Bled Dry is a rotoscoped animation that takes place in a dystopian world where blood has become a form of energy and currency. Within the Eternal City, a devastating class divide has left many struggling to survive while others gorge on the blood taken liberally from those below. The story is one that follows a woman born into poverty whose vibrant pink blood has drawn the attention of a wealthy painter. When following him back to the mansion that he and some other elite reside within, she discovers the extent of their nauseating gluttony, which in turn sparks something within her that changes the Eternal City forever.

About the Project

This project is a rotoscope, meaning that it was created by first filming actors miming out the desired movements. From there, the footage was cut together, then converted into individual images to then be traced over. Afterwards, additional animation and imagery was added on, such as blood drops and backgrounds. With a frame rate of 15fps, this meant that the final animation included around 3000 frames, many of which contained layers of line art, shading, effect overlays, and backgrounds. Some even contained several layers of each, all adding up to countless late nights and calloused hands.

Overall, this animation had a goal to address the recent issues of class inequality that have become especially relevant in light of the pandemic. Simply consider the famous “Imagine” cover, where celebrities in unfathomable mansions sang about equality in a time where many simply could not afford housing (Good Morning America, 2020). Bled Dry seeks to explore such issues through a lens of fantasy and symbolism, a technique heavily inspired by the works of Guillermo Del Toro. Blood has been used as a not so subtle parallel for how the very lives of the poor are often leeched and wasted by those above them. Yet, the desire to represent this question led to a shift from where my research has initially been focused. While I had assumed it would be focused on exploring ideas of socialism and class inequality, it ended up being far more visual in nature. Rather, I spent most of my time exploring color palettes, line weights, and reference images instead of shifting through philosophy papers. As animation is a visual media, I do not feel like this was a bad outcome, as I feel this new focus allowed for a more appealing animation that leaves room for one’s own interpretations and thoughts. The goal was not to convince audiences of anything, but rather to draw in viewers and perhaps spark a conversation.

This then leads me to the first aspect I wish to explore: world building. This serves as an example where I did have to do some traditional research, such as finding out how much blood can be donated so that I could set prices in the world, but also one where “research” simply involved flipping through google images. The trolley is a great example, as I had to set the blood price for a ride, but I also had to find several reference images for a trolley. Yet, I feel this worldbuilding with neon signs, trolley systems, and spiked pay booths are what set this animation apart. Not only are they vital in creating this unique world, but they are also important for symbolism. Slamming a hand down an a spiked “card reader” evokes a visceral reaction, but it also suggests the weight of even essential transactions for the lower classes. Even when showing Bled Dry to friends, I found that most were more visually or emotionally delighted by the static city shots or unique machines than they were by the dynamic animations that I spent most of my time on. Therefore, I feel it is safe to say I succeeded in my goal of creating an immersive and stunning world.

Yet the world is not the only visual element that I feel deserves elaboration. Bled Dry uses color liberally as both an aspect of visual interest and symbolism, something that, once again, draws from Guillermo’s works. For example, classes are divided by cool and warmer colors. Moreover, the city holds a blue hue, reflecting how it is something that belongs to the rich, while the only blood shown powering everything is that of the poor, suggesting that the wealthy contribute little to the city they own. Then, as the end of the animation dawns, the Eternal City is a warm orange for the first time, showing that it belongs to the wealthy no longer while, for the first time, elite blood decorates the city. Finally, even the shading and transparency of the characters hopes to reflect the power dynamic with the wealthy being opaquer, and the poor being more transparent. It also serves as symbolism for the perceived insignificance of the lower classes, and they way in which they are overlooked as if they barley exited at all.

However, from a personal standpoint, what I took away most from this project was not the message or the visual elements, but rather something far more human. Not only did collaboration with Tyler Hippard lead to music that was vital in the success of this project and feedback that vastly improved the story, but it was wonderful experience in a year where those have been so rare. The preoccupation with animation had pushed back fear and anxiety at the uncertainly of the future, while chatting through late nights as we composed the music and animation helped to lift some of the crushing isolation that has been so hard to fend off. Simply, this shared project has been a light, and distraction in a time where both are in such short supply.

Good Morning America. “Celebrities Sing Beautiful ‘Imagine’ Cover Amid Coronavirus Crises.” March 19, 2020. YouTube video.


Animation by Cassidy Huber

Music by Tyler Hippard