Friday, April 22, 2005

Cafechurch Animations CD-Rom

In my free time I've been going through animations on the excellent CafeChurch CD-ROM and thought I'd post a few reactions.

As always I'm super-impressed by what these artists have come up with. For those of us for whom animation is a hobby, seeing the work of professionals is always an inspiration and challenge. I applaud any church that pays artists!

The graphic an animation quality of these is uniformly high - stunning graphics and small file sizes. The Cafe Church artists specialise in bold 2D cartoon-style graphics, often with a retro feel (OK maybe thats mainly Rick Bull). Think 1950s and 1960s. There's ample use of corporate and kitsch icons in meaningful ways. ie. for a purpose. Personally, I love the bold colours and shapes as they evoke a bold 'message' and convey a sense of immediacy and urgency. Of course, the down-side is that occasionally the religious imagery itself seems trite - a black cross with a rotating orange starburst behind it. There's a 'flattening' of symbols in this 2D landscape - the cross and the christ seem to compete equally with coca-cola and army tanks. But this in itself raises the question - what is kitsch and what is ultimate? In such a landscape, both problem and possibility are painted starkly.

Many CafeChurch animations have a political focus - the gospel speaking into current issues - war, refugees, poverty, homelessness - and a focus on the gospel and prophetic texts that speak to these. Even the Psalms carry a global conscience. For me this is a welcome contribution to worship!

Quite a number of the animations also present stirring and provocative quotes from contemporary Christians and others - Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Dostoevsky, Tori Amos, U2, CS Lewis, Noam Chomsky.... Both the quotes themselves and the substance of the animations in general reveal a thoughtful genesis for these presentations - born in conversation and community, not seeking to present a closed message but to open the possibility of provocation and response.

I have to say that while i love the content of the quotes, their presentation often irritates me
• often too many words on screen at the one time
• usually in uppercase which makes them harder to read
• rarely on screen for long enough (and i read quite quickly)
• no attempt to use 'inclusive' versions of biblical texts

While I very like presentations that do not make everything simple and obvious, I find that excessive text content is not the best way the achieve this - much better to give a shorter quote that people could read more easily and then ponder. I'd be really interested in discussing this with the animators as they are certainly very gifted visual artists and no doubt have good reasons for their presentation approach.

I've never been to CafeChurch but I suspect that many of these animations are looped in a cafe environment, rather than played once in a sequential 'worship service.' Hence the amount of text may be digestible over time.No doubt there were other elements to complement these as well. On the one hand, I'm glad not to have been given formulas or prescriptions for cafechurch services; on the other hand I would value the opportunity to see/hear some kind of context for their use - a problem we all face in sharing our stuff.

So, for me, the combination of graphics and quotes are a challenging mix of boldness and depth, provocative, though sometimes at the expense of opening interpretation of the text.

There's also urban and beach imagery, satire, coffee, retro fonts, nice silhouettes, anti-corporate angst,

The CDROM has over 150 animations, and about 50 designated as "loops", so you can import these into Flash and use as you wish. The animations don't include sound, but clearly many or all of them had particular sounds/music attached. Some animations identify the related music, so it would be possible to connect them - songs by Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Beth Gibbons, U2 - and Glen Powell!

In short, there is so much excellent material here, and the CafeChurch community deserve our gratitude for making it available at such a cheap price.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Midnight Oil Productions - Visual Resources from the USA

For three years now Midnight Oil Productions have been producing multimedia resources for churches. Len Wilson and Jason Moore, partners in Midnight Oil Productions, developed their vision at Ginghamsburg Methodist Church and Lumicon Digital Productions. They're known for their books, "The Wired Church", Digital Storytellers, and their "Fresh Out of The Box" series of resources.

In their words, Midnight Oil Productions are "passionate about worship that authentically communicates to today’s digital culture."

On their web site they have:

Design Matters: Articles on digital design

Easter Resources

Worship Resources for Purpose Driven Life

DVDs/Videos with visual resources for worship.

There's always a freebie on offer.

At the moment the freebie is a camping graphic. You can download the zipped folder with the graphic in PSD (layered photoshop file) and BMP format, designed for teaching and lyrics backgrounds. The freebie comes with ideas for themes and activities.

Of course you have to sign up with your email address.

I'd be interested in comments from people who have ordered and used the DVDs or videos.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Cafe Church Animation Project

The Cafe Church in Glebe, Sydney has just released a CD-ROM of about 160 animations created over a 3 year period by their artists-in-residence for use in their cafe-style, informal worship. These animations are thought-provoking and challenging, with a real depth to them. And for only A$30 its a bargain.

Visit the Cafe Church Website.