoop. One of the reasons Cooper’s backgrounds are so important to his entertaining works is that they’re so ordinary, making his entire process seem plausible to the average viewer. These characters inspire us to, say, wonder what goes on inside the fridge after we close the door.
His only tools are the aforementioned iPhone 5S with a stop-motion app, a cartooning style developed from doodling on a whiteboard, and a transparent cel, oriented to ensure that the sun (or other light source) is behind because bright light and the reflections it causes is the enemy of transparent plastic.
Cooper has thus far had an interest in showing viewers the process of animation simultaneously with its result; his hands appear in many of the frames, and this indeed adds interest to the conceit. However, many people have been following him for a while, and he thinks they may see it as a narrative device that has been used one time too many. “I think by now people get the technique so I am trying to have just some fingertips in the frame every once in a while rather than the whole hand in throughout,” he told us in an email. “But honestly, I don’t think about my hand much when I am shooting an animation, I just try to get the character in the right spot which is difficult enough!!”
For a storyteller who takes his public this seriously, longer stories are certainly the next step, and he indeed plans on making a story with recurring characters soon. But for now, he is always furiously sketching and bringing new creatures out of the ether. See “Aug(De)Mented Reality” below.