Hunter Harrison is an amateur-turned-pro stop-motion animator and Vine superstar (@HunterHarrison). He’s the Senior Director of Brand Strategy at Softway Solutions and the co-founder of Parabox Creative, an agency that specializes in micro videos. Recently, he produced a series of loops for Qualcomm, in which he envisions life with smartwatches, delivery drones, and intelligent cars. The views expressed are the author’s own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Qualcomm.
“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” –Orson Welles
Whether or not it was the original intent, Vine is the social media domain of the artist. Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks all seem to pale in comparison. Why? Because, as Mr. Welles so eloquently put it, limitations are what challenge artists to think creatively and to innovate. On a film set, that may be a budgetary or scheduling constraint. In a sound studio, it might be the tonal range of an instrument. On Vine, the biggest limiter is time. Taken with the explosion of smartphones and remarkable improvements in mobile camera technology, that limit has proven an incredible catalyst for creativity.
For the earliest adopters, the challenge was even more difficult: Not only could a video be only six seconds long, but it also had to be captured entirely within the app. So artists had to get creative, to try to create unique things within those limitations. I think all of us early adopters were on a quest for those “how’d you do that?” comments. As Vine has evolved over the years—for instance, allowing users to import images taken outside the app—artistic content has become easier to produce. Still, there will always be the challenge of fitting a story into a scant six seconds. That’s never an easy task.
For many, myself included, stop-motion was the answer. And, as it happens, it’s also a medium that may have been ripe for a revival. If you think about the special effects and the animation that has come out of the Pixars and Dreamworks of the world, it makes perfect sense that we just aren't as impressed anymore with the purely digital. The handcrafted and analog nature of stop-motion has had a resurgence, because people are more impressed with the craftsmanship that's involved in having to build that stuff. If a video is too overproduced, the audience will not relate to it as well.
Still, rawness should never come at the expense of storytelling. All this comes back to one thing: the authenticity that art demands of its practitioners. If you create a stop-motion Vine where you're just moving things around, but there's no real narrative, it will most likely bore your audience—despite the handmade look of it. A good Vine has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. The story builds up to where you have somewhat of a punchline at the end; viewers get engaged and they want to rewatch it, to understand the story better.
Even though Vine’s limitations are what help make artists like myself do our best work, the way it removes other limitations is also key to our collective success. My job, for one, couldn’t have existed five years ago—not only because Vine didn’t exist, but because the technology to create Vines wasn’t as widespread as it is today. Vine was actually the first time I really attempted stop-motion; I’d always seen it on YouTube and in films, but I never tried my hand at it because I never had the necessary tools or software. The second that Vine launched, I started playing with it.
That's really what is happening for so many people: The access to technology has enabled them to do things that they're more passionate about. Aspiring artists and animators have the tools and the parameters they need to invent personal success stories. Ones that, like moving paper cutouts or claymation, will remain authentic.