Beautiful rotoscoped short film on the fable of the Beale cipher

The Thomas Beale Cipher is a ten-minute short film from director Andrew Allen; it tells the story of the Beale ciphers, notorious encrypted documents that supposedly hold the key to great wealth. The film makes use of very beautiful rotoscoping techniques that really stand out (more so, alas, than the writing, which is a little loose) and held my attention throughout.

The Thomas Beale Cipher (Thanks, Jason!)


  1. A lot of folks get all riled up about 3D or shaky-cam movies, but the one style that actually makes my eyes bleed is this rotoscope crap. I’ve had to watch some movies with my eyes closed most of the time (the one with Keanu) and outright leave others (‘still life’, was that the name of that one?). Absolutely horrible.

    1. Yep, this is not rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is something that you apply to real footage to segment out regions of the image, doesn’t look any real footage was used here.

    2. @dargaud I’m wondering if you even watched the film. This style of animation/rotoscoping looks nothing like A Waking Life. Saying you don’t like rotoscoping is like saying, “I don’t like key-framed animation”.

      I, for one, loved the animation and the story.

  2. Ah, Vimeo the video streaming site that makes you visit the page and download the damn thing…. (Because their flash player has NEVER worked for me (Ubuntu 10.04))

  3. progkeys, you are right, the few I’ve seen (and it was ‘waking life’ not ‘still life’), made me so sick that I didn’t even want to try this one. Just did, and it’s actually very nice.

    1. Yeah, I wasn’t really a fan of Waking Life, either, though there’s a soft spot in my heart for the rotoscoping in the Dire Straits Money for Nothing video. :)

    2. Yes, the characters in the film were animated using a rotoscoping technique where we hand-traced every frame. But no two rotoscoping techniques are alike and thus you can end up with something like we did here or something more akin to the disorienting effect used in Waking Life which made use of a program called Rotoshop that in-part automates the process.

      Andrew S Allen

      1. Original use of color, pattern and texture. I really enjoyed this, thanks. I hope you enter it in several contests and get some recognition. I could really see you and your team getting work doing the title sequence for films and more. I am sure you are also a fan of the “Catch Me If You Can” TS.
        I am not sure how much of a story you have written but it seems interesting. Maybe get a comic out in print then make a full length film like the “Watchmen” animated version. I know that was totally different, single panel pans, for the most part but I enjoyed it.
        Also maybe try to get contacts at the BBC. This seems like something good for a “Mystery Theatre” opening, or something similar.
        Also do you remember the “Sandman Mystery Theatre” comic covers that were photos, scans and drawing? This is a nice work of art, I hope you are getting better feedback elsewhere.
        Good luck, K.D.

  4. I’ll add to the technique nitpick. The film looks great, but it’s not really ‘rotoscoping’ which is when live action footage is traced. The motion here looks like pure animation of collaged photographic elements, kinda like this (self horn-toot alert):

    I think people react negatively to rotoscoping for a couple of reasons, one is the disconnect between traced natural movement and drawn images. In the case of Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly it sounds like it’s more the shaky handheld camera style that was making a couple of people here sick (rather than the rotoscoping).

  5. Looks like animation over live action to me. That’s what rotoscoping is, not sure why people aren’t seeing that.

  6. Har!Har! I wrote an Anon comment, that has not come up yet, before I went to your site. Well, it looks like you entered a few contests and got some recognition. Happy to see you took my advice :)

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