Renaud Hallée’s The Clockmakers

Filmmaker and audiovisual composer Renaud Hallée has produced a dizzying new animated short for Canada’s National Film Board.

Filmmaker and audiovisual composer Renaud Hallée has produced a dizzying new animated short for Canada’s National Film Board.

The Clockmakers transports viewers into a seemingly endless mechanism of triangles, lines and spinning gears. Toying with our sense of depth, Hallée takes us up, down and through the mechanism while dozens of tiny gymnasts bounce and leap through the air.


Its a carefully crafted animation and Hallée’s attention to detail is obvious: the gymnasts’ movement is fluid and lifelike and in striking contrast to the thick black lines they slide, jump on and slip through.

He has also synced the audio and visuals to create sound that is produced by on-screen events. A gymnast jumping on a line makes one note, then another, until the screen is filled with somersaulting characters and spinning wheels that make a complete track.

The Clockmakers is Hallée’s first professional animation but as a member of Possible Metrics, he has worked on several audiovisual projects from percussion video game Tambour to Gravite, a video in which falling objects become musical instruments. He was approached by producer Marc Bertrand, who had watched his previous video, Sonar (below), inspired by the work of fellow Canadian animator Norman McLaren.

The video was created using rotoscoping: “We shot live action trampolinists and asked them to do some moves. I did the whole film using these images and triangle structures, before an animator drew over the footage and we replaced the live action shots with his drawings,” he explains. For the music, Hallée used the same timing structure as his previous video, Combustion (below).

Dismissing the notion of a “eureka” moment, or any one particular influence, Hallée says his short is the result of careful contemplation of music, books, science, “anything really” until a vague idea became something specific. While he says the NFB made a “bold move” commissioning him, he believes it was worthwhile. “I don’t think they regret it,” he adds.

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