- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 August 2008 15.46 BST
Channel 4 has created what it hopes will be an online home for the UK's animation community, rolling out an advertising-supported, YouTube-style site that will pay animators for their work.
4mations.tv has been in development for two years and launched in a trial form this week with 200 animations from Channel 4's extensive archive. Amateur animators are also invited to upload their own work.
The project is a collaboration with Aardman, the Bristol-based independent producer behind Wallace and Gromit, and the animation specialists Lupus Films.
4mations includes comedy, adult, sci-fi and 3D work along with games and specialist groups. Users can vote on clips, upload their own work and embed their favourite clips on their own websites and social networks.
Channel 4's new media commissioner for factual, Adam Gee, said the site would provide a new focus for the broadcaster's animation output.
The broadcaster has a strong tradition in animation going back to its launch in 1982. Channel 4 animations have included Raymond Briggs' classic The Snowman in 1982, Suzie Templeton's Peter & the Wolf, and Taking a Line for a Walk, based on the work of artist Paul Klee.
"We're really hoping this will be the home for Channel 4 animation for the next 25 years," said Gee.
"We have a terrific track record and have really powered animation in the UK, but there is increasing pressure on scheduling pushing shows later into the night and it's harder to find slots for it," he added.
"This is a place for the archive and new material to come together with a base for Channel 4's Talent schemes - and also setting out a place and platform for all the animations in the UK."
Gee said he has been developing international partnerships for the project in India, Canada and China that will emphasise that the site is "outward-looking, globally orientated" and wants to "carve out its own niche" in the global animation market.
Animators will receive cash rewards of up to £1,000 per month for the most popular videos over the next six months, while any revenues Channel 4 earns through display advertising will be reinvested in the site, Gee added.
The project is the result of a six-figure investment by Channel 4 and has taken a significant amount of work in clearing the international rights for all the clips on the site.
4mations, which has been the brainchild of arts commissioning editor Jan Younghusband, has characteristically quirky branding which includes kittens, skulls and laser beams - and was based on a theme of "Monty Python for the 21st century".
The full version launches on September 15 and will include Thinks, a simple editing tool that will let users create their own animation in less than an hour.
4mations also fits with elements of the new diploma in creative and media for 14- to 19-year-olds, who will contribute several thousand animations to the site.
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