ToonLoop Remix from Society for Arts and Technology on Vimeo.

Yes, you read that right: realtime stop motion. While stop motion is, by definition, associated with a painstaking process of creating animation frame by frame, a free and open source tool takes a different approach. ToonLoop provides the usual stop motion tools for creating loops, but takes a live performance approach to the recording and playback process, so you can turn your stop motion into a performance. The creator brought up the tool Saturday at the Open Video Conference in New York and got just the reaction you’d expect – a few confused (if delighted) chuckles, and someone asking, “That must be … slow.”

Now, if the framerate is low, you have no one to blame but yourself.

For fans of animation and live visualism, though, this is a dream. The first build was in Processing for Mac and Windows, but a new version for Linux (which should also work on Mac) is built on Python (with PyOpenGL, PyGame, Video4Linux and — oddly — Pure Data for MIDI).
Developers: Alexandre Quessy and Tristan Matthews
Toonloop Download
Source on Google Code
More documentation of the project at Montreal’s SAT [in French]

In fact, I’m not sure whether I should tell you to download the thing or just run with the idea itself. (There’s no reason Java/Processing shouldn’t still work, by the way, if you use the excellent GSVideo library – and OpenFrameworks and others could be likely candidates, too.)

The idea is brilliant – and yet more evidence that being a visualist can be a much broader category than simply being a “VJ,” with the two-channel mix paradigm the more conventional term suggests.

And performances evidently look like what you might expect. Below, Joy Penroz uses Toonloop in Mérida, Yucatán, México, via the ToonLoop site.

Joy Penroz performing with ToonLoop

Bonus video: as I was looking for more work done with ToonLoop (there’s not much out there just yet), I came across another creation by Joy Penroz. It’s not a stop motion performance, but it runs with parallel ideas, looping to manipulate time in a modern pop take on the work of Dutch master painter Jan Vermeer. The contemporary “Milkmaid”:

THEMILKMAID from Joy Penroz on Vimeo.

Extra thanks to Michela Ledwidge and Austin Gambles on Twitter.