Tachyons+ Transmits #1: The Stop Motion Animation of Marina Sabio

Posted by on June 5, 2014

Tachyons+Transmits is the new column from Logan Owlbeemoth, otherwise one half of the eponymous video glitch synth design team TACHYONS + and synth duo OS OVNI. Over time installments will form a future memory embedded in the extremities of the subconscious, offering a closer glimpse of experimental sonic sorcerers and visual wizards profiled as they develop their craft. In this debut installment, Logan profiles Barcelona born and now Nancy, France based stop motion animator Marina Sabio, whose recent music videos caught his eye.


Sometimes something comes along so lost, so little, so wonderful, so soulful… it makes you want to jump out of our current so-called reality and scream out loud, “Look At This! Listen To This!” But you come to grips and remember almost no one lives in those lovely, unique dimensions of creativity. So you retreat back into your corner while pecking away at life bubbles, “What does it all mean? What is it? Did that person ever… Why am I not….. Why was one ever?” Marina Sabio’s videos for beyond-the-goth English folk musician Matt Elliott are such things, setting her beautiful hand-made stop animations artfully next to the tune of sublime, half-forgotten dreams. We flew a paper airship into dual dream mode the other night to ask her what is the meaning behind the movement, within the evident ruffling of love and sadness. 

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Who is Marina Sabio?
I was born in Barcelona, Spain, but nowadays I live in France, where I do my art and stop motion projects. Hopefully you’ll know a bit more about me after the interview…

How did you get into creating videos using stop animation?
Since I was little I was very drawn to  cinema. My parents used to bring me with them when I was a baby in the little stroller, so I guess that did something to my brain. Then, as I grew older, I studied cinema for a degree in Barcelona for 4 years, and after that, I specialized in a masters of cinema direction. That’s how I got into creating video work, but not how I started with stop motion animation.

After my studies, I worked in some cinema and TV productions in Spain and France, but I felt that weirdly and sadly that wasn’t really my thing, and I felt lost and disappointed. I saw myself drifting away, trying to find a way…

I always felt a special curiosity for traditional animation, but I don’t know why, I never saw myself as an animator. It’s not that I didn’t feel capable (which I didn’t anyway), it’s more like I never thought I could do that. I never imagined me doing it, didn’t even think about it. Animation, in my mind, was something too cool and I guess quite unreachable.

One day a project came to my hands. I studied it carefully and decided that it could only be made by using animation… So I put it in stand-by while I thought what to do. On the other hand, I used to do clay puppets as a hobby, but as I said, I don’t know why I never put both things together: the fact of having studied cinema and making puppets. Maybe now it seems obvious, but at that time, to me it didn’t seem any obvious at all, as I didn’t know much about animation.

So it was then when destiny made that I met Matt Elliott, who before we started working together, was the first one to believe in me and encouraged me to do stop motion animation. I guess he saw the way I was looking for before than I did.

I remember the first day I did a little stop motion test. I only knew the technique but had no idea of what the result would be… and as I understood the technique and my mistakes, I also understood that I wanted to know everything about it. I was so excited that I even cried. Of course I realized that that was my thing, and that I wanted to do that until the day I die, if I can.

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Who are some of your stop animation influences?
Well, I love the works of Jan Svankmajer, Ray Harryhausen and Henry Selick. But very specially, I’ve got a very very huge admiration and affection by Adam Elliot and Oliver Postgate’s works… Also I think that my biggest influence and probably the reason why I always found stop motion so incredibly magic, is the wonderful master Georges Méliès.

How did you begin working with Matt Elliott?
I loved Matt’s music since I first discovered it. He’s one of the best and certainly one of the most talented musicians I’ve met, so as I said, he encouraged me to start doing stop motion animation.

I started learning by myself all the tricks of the technique and one day he asked me to make the clip for the song “The Pain That’s Yet To Come” of his album “The Broken Man”. It was a big honor that he trusted me for such a beautiful project, as well as Stéphane Gregoire did, the founder of the label Ici d’Ailleurs.

Your studio is named Tiny Lost Soul. Is this a reference to Matt Elliott’s album ‘Little Lost Soul’?
When I was looking for a name for my studio (and a name to sign my work) I thought I wanted something related to souls. The etymology of the verb “to animate” comes from the latin animāre, which means to provide an “anima”, a soul. I  think there’s something magic in that word, and that’s also exactly why I love this old technique of animation so much.

You’d think that I work with just objets… but not quite. At the end of the movie, you can see that at some point those objets were alive. For a short amount of time, it seems that they had a soul… So I said to myself that my work was to invoke this tiny souls that seemed to be floating somewhere and bring these puppets to life. I had the “Tiny” and I had the “Souls”… So finally I include the “Lost” in the middle in my gratitude to Matt. So yes, it is related, in a way!

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Tell us everything about the making of the “Reap What You Sow” video.
Everything?! I won’t tell you everything about it, or this answer would be endless and you’d wish you’ve never asked!

Stop motion animation takes a long process, as you can imagine. The whole project took me about 9 months, and that was trying to be as quick as I could, as the album was going to be released and the clip couldn’t take too long to be made.

I worked first in the idea and the script, storyboards, character and set designs… And when that was all ready, we got in the preproduction phase, where I did the puppets and my college friend, Macarena Palomo, did the sets. The puppets are made of latex and clay and they’ve got an armature inside that lets me move them as I wish.

Then the shooting started and it took me about two moths of work non-stop. The frame ratio of the video is 24 fps, and the whole clip was 5min and 15seconds length… which means I took around 7560 final pictures (around 10.000 counting the ones I didn’t use at the end). It normally takes a bit more than a week to animate just one minute. It takes quite a lot of patience, diopters, patience, precision and… exactly, patience! And as often as not, also a mirror to study body language and movements to reflect them properly in the characters.

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Whats next for you?
I’m currently writing my next stop motion animation project, a short film that’s still a bit secret… and at the same time I carry on doing little sculptures for selling. I do figures of made up characters and also of real people that commission me figures of themselves or of what they want. All of the figures are unique, signed and numbered, 100% hand made with baked clay and painted with acrylics. You can take a look at my Facebook page or at my website.