Click the teal and orange palette above to read Todd Miro‘s astute observation that – yes – evil has us firmly in its color correcting grip.
And then check out yet another chunk of Gurney wisdom… very related and using an interesting bit of software to visualize color ranges.
Edit2: Thanks to Alex for the heads up!
Check out this film by Kevin Megens, Floris Vos, Arno de Grijs and Andre Bergs. Music and sound design by Alex Debicki. Script by Jan Eduards. Produced by il Luste. More info at the film’s site. Thanks to Keith Lango for the heads up!
Of course it has great energy, fantastic designs and bold cuts – all built about a very simple and effective dramatic concept. What I’d like to highlight, however is the stylistic consistency; they make a world rule that there is no gradient. The characters are hard-edged polygons, the city and props as well. A simple decision seen elsewhere. But what makes this take particularly effective is that the makers stick to their guns. Check out that sunset. Have a look at that camera flash. Harsh, bold angular color fields. And they possess energy.
I often observe this battle in my students – and it is a battle. You make a stylistic decision. Cool. But then there’s this image of what a sunset looks like and instead of plodding through the process of finding a method to communicate that from within your rules, you make an exception. And – in the worst case – the film comes undone. In the best, you lose potential. As Pivot clearly demonstrates. As David O’Reilly continuously demonstrates.
Check out the energy of those bold decisions. Consequence!
Yesterday, I wrote about Brett booth’s comic-style theropods, and today I encountered a small wave of images that I find relevant. First off, Brett posted some true comic dinosaurs, the first time his two disciplines overlapped. Typical in comics work, Brett had little say in story (sentient Dromeosaurs survive in Cryobooths to attack humanity) or color (“they couldn’t pull off anything but green and brown”) and the load was heavy (22 pages on a tight schedule). Check his paleoart out in yesterday’s post.
Next, Michael Ryan (Paleoblog) reviews a new William Stout book and the look is quite ‘comic-bookish’. Graphic inking pushes out contours and surface details, while pigment washes fill out surface coloration. Shadows are also communicated via the inking, so these color layers are a very flat and saturated.
What’s interesting about William Stout is that he is a very skilled and knowledgeable artist who delves into the research material and masters numerous artistic techniques. He is also skillfully diverse and categorizes his work as belonging to genres such as fantasy, fine art, comics, prehistoric and concept work (or film design). Its revealing to see what categories the artist assigns his own work to.
Below, two Glacialosaurus by Stout (not 100% sure about the first one) first in an oil painted mural style, then in comic style . Below those, a gull painted in yet a further watercolor style. The artist categorizes these as ‘prehistoric’, ‘prehistoric’ and ‘fine art’ respectively. Further dinosaurs can be found in the comics gallery – ie. Alien Worlds features a buxom-babe loving tyrannosaur.
Lastly (for now), the German magazine Spiegel reviews the artist Walton Ford (here a gallery to click through). Here is a fine artist working in large format aquarells that demand a price tag of $40,000 and hang in renowned museums around the world. And still – as the Spiegel reports – “the artist has yet to truly make a mark on the international scene. Perhaps because he seems to be a Ford among artists and not a Ferrari. Certain critics find his oeuvre too illustrative ,recalling the style of the gifted ornithologist and artist John James Audubon”.
The painting above seemed particularly relevant – almost a counter-weight to the comic style dinosaurs above. Its called Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros, and is based on the iconic woodcut by Albrecht Durer, who made his version based on a sailor’s crude drawing . By in turn basing his anatomy on Durer’s, Ford highlights on the popularistic portrayal of natural subject matter that hasn’t even been experienced by the artist – a subtle, fantastic surrealism and very relevant in a world in which nature is most often experienced via television documentaries. The stylistic decision is there to push the right buttons, packaging social commentary in the scientific authority of a specific figurative portrayal. Its helpful here to be familiar with the artist’s more common outright humor, so here I add another of his works. In Le Jardin, the harmony alluded to in the title is little more than a momentary respite in a battle dictated by the natural order.
What strikes me is the power of assumption that a stylistic means can create. The inked line and flat colors of a comic immediately calls up dramatized low-brow story; popular but not exactly credible. A finely worked aquarell with skillful anatomy alludes to scientific correctness, but struggles for high-brow recognition from art critics, even after proving itself in museums and art collections. Crazy world.
(or download turntable animation.)
Recent efforts in paleoart have both inspired and intimidated me. Inspired, because there’s so much going on at the moment (visit OpenDinoProject, ArtEvolved for good stuff and good starts for more links). And I’m intimidated because of the high level of work out there, combined with the high level of respect I have for the responsibilities involved in representing these exciting animals.
Case in point: skeletal reconstructions.
