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Emily Mulhall: Doing it for the Vine

We sit down with student animator Emily Mulhall to find out more about phenakistoscopes, internet fame and taking animation offline…

“Animation was something that I always wanted to do,” Emily explains. “And then I had loads of time on my hands after an operation on my leg. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk for a month, so I downloaded every app I could find. Vine is one of the ones which stuck.”

Molehill, Emily’s Vine account, quickly took off, with over 50 million loops and 71,000 followers at the time of writing. Recognition shortly followed when Mashable ranked her first in a list of five of the most creative British Viners, and although she’s mostly known online, her fame can cross over into the real world, too. “Somebody came up to me in Oxford Street and said, ‘Hey, you’re Molehill’. I didn’t know what to say!”

When it comes to animation, there’s a rich history for creators to be inspired by. “For my design course, I had to research a lot of different designers, artists and animators,” Emily explains. “And then there’s the stuff you see on TV and in magazines."

See Emily’s video on how to Animate on Vine below:

Of course, Emily also draws inspiration from her contemporaries. “There’s quite a community on Vine,” she says. “People talk a lot, and people ask each other how to do stuff. There are people who you follow who you talk to quite often, and you always see each other’s work.”

These relationships can often come in useful. “A little while ago, I did a hashtag,” Emily explains. “I was trying to film as if I was the only person in London, and so I asked people to do the same in their own city. Loads of people from all over the world got involved, and that opened up a lot of conversations about where people lived.”

Using other social networks, such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, helps Emily to take her followers behind the scenes – after all, on Vine, they only see the final product. “On Snapchat, if I’m doing an animation, I’ll post little pieces of it,” she says. “And if something goes wrong, I’ll be shouting at the paper or something.”

Canon has worked with Emily to reinvent the phenakistoscope, an early device that spins a disc around to show a series of frames in order, creating the illusion of animation. “My animations are usually 2D,” Emily explains, “because you can only see them on a computer. It was nice to see an animation that was ‘real’ – a physical, tangible object.”

Emily’s final phenakistoscope shows an animated garden on a record player, but the project started out on a much grander scale – “My original idea was to print out giant pictures made from loads of pieces of paper and to make a giant phenakistoscope on a circular building.”

As for what’s next, there’s no concrete answer. “I’ve got a lot of ideas written down,” Emily explains. “And I can kind of tell what’s realistic and what isn’t.”

For creators like Emily, who animate their work frame by frame, a single mistake can ruin hours of hard work, but it’s not always the end of the world. “I enjoy the process more than the final result,” she says. “Other people find it to be a long process and so they don’t get to the finish line. But it’s always nice after you’ve worked on a hundred different frames and you see them all together.”

Click here to visit Emily on Vine.