Beyond the Borders invites visitors to the museum to travel back through time using specially designed Time Windows. Each Time Window transports the viewer “through” – the prison walls, and three, animated life stories of real former inmates of the Hexham Old Goal unfolds. Present – day prisoners in HMP Frankland, HMP Durham and HMPYOI Low Newton created these fictional but historically accurate characters. Each unique story has been animated using a unique style by Arcus Studios, to reflect the distinct mood and personality of each character and their experiences and create a rich visual portrayal of the heritage of the Border Reivers.
Animator Nick Lewis, from Arcus Studios, shares some of the design process behind the creation of these animations.
The story of the Border Reivers is fascinating. The costumes, props and scenery of this era allow us to create a rich visual narrative which has been a delight to work with. The heritage of the Reivers, their family names and locations, still persist in the region today and it makes the project all the more engaging to work on, both from a historical and personal perspective. For this reason I believe the stories and characters will connect with tourists and locals alike.
Speaking with the writers about how they viewed the characters and mood of the story was the starting point for the designs. From there we developed a number of character designs, as well as a stylistic profile for each animation.
Each group had a unique approach which means that each animation features a different style. The Armstrong animation features a simpler more curved illustrative style.
The Armstrong and Kerr animations are 2D whereas the Elliot story uses 3D characters on 2D painted backgrounds.
The Elliot story was darker and more introspective which is why we used higher contrast.
Working in different styles was a challenge, but offered more creative freedom, and helped to make each story all the more individual. Research was carried out in the museum and by visiting the border country and we were struck by how much the locations contributed to the mood of the stories, as well as providing dramatic backdrops. The more we researched the more fascinating the era became. The designs of weapons, clothing and scenery were all a delight to work with, and we hope the animation shows how much we have enjoyed working on this project as well as telling the stories of the three characters.