After facing the many issues involved in creating a Supersaurus sauropod or a monster newt (they’re both approximately the same amount of work, despite the difference in size and popularity) I began looking for ways to 1) increase the respect for research and 2) bait scientists with visualization (sic: art) that has the potential to enhance current methods of organizing and manipulating existing research. Both goals seemed to point to the skeletal reconstruction. Gregory Paul (I’ve become a huge fan of his writing and art) credits these for playing an important role in the modernization of dinosaur art and theory. Here’s an example:
This is Tuojiangosaurus multispinus as reconstructed by the industrious and generous Scott Hartmann. (Thank you so much, Scott!) As you can imagine, this is an invaluable reference for the artist, particularly the non-scientist artist such as myself. But its also missing quite a bit of information. Some reconstructions include top and front/back views, but those are rare. So we’re often left with a 2 dimensional floorplan for a 3 dimensional house. So I thought “hey, wouldn’t a 3D reconstruction solve all this?” and set off to model the gerrothorax skeleton (the newt).
Result: the effort is unjustifiable (at least for the goal of illustration). Perhaps scanned meshes will change this, just as museum mounts use molds of the real bone. But I don’t think so. The first warning I encountered when researching my interest in paleoart was “beware the museum mount”. Its likely incorrect.
(No reference to these specific models, illustration purposes only. Sources: a and b.)
And worse: incorrect or not, it can’t be perfect. Visually, it claims truth via realism while its content lags behind this claim. There’s an interesting distinction between these displays and the graphic quality of the skeletal reconstruction above: abstraction. Abstraction is basically a selective reduction of information. This reduction is inherently broadcast within the visual style so that the viewer immediately perceives the representation as being abstracted. Scott’s drawing immediately reads as a representation and is accepted for the information it conveys, while the pterodactyl above reads as a realistic model, yet the viewer feels the discrepancy to an actual bone.
So I’m in conflict between the wish to raise accountability in my reconstructions without selling them visually with more authority than they deserve. Fortunately, the solution (or at least one such) lies smack in my area of expertise: stylization.
As a contract job had me working on a human character, and because human skeletons are comparatively well understood, I started with that. It took ~3 days to model, then I quickly lit and shaded, with a flesh volume blacked out as is custom with the graphic reconstructions. My hope is that no one will look at this and think “oh, that’s a skeleton.” They’ll recognize it as an illustration, yet still accept the information that the reconstruction is trying to convey. This will hopefully do the following: One, it will look cooler. I hate those bone shaded 3D skeletons that are neither here nor there. Two, it’ll allow for detailed communication of things like biomechanics or evolution. And third, it will hopefully allow a different way of perceiving the bone measurements and reconstructions and thus serve gains in scientific understanding. Time will tell.
What’s going on is that the bones have reduced detail. This reduction isn’t linear, however. The rotation points and muscle attachments are alluded to and partially remain quite sharp. The rib cage is more or less a volume with planks placed on top (they can be removed for less detail). The “industrial” shader is a ramp from warm to cold based on incidence angle to the light source. The “pearl” shader is a ramp from white to black based on incidence to camera. These serve the function of making the volume of the bone forms themselves more legible. The idea is that the bones remain crisp and aesthetically pleasing yet clearly show that they do not physically correspond to the actual bone. Result: (I hope) function and morphology are communicated, without the pretense of having a true bone reconstruction.
Feedback is very welcome!
This post is a bit much for the normal “quote” post… as the Ken’s post has too many of them to pick just one, and fills each with too much practical experience to water them down. So click on the image and head over to Ken Perlin’s blog… then bookmark it for daily inspiration (yes, Ken posts nearly every day).
on Wrong is Right:
“When you look at Maurice Sendak’s drawing style, you eventually realize that he had a wonderful trick of keeping you a bit confused about where the light comes from. In his drawings, light seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. So to make this test, I modified our shading system in several ways. For one thing, I changed it so that the highlight on an object didn’t need to be in the right place. You could make an object brighter on the left, while having the highlight seem to come from the right.”
on coherence of Look:
“when you’re combining computer graphics with other things (like Jeff Bridges in a weirdly glowing spandex unitard), the trick is to modify the look of everything, so that it all meets in the middle”
and much more…
I really like this film by Stephen Irwin. The film consists of drawn sequences on index cards and portrays the unfriendly life experiences of a black dog. The word “progress” in the title implies some sort of goal, but what that goal might be is gratefully omitted. The drawn cards are additionally computer-animated to great effect, causing dis-coherent jitters, blaze-like rips and rapid overlaps that imply flipping of cards. Interestingly, this last effect is much more effective in drawing my gaze than is the use of a searchlight-like highlight used to underscore the most up-to-date calamity in the black dog’s life.
