Interview – David Dutton – Cinefix

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David Dutton is an ace animator who is currently enjoying much adulation thanks to his 8-bit remakes (4-6 minutes long on average) of popular movies.  Needless to say, we’ve watched pretty much all of them and are massive fans since one of our chums shared the Fast and the Furious remake earlier in the year.  Check out BBC’s feature on him here:


The excellent Spirited Away here:


Spirited Away – 8 Bit Cinema


And Adrian’s interview with him in three, two, one…


Q1. How exactly did you get into animation?


While in film school I started learning After Effects because I like a bit of VFX in my short films and music videos. After graduating I became well acquainted with the software and also its potential with makeshift animation. My other brother is an illustrator and was one of the Google Doodle guys for 6 years. He just switched jobs to Youtube last December. But I would take his sketches and animate them. I tried my hand on a full on animated music video and learned animation is incredibly tough and time consuming.


My career for four years was primarily music video director. 8-Bit Cinema was born later in my career when I lost a Youtube show I was directing called KILL PHIL (creating movie weapons from scratch) at Cinefix and moved back to San Francisco. I was offered a spot on the network by a producer who suggested a quick 60 second animation show so I could work remotely in SF. I had made an 8-Bit segment for a talk show we had on the network, and we decided to base the short show in that direction. Which is great for me because I’ve been a devoted Nintendo fan since 1985.


Q2. Can you briefly describe how you go about actually making your quality 8-bit video game style animations?


After selecting the film I watch it and note every scene. Then I find the minimal amount to keep to thread the story along. Then after staring at the remaining scenes I try to image the best game to tell those scenes.


I chart out everything, what map that scene/level will be, what items are in it, what characters, etc. After listing that I enlist my 2 pixel artists and myself characters to draw. I oversee the creation and make sure it’s staying on path with our game style. Then I make all the maps.


I take all the finished art and animate it in After Effects. It’s tedious and takes several days.


After animation I take it into Premiere. Henry gives me the music and I fit it into the scenes and then layout all the sound effects.


Q3. Out of all your 8-bit animations, do you have a personal favourite?


Hands down, Spirited Away (embed above, youtube link here).


david2Q4. How do you choose which films you turn into 8-bit masterpieces?


I have passion projects I always want to do, but I have to get them approved by Cinefix. They have a lot of suggestions too and like to do tie-ins with current releases. I’m a movie buff and have a long list. I like the films that have no businesses becoming a game.


Q5. Your 8-bit version of Spirited Away has clocked up almost 1 million views on YouTube – Did you ever imagine your animations would be so popular?


When I was finishing Iron Man, the pilot, I was on my own doing this. It took me 2 months to figure out how to make things look good. But when it was finished, though only 60 seconds and very vague, I knew I was onto something special.


Q6. What software do you use to create your animations?


Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere


Q7. If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who wanted to create animation for video games/films – what would you say?


Have a real love for games because it will devour your time and drive you crazy. Haha.


Q8. Do you wish your animations could actually be turned into playable video games?


Not many of them, but some. Its a tug-a-war to make these things short and understandable to the film’s plot. But sometimes I’m so tempted to screw the format and make the episodes into more believable games. But I would love to play the Life Aquatic episode. Hehe, it’s one of the worst episodes in ratings. I love that film!


david3Q9. If you could turn one of your current 8-bit animations into an actual video game, which one would you choose?


Spirited Away. I love that world so much. And plus, it was almostly entirely original artwork on our end. Most eps we’re trying to emulate a classic game but for Spirited Away we wanted to keep as much of the film’s integrity intact.


Q10. Do you ever hope to make a full length 8-bit style film?


Haha, that gave me anxiety thinking of that. Every episode steals a bit of my life. But if I had time and money I think it could be cool. I’d love to do an 8-Bit, short film or feature, with its own original plot and characters. We’ve gotten quite good at drawing these and want to try our hand on original content.


Q11. Will you ever consider making an 8-bit animation of Rocky? (FYI Rocky is my favourite film of all time)


It’s been suggested! Of course its always thrown out to be emulated like Punch Out (please do it David!!! – Ed).


Q12. How long does it typically take to make a film from start to finish?


It takes 2 weeks.


david1Q13. Are you ever tempted to move away from 8-bit animation and move into more mainstream animation?


I would if my brother drew it. We did an animation last Christmas that was projected onto the side of Macy’s for the month of December. I’ll attach some photos for you (located at end of article – Ed). Of course you probably noticed my younger brother Henry does the music for 8BIT. I’d love for all 3 of us to do something together or start our own studio.


Q14. What is your favourite film of all time and have you made an 8-bit animation of it?


Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and City of God.


I want to make an episode for all of them but again, it’s hard to get network approval on movies like these. Life Aquatic was my choice and it tanked. But so was Spirited Away and it soared, so who knows. The internet is a mystery.


Q15. What is your favourite animated film of all time?


Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s similar to how my mind thinks. Hehe.


Q16. What films are you currently working on?


Finished Shawshank Redemption yesterday (which is ace – Ed). We’re now pitching our next batch of three films. Again seeing what’s about to be released and exploring evergreen type films. I really hope they let me do District 9. I asked for it.


Q17. What is your favourite retro gaming title of all time?


Zelda. I’m in a cult.


david4Q18. Which video games / consoles do you play today?


Wii U, 3DS, and Xbox 360. My brother gave me his old Xbox 360 with a huge drive, so I’m cheating on Nintendo right now. I’m playing Skyrim and having my mind blown. On 3DS I’m playing Professor Layton and Animal Crossing. Wii U I’m playing the Wii title Xenoblade Chronicles. But I’m mainly playing Skyrim 🙂


Q19. Which games console do you have the fondest memories of?


SNES. Hands down. Best era for me and still lived with my brothers.


Q20. What are your views on the video game industry of today?


I love how it’s merging into cinema but it can get a bit messy with big productions with little fun. For a while I was turned off from games because I couldn’t sit and play for more than 15 minutes. But I feel like things are getting good again. I’m very excited about Nintendo’s new wave. I despise mobile games mostly because of the this mentality to develop games for micro economy purchasing.


Q21. If you could share a few pints with a video game character who would you choose?


Wow that’s a tough question. I’m a bit of lush so I’d need a good drinking partner…. that guy from Red Dead Redemption. I like that guy.


I hope I answered enough. Pardon my errors!


Some fun extras:


Website with music videos and 8bit –


Illustrator brother –


Promo I did for Channel 4


Thanks! Talk to you later (and thank you David! – Ed).


– Adrian




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