May the force be with you

5th February 2010 at 00:00
With three million video views of his first animated film, Michael Inglis is a master of stop-motion

Type "michael Inglis" into Google and the first hit directs you to Inglis93's channel on YouTube.

Michael is an animator and has banked up three million video views across YouTube, Dailymotion and GameVideos, with 1.6 million on YouTube alone. In the world of internet animation, he is something of a rising star, with more than 3,000 subscribers (people who choose to be notified when he uploads a video) on YouTube. He is also in S4 at Galashiels Academy.

His interest in animation was sparked at the age of 12. "I've always been a fan of stop-motion animation," he explains. "A picture is taken of an object, it is moved slightly and another picture is taken. This process is repeated, and the chain of images is strung together and played at a speed to look like actual motion."

He began experimenting when he got his first camera phone in 2005, "messing around with a load of Lego", Michael says. "I took individual pictures and flicked through them like a flip book." When he got a computer with video-editing software, he was able to make videos.

Michael uploaded his first film, Lego Star Wars: The Lost Jedi in spring 2006 and got 1,000 hits within a month. "Flabbergasted" by the reception it was getting, he decided to make more animations.

Month after month, the views went up and he was bombarded with questions. When The Lost Jedi was nearing 100,000 views, he uploaded a sequel, The Dark Assassin, like its predecessor featuring several large lightsaber battles. "It was the comments I liked - positive feedback and discussion of technique - rather than the number of views," Michael says.

Each film has signified a leap in sophistication of techniques. From five frames per second in The Lost Jedi, he progressed to 12 in The Dark Assassin, which led to a surge in subscribers and views.

"In spring 2008, I decided to make a third and final film to complete my trilogy, working on a plot, with large sets, a huge amount of dialogue and a mammoth amount of animation. I made my frame-rate between 15 and 25 frames per second, speeding up at parts, slowing down at others."

Michael spent the last 18 months working on The Last Stand, which he released on January 1. The 31.5-minute film features 14 voices - all animators from around the world. The films, he says, are essentially about "goodies fighting baddies", and are set 200 years after Return of the Jedi. In The Last Stand, the main character, Jedi Master Rohacc Warron, breaks open the space-time continuum in a bid to retrieve a crucial crystal, unwittingly giving entry to the baddies from the original Star Wars films, which leads to all sorts of havoc and a closely-guarded ending which is now available to view.

Drew Thomson, Michael's art and design teacher, recently bought some equipment in response to Michael and other students' interest. But it is not the Borders school which has taught Michael about animation; it will be him teaching them. He says Michael is his "guinea pig" to learn about the process and techniques as he is doing his Standard grade project on a two-minute animation sequence around the conflict between man and nature - with plants reclaiming a polluted Earth - after observing plants by drawing and collecting photographs.

"I've been wanting to do this with S4, 5 and 6 pupils who are keen to do animation," says Mr Thomson. "It's a design unit for the art and design Standard grade, combining new technology with the traditional."

So would the young prodigy like to get paid for his animation?

"I do get paid for it!" he says. "I have a YouTube partnership. Google puts adverts beside your videos. You get X amount per 1,000 views, say pound;1 per 1,000 views; it depends what company is advertising. When it accumulates to pound;60 they send you a cheque. I've had a couple of those."

He doesn't, however, want to make a career out of animation. "I want to keep it as a hobby," he says.


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