The Colorful Work of Norman McLarren

One of the many wonderful recommendations made in the COLOURlovers forum topic, Animation, lead by liddle_r, is the work of sound animator and film director Norman McLarren.

Some of his earliest experimental work included washing then painting and scratching on used film stock, as he did not have access to proper filming equipment. That was just the beginning of McLaren’s career. His innovation and experimentation won him many awards over the years, including an Academy Award in the Best Documentary, Short Subjects category for his film Neighbours (1952), as well as other awards at the Canadian Film Awards, Cannes and the Berlin International Film Festival. His experiments in animation and sound created many new techniques that have shaped what we know as film and animation today.

Synchromy (1971)

National Film Board of Canada: Here are pyrotechnics of the keyboard, but with only a camera to “play the tune.” To make this film, Norman McLaren employed novel optical techniques to compose the piano rhythms of the sound track. These he then moved, in multicolor, onto the picture area of the screen so that, in effect, you see what you hear. It is synchronization of image and sound in the truest sense of the word.

Pas De Deux (1968)

Wikipedia: Pas de deux is a 1968 film by Scottish-Canadian director Norman McLaren, produced by the NFB. The film sees two performers dancing a pas de deux, filmed on high contrast film stock with very stark side lighting. This is augmented by step-and-repeat printing on an optical printer. This gives the film an almost stroboscopic appearance. Biographer Maynard Collins points out that the “technical virtuosity of this film, its ethereal beauty, its lovely Roumanian pan-type music, made it a joy to watch, even if – perhaps, especially if – you do not care for ballet.” Special effects are by Wally Howard.

Part 2

Neighbours (1952)

Wikipedia: Produced at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, the film uses the technique known as pixilation, an animation technique using live actors as stop-motion objects. McLaren created the soundtrack of the film by scratching the edge of the film, creating various blobs, lines, and triangles which the projector read as sound.

Norman McLaren: Pen Point Percussion (1951)

An introduction to the hand-drawn sounds of Norman McLaren. Prepared by Don Peters and Lorne Batchelor.

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.