Back in the day when machinima meant homebrewed animation folks like Tom Jantol and Hugh Hancock (founder of the original machinima.com) were cooking up ideas that today we take for granted. Back then was another story.
Dedicated animation tools were expensive, usually in the thousands of dollars if not hundreds. They were all rare and didn’t play well with each other. In fact, most animation applications lived in their own ecosphere with no way out and you were stuck with what you spent time learning.
It was about this time that Tom Jantol coined the phrase Anymation. Any means necessary to get the job done. No favorites, no bullshit just use whatever you can get your hands on to advance the project.
It is our thoughts and feelings that make art, everything else is just a tool. - Tom Jantol
The reason anymation caught on wasn’t a fluke. Today it’s called a pipeline.
Mr. Jantol has developed a following that has turned into somewhat of a cult over the years. He would laugh at this notion and most likely dismiss it, but his body of work speaks for itself. Back in the day, using limited animation tools, he crafted surreal tales that set his work apart from the rest of us. Including professional animators.
As time went on he adopted better tools and techniques but kept true to his vision of the surreal settings and fantasy worlds so rich that one must view his works many times over just to see what you may have missed.
Tom Jantol isn’t just an animator any more than Elvis was just a singer or Galileo was just an astronomer. He was and still is very much a pioneer in rich digital storytelling.
A lot of us use the same software… but we don’t all get the same audacious results.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: How did you get into digital art in general?
TOM JANTOL: After I became a film director with a license to shoot people I had zero desire to be involved in digital art. I wanted to make traditional animation, to draw and paint all 24 frames (per second) of the movie. And then, one shinny day, or maybe it was a rainy night, I stumbled on the video game “Max Payne” equipped with an editing tool for making custom levels and animations.
I became addicted for life. Shortly afterward “Half Life2” with even more advanced tools came and I knew I was reaching a point of no return.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: What drives you to create? Is it a release, hobby, desire to tell a story or what?
TOM JANTOL: I'm afraid that my brain works as a broken camera; I see things, I had to record them and yet somewhere in the process some mechanical glitch wants to add a twist. To turn malfunction into advantage showing what other normally functioning cameras can’t. I think it is more compulsive disorder than anything else.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: Can you remember if your first visual art was an image render or animation? If so, what tools (software) did you use?
TOM JANTOL: First was traditional media, I wanted to be a painter before I became a film director. I even had two exhibitions of some surreal drawings. Mentioned Mr. Max Payne, hardcore noir detective changed everything, forcing me to make an animated movie as my first digital art.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: What are your main “go-to” digital tools?
TOM JANTOL: That is always Reallusion’s iClone, Photoshop, After Effects and Vegas Studio. I also use many, many other tools, including game engines (Max Payne would be very angry at me if I didn’t) but somehow everything ends up customized by Photoshop, imported to iClone, ...beautified or uglified... in After Effects and assembled in Sony Vegas.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: If you had to pick one tool/application for your art what would it be?
TOM JANTOL: That has to be Reallusion’s iClone. I’ve used it from the first version and now it’s become so powerful, familiar and trustworthy that I can’t imagine any other tool as a base for my work.
It is our thoughts and feelings that make art, everything else is just a tool.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: As a filmmaker/animator is your art-driven more by visual, narrative or both?
TOM JANTOL: As a visual artist by education and broken camera by nature, it is probably the visual that drives my narrative, but I am trying to blend both to the point of no distinction. And I always had a theory that every story has just one right way to be visualized, one visual approach that matches, fits and it’s best for that particular story. A matter for argument, I know, but I believe in that.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: Is digital art comparable to fine art?
TOM JANTOL: Of course. It is our thoughts and feelings that make art, everything else is just a tool.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: Any type of digital artwork you enjoy doing the most?
Animation itself, without a doubt. To make alive something that was just a dot, line, pixel or whatever – for me is the last magic humankind can do. To put the character you shaped in an environment you design, speaking things you wrote and doing things you planned (then watching how he does things you don’t plan)… that’s what makes you a Maker, and humble me has nothing against being God.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: Are there any influences that shape your work?
Too many to count or name. Lots of movies, paintings, theater plays, comic books. I could list dozens of things, from stories of Phillip K. Dick and ingenious movies of Lotte Reiniger to puppets of "what are you doing in my head" Jan Svankmajer. But, the most important thing is that everything, absolutely everything can be inspirational and influential, from one frame of some comic book to the leaf covered by snow. Let’s say I am influenced by life itself. Not to mention by death.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: What would be your dream project or industry job?
I always dreamed about making a series of short animated detective stories in steampunkish noir style. In fact, I have characters and some already made environments. My dream continues by making a feature movie based on the unbelievable global success of the series.
RENDEROSITY MAGAZINE: What is your goal with your digital art?
My biggest obsession is merging without merge and blending without blend two different worlds of animation, 2D and 3D. Not in a way that 2D mimic 3D, or vice versa, but to find a way to let them give their best in both worlds glued together, without losing their specifics.
It sounds impossible and absurd, I know, but for broken camera, as I am, the challenge is irresistible, and I have no reason to believe it can’t be done.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.