Over two years ago, Nando Costa announced his ambitious animation project The New America on Kickstarter. The project was born out of an earlier set of illustrations engraved in blocks of wood. Nando had enjoyed the process so much, he wanted to produce an animation using it.

After successfully funding the project on Kickstarter, a technical hiccup or two, and a few discussions with neighbors over noise from the process, the final animation was released. Nando describes the story…

The abstract storyline showcased in this piece is a concoction of a variety of ideas and can perhaps be described as a union between concepts and experiments born during the Situationist movement and real life events experienced during the last few years in American society. Particularly the duality between the economic downturn and the shift in values and beliefs of many citizens.


Engraved blocks from The New America.
Photo courtesy of Nando Costa

The end result is an ethereal, often dark, and masterfully crafted animation. If this animation were simply rendered out in a more traditional manner, it would still hold up. However, the process behind the animation—and the resulting physical imperfections and variances—somehow enhance the story and emotion evoked from the piece. Seeing photographs of unique blocks of wood in a physical setting at a lower frame rate (6fps) grounds the animation and more strongly ties it to recent events. It is almost as if we are in the future, viewing the records of a long-lost civilization. To be perfectly honest, my reaction to the finished piece surprised me.

I’ve made little secret of the fact that I believe process is normally irrelevant to the audience, or at least should be. If an audience is too aware of process, they spend less thought on story, on emotion. Awareness of process can be a distraction. Instead, process should fall away, only maintaining importance to those involved and who wish to study and learn from it.

I became a backer of The New America. I received the updates from Nando. I eventually received my finished frame. I was more aware of the process than for most films and animations I view. Upon viewing the finished piece, I was prepared to be so focused on the process I would somehow enjoy it less. However, The New America seems to benefit from its process in a way I rarely see. Being aware of the process actually enhanced the viewing for me. I somehow saw Nando’s struggles and passion in the society portrayed in his animation. If I had just seen his raw renders on a screen, that would not have come through.

I still maintain process should usually be invisible to the audience. Yet I have learned from Nando Costa that when used carefully, process can be art not only beneficial to those who wish to study it, but to a general audience as well. I guess my values and beliefs are shifting, like those in the society in The New America.