All of these effects are in keeping with the film’s materiality; index cards and black marker. And the music is incredible. Did I mention that? Sorenious Bonk delivers big time in his first animation score.
Enough! Watch the film and visit: http://www.smalltimeinc.com/
Found this thanks to John Martz at Drawn, a blog I visit almost daily. First off, I headline the director Richard rather than the illustrator (art director?) James Jarvis as its an animated film. John says he usually dislikes “3D animation modified to look hand-drawn” but he likes this one. What makes it different? Here’s my attempt at an analysis…
Read more »
… and we listen. Repeatedly. Great insight into the motivations and evaluations of two very capable artists:
Check out this very interesting animation… all sorts of inspiration here, a sound-driven simulation riding the fence between realism and at least the impression of NPR, between abstract formalism and representative particle simulation… in the end a successfully emotive piece. A question: what do you think about the text snippets?
Thanks to Kyle Hayward
Here’s an interesting NPR project being done in Finland by Sami Nikki and Andrew McCluskey. Some great visuals! I do feel the 3D is too evident, mostly through the preservation of volume, but also some dynamic canvas issues. I feel for the artist’s struggles. This has the feel of a post-filter solution, which makes for very convoluted level-of-detail controls, among other things.
I’ll definitely be following this. Check out the makingof and watch the trailer above.
I’m slow, I know… Isaac Botkin’s wonderful work got me to dig out my own exploration of the same techniques… also in Lightwave… must’ve been version 7.5. It’s very revealing to see how many different looks can be achieved with this technique. I introduced a slight shift in the synchronization between displacement and motion blur to get a nice boil.
Fantastic work by Isaac Botkin from OutsideHollywood on NPR techniques using displaced polygons synched with frame rate. The video does a great job of illustrating the technique. It also tempts me into dappling with this approach again… I’d tested this approach extensively back around 2004, and it was very promising.
I tried to convince my (very computer-oriented) colleagues at the Filmakademie R&D group that we should title our FMX talk “The 2D revolution; it’s about time” and talk about what the revolution might be, what its goals will and won’t be. I wanted to rant in a constructive way about the predominant attitude among most of my hand-drawn animation friends who sincerely believe that the 2D revolution will be summoned by simply dusting off the light table and likewise pester my 3D friends who can’t imagine NPR beyond 3D cel shading.
So this morning, I’m off into the wwworld and stumble into Ken Perlin. He describes this false dichotomy with a suitable question from his father: “Do you want to go to Brooklyn, or by bus?” He’s addressing the science vs religion dichotomy, but it suits the 2D vs 3D debate as well. Two sides hotly debating the pros of going to Brooklyn and the cons of taking the bus.
Which brings me to my next encounter: Kevin Geiger. Kevin’s riled (let me spice things up a little) by a down-with-digital plea by Floyd Norman over at the JimHill media blog. Mind you, these are people I deeply respect. And both speak truisms – more or less eloquently. A classic dichotomy: do you want to draw, or make a film?
Both Kevin’s and Floyd’s arguments are so familiar that it’s worth watching for anyone interested in NPR. I’ll try to sum it up with some heavy paraphrasing:
Bolt‘s under-performance is proof that cg films are indistinguishable. So get rid of Disney’s cg studio. Because of hard-cash production logic, not artistic romanticism. Leave cg to Pixar.
Hand-drawn is great (good luck on Princess and the Frog), but cg has a valid place – even at Disney. Don’t harp on the success of these artists.
While some of the arguments are pure froth (Floyd says: “The problem with digital animation (is) there’s nothing that truly distinguishes one film from another”; ala - all rap music sounds the same) there’s an underlying truth. Too many cg animations haven’t managed to distinguish themselves – neither stylistically nor story-wise. But here’s an animator arguing against a powerful animation tool… one that Disney has in the past exploited to masterly result. Tarzan, Mulan and Lion King all used innovative cg technologies to achieve visuals that would have been prohibitively expensive to hand-draw. Breath-taking stampedes and camera pans would have been impossible without them. And they developed tools that empowered their talented artists to draw things like 3 dimensional jungles.
Floyd turns a blind eye to the heritage of cg tool development at Disney, as this demonstration of artistic cg technology reveals. Disney was at the top of the game, even in digital 3D technologies, while making ‘traditionally’ animated films that were box-office successes. And they also deliver an unbeatable argument for exploring digital processes as an artistic tool, as opposed to the rigid, un-erasable, un-scribbable, ray-tracing machines that we all suffer with, as soon as we try to do something non-effects oriented, non-realistic. Something we want to correctly tweak into a solid line-of-action.
