Robin Starbuck

BA, Salem College (North Carolina). MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Postgraduate certificate in film/video editing and postproduction, Tisch School of the Arts, Film Program, New York University. New York-based experimental filmmaker and animator. Work in experimental video, installation art, animation, and media design for theatre exhibited in museums, cultural centers, galleries, and festivals in the United States, Europe, and South America. Recipient of multiple awards and fellowships for artist residencies, both nationally and internationally. Her studio orientation is in experimental film, animation, and intermedia installation. Current projects include a documentary film on the Apsaalooke Tribe of Montana, experimental film projects for installations, and the ongoing production of video and animation projections for theatre and opera in New York and Europe. A full-time professor of experimental film and animation, she has been a visiting artist-in-residence at several studios and institutions, including the Media Technology Center of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago. SLC, 2014–

Previous Courses

Experimental Animation: Materials and Methods

Open , Seminar—Spring

Animation is the magic of giving life to objects and materials through motion. Whether through linear storytelling or conceptual drive, a sense of wonder is achieved with materials, movement, and transformation. In this class, students will learn the fundamentals of making animated films in a hands-on workshop environment in which we are actively creating during class meetings and labs. The class will include instruction in a variety of under-camera, stop-motion techniques, including: cut-out paper animation, paint on glass, sequential drawing using pencil and paper or chalk boards, sand animation, and simple object and puppet animation. We will cover all aspects of progressive movement, especially the laying out of ideas through time and the development of convincing character and motion. The course will cover basic design techniques and considerations, including materials, execution, and color. We will also have a foundational study of the history of experimental animation by viewing the historical animated film work of artists from around the globe. During the semester, each student will complete five short, animated films ranging in length from 30 seconds to one minute. Students are required to provide their own external hard drives and some additional art materials. Software instruction will include AfterEffects, Adobe Premier, and Dragonframe.

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Avant Doc: Experiments in Documentary Filmmaking

Open , Seminar—Spring

No prior film experience is required, though some knowledge of film editing would be advantageous.

In this course, we will examine experimental documentary form as political/social/personal discourse and practice. We take as a starting point avant-garde documentary production and explore it in the manner that theorist Renov defines as “the rigorous investigation of aesthetic forms, their composition and function” and the manner in which “poetics confront the problematics of power....” Throughout the semester, students will produce a series of experimental film exercises while they simultaneously research and produce a single, short experimental documentary film for conference work. This class will acquaint students with the
basic theory and purpose of experimental film/video, as compared to narrative documentary formats, and to critical methodologies that will help establish aesthetic designs for their own work. In the class, we will survey a wide range of avant-garde documentary films from the 1920s to the present, with the central focus being student’s options for film production in the context of political and cultural concerns. The various practices of experimental documentary film speak to a range of possibilities for what a movie might be. Within these practices, issues such as whose voices are heard and who is represented become of crucial importance.

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Digital 2D Animation: Shorts

Open , Seminar—Year

No prior drawing experience is necessary.

In this class, students develop animation and short storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated shorts. Instruction includes story development, visualization, character, continuity, timing, digital drawing, rotoscoping, and compositing. All of the production steps required to complete a short animated film are demonstrated and applied through exercises in the fall term, aimed at the production of a final short animated film or PSA by each student or team of students in the spring semester. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in story design and assignments directed at translating ideas into moving images. Digitally-drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises cover a wide range of motion graphic features, including: green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and lighting. Exercises will enable students with a working knowledge of the software Harmony by Toon Boon. Harmony is a creative, efficient software used in the film and TV animation industry.

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Secondary Currents: Experimental Film in Place

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and is no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place during the previous spring semester.

