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Can Design Have A Conscience?’s favourite showing at THIS WAY, the DAE’s Milan exhibition, is by animator Niels Hoebers.  His character, Walter, is the conscience of design.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 15-04-2011

Niels Hoebers’ two-fold graduation project was “The Motion Cabinet,” a modular stage for creating stop-motion films on, and “Walter” an animated film about the imagination. 

“I love animation, but the equipment is prohibitively expensive,” explains Hoebers.  “I wanted to create an affordable DIY technique.”

The cabinet is a one square meter by one square meter platform with a modular grid.  All filming equipment like lights, cameras and tripods can be attached.  “It is a multifunctional table that gives the user complete control,” Hoebers explains.  “In animation, you need to be able to control the strings at all times.”

Running alongside the table is a film Hoebers made about a character named Walter.  The presentation is effective because the table on its own doesn’t look like much, but the film shows how it can be used to create the magic of motion pictures. 

Walter is Hoebers.  “Well, more or less,” he admits.  “As an animator, I am an actor with stage fright and like Walter, I am good at keeping my emotions in my pocket.”  The puppet's dialogue in the film works as a metaphor for the design process.  “A designer is always in dialogue with his imagination.  Do I want it to be black or white, how does it reflect on a consumer?”

And a puppet can’t live without its creator just like Hoeber can’t live without Walter.  “I need him to tell my story,” he admits.  But when a designer finishes his or her work, and the finished product is sent out into the marketplace, it can and will be interpreted and reinterpreted in whatever way the user feels fit.  At some point the designer always loses control and the design takes on a life of its own.

Since graduating last June, Hoeber’s film has enjoyed a lot of success even being short-listed for the Guggenheim’s You Tube Play competition.

At the DAE Hoebers started trying to transform his imaginative vision into products, but it never felt right.  “It was just too static,” he says.  “I needed to tell a story and an inanimate object couldn’t do it.”  

But there was nobody to teach him about animation, so Hoebers left to study at  Se-ma-for, the Polish animation studio that made the 2008 Academy Award winning short,  “Peter and the Wolf.” 

“It was a really magical place because they do everything within the one building,” Hoebers says.  “I got experience making puppets, building scenes, shooting films, and editing.  It was a dream.”

Back in Holland Hoebers perfected his ball-and-socket puppets and designed the table.  Finally his creative vision was starting to make sense.  “It was satisfying to see my design ideas come to life,” he says.   “That is the power of film.”

It was the combination of the DAE’s system and finding the right medium that has worked so well for Hoebers.  At the DAE students are encouraged to work with a feeling or an emotion.   “Creative people are emotional and this is very important in animation if you want your work to be convincing,” he says.

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