Simon Roberts Interview – Making ‘Sirens’


Music, lyrics and stop motion animation weave together to tell an epic story in this music video for the track ‘Sirens’. We spoke to the videos Director Simon Roberts about the film and about animation…

Hi, Simon can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about yourself?
I originally studied Graphic Design but I kept being drawn into making projects of work in ‘motion’.

I didn’t really think it there was much likelihood Animation might become my job, but with the encouragement of my tutor I applied to the Royal College of Art’s Animation MA and was accepted. The course was a steep learning curve and since graduating in 2012 I’ve been taking on Freelance work and trying to keep up the pace of learning.

How did the opportunity to work on the video come about?
I actually knew two of the band. In fact at the time they lived in the opposite tower block from me. At one point, Miriam was asking me about where she could commission an anime music video but after chatting for a while they decided that they’d really like a stopmotion video instead (a good choice if you ask me!).

How did the ideas for the music video visuals come about ?
The ideas really came from the song. I started by just sitting and listening to the song trying to visualise it. I tried to be quite minimal in the what I had to make and animate but I let it grow in complexity over time.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of making the video?
Everything element is shot in camera and then composited in After Effects. Probably less than 10% of the film contains no or little compositing.

What’s been the most challenging aspect?
I think probably the character animation, that is something I’m still growing in. Also I had to buy a new computer because the compositing work became so heavy.

Have you always want to work in animation?
No, used to want to be an architect but I was put off by the long study and the fact that you were so reliant on commissions to make the work you really wanted. Ironically I ended up at Uni for 5 years anyway which is almost as long.

Perhaps it was growing up in a village, but I don’t even know it was possible to be an animator, it all felt so distant. It’s amazing to be able to animate as a job, it’s so varied and the end result is magical.

Where does your overall inspiration come from?
Fundamentally, perhaps it’s about processing life or something? I guess we all see things quite differently, that’s what makes looking at different people’s work interesting, you get a little window into another perspective. Perhaps I see the world as a weird mix of beautiful and harsh or something? It’s hard to pin this stuff down.

Also, I just enjoy the process of creating something, there is so much involved in making animation and it all has to work together.

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Where do you find is the best place to come up with ideas?
The bath – there are no distractions in the bath – or go for a long walk.

What projects will you be working on next?
I have a couple of personal projects I’m toying with and a couple of short experiments I’m keen to try. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do first but in general I’d like to take some of the ideas and techniques from this video and push them further.

What words of advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Understand that everyone’s perspective is limited – yours and other peoples. This means getting loads of advice from very different places is vital (to widen your own perspective) but it is also important to understand that you don’t have to take it all in. Even the most experienced person’s advices comes from a specific perspective too. I guess you need to be open but critical.

Also work hard and try not to be too worried if your work isn’t as good as you’d hoped. If you learned something new the piece is a success.

What was your earliest memory of animation?
Um, I think probably charlie chalk. It accounts for my fear of being bonked on the head by falling coconuts.

What animated film do you wish you could have made (if choosing one from animation history)?
I remember ‘Wolfman’ by Tim Hope had a big impact on me when I saw it. I love the atmosphere and fact that the actual animation is relatively basic. I can watch that film again and again.

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man2About the author
Jake is a Researcher and Interactive developer at Wonky Films and the face behind all of Show Me The Animation’s online platforms and website. So if it breaks he’s probably to blame! Aside from running the SMTA online, Jake make’s interactive things for Wonky Films.