This production seminar explores, in depth, the rich world of moving images as artistic expression. Students participate by completing a series of exercises and projects supported by lectures, discussion, and screenings. We explore moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries between narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Rather, the course introduces the language and techniques of film production alongside strategies for the use of film, performance, and audio design as a means to creatively examine our relationships to place. We direct our concerns to an investigation of our relationship to the legends, histories, topographies, politics, and language of place in its broadest context. Assignments are geared toward generating an ease and familiarity with one’s engagement with place as a media artist. Over the course of the semester, we look at and analyze the pioneering work of many experimental artists, including Gilliam Wearing, Doug Aiken, Pipolotti Rist, Seoungho Cho, Mike Kelly, Shana Moulton, Ragnar Kjartansson, and others. Labs and screenings are designed to introduce the tools and technology necessary for each project. A major component of the course is the ongoing analysis and critique of each other’s work.

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Experimental Film and Animation

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: SLC course work in film, animation, or visual art.

Whether dealing with abstraction or narrative sequence, experimental films reflect the unique vision of their makers. While most forms of animation serve the particular needs of commercial media, the inclusion of animation in experimental film has the ability to deconstruct an idea or movement and reassemble it in a new way. This course introduces the concepts and practical study of stop-frame animation production as it relates to both sequential and nonsequential narration, movement, space, and time. In a series of short, independent, and collaborative projects, students will learn the techniques and materials necessary to explore a variety of experimental and hand-animation practices and to assemble this work with live-action film/video. The central focus of this course will be on concept development and material exploration for the completion of several short, hybrid films. Students will work in both film and animation and learn to composite this material for the production of their work. A variety of frame-by-frame animation techniques in under-the-camera destructive and constructive animation—including sand animation, paper cutout animation, and abstract drawing for animation—will be taught. Through technical instruction, readings, discussion, screenings, and experimentation, we will seek to refresh, extend, and redefine traditional modes of hybrid media production. The aim of the course is to explore freely with materials in order to trail blaze fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities. Final projects should be professionally crafted and may be executed as experimental films, animations, or video projections.

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First-Year Studies: Fundamentals of Nonfiction Animation

Open , FYS—Year

In this yearlong First-Year Studies beginning production course, students learn the basic principles of animation, develop an understanding of visual language, and attain skills in constructing short nonfiction narratives. Using a mixture of classical animation and 2D digital tools, students will complete practical exercises intended to familiarize themselves with basic animation skills and language. Animation will be treated as an approach that embraces documentary and other nonfiction media as an art practice. Screenings and discussions will help develop the specialized thinking needed to understand the discipline. Practice in this course is integrated with theory so that production is held within the context of critical thinking about the possibilities for nonfiction storytelling. In the first semester, we will undertake a series of short individual and group exercises in response to technical labs. Spring semester, each student will spend the majority of the term making a single nonfiction animated short on a subject of his or her choosing. With the recent explosion of interest in documentary film production, this course offers first-year students the chance to discover their own unique style for the telling of real stories with animated images. Technical instruction includes workshops in concept development, rotoscope drawing, cutout animation, miniature puppetry, lighting, cameras, and the software AfterEffects, Toon Boom Harmony, and Dragonframe. Prior drawing experience is not necessary.

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Media Sketchbooks

Open , Seminar—Fall

This one-semester production course is for adventurers, artists, and budding filmmakers interested in exploring the media of video for artistic expression and social inquiry. The images and experiences developed through experimental film and video are as varied as the artists who make them. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Like paintings or poems, each film reflects the artist as much as the content driving the work. This course is designed to introduce the language of experimental film and strategies for the use of video/film and audio design as an expressive tool. We will investigate the idea of radical content and experimental form by establishing the normative models and procedures of cinema and video and then exploring ways to challenge these conventions. Through a series of video and animation assignments, the class will consider moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries between and among narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. Projects will be furthered by screenings, readings, seminar discussions, and field trips. Topics will include, but not be limited to, issues of identity, the performative body, border crossings, cultural equivocation and mannerisms, blemished topographies, ritual and transformation. Labs are designed to help students develop proficiency with film equipment and editing systems, including AfterEffects.

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