In animator Marty Cooper’s 2014 viral hit “Aug(De)Mented Reality,” monsters run amok in cities, loggers run on hot dogs, and penguins dance in your fridge. The nearly three-minute short film that used an iPhone 5 and traditional cell animation to create real-world cartoons. The piece was an old-school approach to the fad of augmented reality.
Despite the acclaim and popularity of “Aug(De)Mented Reality” and his followups, Cooper, aka Hombre McSteez, has only produced about 10 minutes of animation in the past two years. His stop-motion cell animation process simply takes a lot of time, not to mention transparency sheets, markers, and white out.
But Cooper just made his triumphant return, releasing his first collaborative music video with Burger Records’ Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs. “Talk 2 Her,” the first single from Coffey’s self-titled album, due out July 27, represents Cooper’s longest animated work yet, injecting his signature cartoon monsters into a single-shot live-action music video. In it, Sam Coffey struts down the street, encountering his band and being stalked and mocked by a possible malevolent creature.
Unlike Cooper’s previous Sharpie-fueled creations, “Talk 2 Her” received a digitial upgrade. “I just got the program is a program called TV paint. It’s a French animation software, and it really cool because it replicated the 2D animation process better than any other software,” says Cooper. “So it really tries to be just like flipping paper you know, like old-school 2D animation, which makes it really intuitive for 2D animators. This was a good project for me to get to learn the program and become better at using it.”
Cooper is planning on switching from his traditional cell animation to this new digital technique for future projects. He’s released a number of digital animations already on his Instagram and a short compilation of his “Talk 2 Her” animations on YouTube.
Cooper isn’t worried about backlash from his old fans.
“The reactions have been interesting,” Cooper says. “Some people are like, ‘Oh no, you got rid of the whole esthetic,’ or ‘It was so much better when you could see the technique and medium,” he said over the phone. “But most people don’t even notice. They just say the animation’s cleaner. They don’t even know.”
For Cooper, the change is about growth. “The cell stuff was really fun and it was challenging, an interesting medium to work in,” he says. “But I feel like it ran its course… doing it digitally it puts the emphasis on the content rather than the technique.”
Digital animation also cuts out the people who simply like his work because of how it’s made. “It’s more up to me to make interesting content than people just liking my work for the technique. So far I’ve gotten good reactions. I can create things faster, and it introduces its own new creative challenges.”
When he was working with transparencies and markers, Cooper’s work was often limited by nature. Wind, rain, lighting, and even his proximity to the locations he wanted to shoot became obstacles to creation. TV Paint opens Cooper to a whole new world of possibilities.
“I can animate over any old live-action footage I take on my phone,” he enthuses. “There’s a lot more potential and creative challenges by doing it digitally.”