Time-Lapsed Slugs And Jellyfish Dreamlands In Kurtis Hough's Abstract Films

<p>The Oregon-based filmmaker uses the natural world as his palette.</p>

Kurtis Hough is a filmmaker whose work exists in a hinterland between animation and live action. Coming from a background in animation his experimental films explore a range of subject matter, from time-lapse slugs crawling over moss to the starlit sky or jellyfish and crystals turned into a candy-colored toy world.

As well as a diverse range of subject matter, Hough also utilizes a variety of techniques combining CGI with shot footage to blur both into an abstract whole. The result is an approach that fosters a playful tone. “The overlying desire is to try to experiment with whatever techniques are available to illustrate my ideas.” He says.

Warm Earth, Which I’ve Been Told

It’s a method where thinking on your feet is key, where the making of each video starts with just a concept and progresses as he starts to shoot. Often he’s taken by something he sees in nature and evolves the idea from this initial encounter. Like his “wet and slimy two part film” Bed of Moss where a move to Portland, Oregon brought him into contact with the area’s abundance of moss and a five inch banana slug, which eventualy turned into a nine minute time-lapse of slugs frolicking about in woodland.

Bed of Moss

Other experiments, like Toyland, were conducted under the constriction of seeing what sort of video he could conjure up in a week. “I had smelly smoke bombs going off in my studio, time-lapse footage of colorful crystals growing, hoses of water filling up a fish tank, and layers of additional effects and jelly fish footage combined in post.” he says of the piece. The visuals, added to the fairyland-meets-children’s-TV-theme-music of The Ocean Floor, makes for a dreamy few minutes set an alternate, twinkling universe.


The time-lapsed nature of the footage gives his videos an unreal, uncanny sensation, the jerky movements creating an otherworldly feel. But as well as giving the films an aesthetic, the technique also helps Hough capture sights that usually go unseen by the human eye, exploring the microscopic formations and events that happen in the natural world. “I'm often interested in patterns and movements found in nature that may go on unnoticed by our perspective on the world.” Hough explained. “Currently I'm trying to find funding for two new slow moving film concepts. One that involves water as a subject, filmed in super slow motion. The other is a companion film to Cryosphere (below) about lava filmed in Hawaii. Where the cold blue melting ice of Cryosphere recedes to death, the warm orange lava flows life forward, making anew. With both of these I plan to experiment with animated elements to give a surreal, abstract quality to the image.”

His films combine the visuals seen in the types of nature documentaries authored by David Attenborough and made by the BBC Natural History Unit, but add a dreamlike quality and CGI to them to augment the abstract patterns and forms that can be found in nature.

Cryosphere where Hough filmed a glacier while “attempting to capture the heartbeat of the ice and experience for myself the dramatic changes occurring to this landscape.”