Also – It’s great to see the pencil-in-hand guys (I hate the term ‘traditional animator’) arguing on production terms; ie. drawn animation can save money and draw crowds, Mr. Executive. Though I don’t buy that argument for a second. It is about artistry, because that’s what’s going to draw in the crowds.
I wish Kevin had defended cg by presenting it as a toolset… so that Floyd’s call to drop cg can be seen as absurd as it is. I looking forward to meeting Kevin at fmx/09 to see what he will think of the hand-drawn revolution I propose…. his post aroused the suspicion that he’s likewise viewing cg tools too rigidly, which may not be surprising – as he’s been pushing the envelope with them for some time. Kein Wald vor lauter Baueme…
I would love to chat with Floyd, too – as I suspect that the right kind of cg in his toolbox would be welcome to him.
Its official. We’ll be presenting at fmx/09 in May. If you’re coming, make sure to catch the talk: Friday, May 8th at 12:00. We’ll also be present in the expo itself, so – look us up. “We” are the AI research group: Volker, Nils, Simon, Stefan, Thomas and I. Next to the straight-forward aQtree rendering application, I hope to bring a NPR virtual agent alive. Cross your fingers, press your thumbs!
There’s a number of reasons to be excited about Love, by Eskil. What’s cool about this? Well, the haptic, atmospheric NPR style, the structure of procedural world creation including flags for behavioral AI, and tools such as modeler, editors and renderers. Ouch… hot stuff! Free and opensource. Yes, I’ll be keeping my eye on love!
Previously, I proposed that a major distinction between NPR and ‘realistic’ rendering is intention in dealing with the tools and materials involved. But what is material within the immaterial working space of computer graphics? And can the artistic sense of authenticity play a role in computer graphics? Can any one produced visual be considered more authentic than another?
You could argue that G.R. Exper’s fractal work (lower right) is more authentic than Weta’s Smeagol, as the fractal is visualizing a self-continuing algorithm. But I suspect they are equally justified. They both give the computer something and get something back. Right?
Ascii art (here by kaboz ) allows a glimpse from another direction. The artist finds and manipulates an existing something – software. He’s found software for writing text and used it to create imagery, allowing its existing form to influence the final work’s appearance.
For the consumer-artist who works with, around and against existing software, at least, there seems to be a guiding element in cg – and this emptiness becomes a material. In a similarly extreme example, what would result if an artist were to restrict himself to Microsoft Excel?
3D software has traditionally been full of materiality, as the brute force calculations required for the loyal replication of light and vision were simply too expensive. But as processing power grows more powerful and lots cheaper, these alternative methods and forced work-arounds are replaced with tweakable settings of singular models… the renderers are becoming so real, that they sacrifice their potential for alternative imagery.
consumer artist; software as material
Here’s a scenario from the world of 3D. Way back when, soft shadows and area lights were prohibitively expensive, if they existed at all. Shadow mapped spotlights were the lighting tool of the day, with sharp edges and aliasing issues corresponding to the resolution used.
To make things worse, smoothly smeared motion blur was also too expensive, so an iterative technique was used calculating x images
between frames. The more iterative steps, the smoother the blur and the longer the render. What a restriction!
The methodology here is based on the artistic concept of materials: the artist finds existing conditions, analyzes their artifacts and creates a previously inexistent usage via experimentation. The next step was pursued by a number of artists in the community, including myself: this method was expanded to further look development, namely the age-old issue of the too-perfect contours generated by 3D rendering processes. The mesh is displaced at a rate greater than the rendered frames-per-second… and synchronized with iterative motion blur. This gives us a number of discoherent images. By offsetting the displacement, an element of boil can be introduced.
As 3D prosumer software grows increasingly sophisticated and processing capacities cheaper, these approaches are disappearing. Like wild tomatoes getting plowed under for industrially produced veggies, they’ve given way to physically correct approximations of ‘reality’.
Why is it important to pursue ‘non-real’ techniques?
An artistic approach is concerned with an authentic recognition of materiality, of tools… and the viewer’s eye expects to see this approach both in the form and subject of the artwork and also in the artifacts left on its surface. Without these, the work feels empty. Numerous applications are available that are more than capable of fulfilling these criteria in still imagery. But moving images reveal that there is much work to be done. Each material alluded to in an animation – pigment, paper, binding substance, etc. brings with it a clear expectation of how it will and won’t move.
Confronted with this drawing/collage, we expect the crumpled paper to move as if photographed via pixelation, with deformation and lighting effects of the paper surface overlapping sequential photographs of the woman or perhaps a cut-out animation technique. Fibers from the paper’s edge might trail behind and the pigment and ink might smear. If these things are missing – if the temporal qualities are too perfect and smooth, we are likely to dismiss the result as unconvincing. It is in danger of becoming artificial as a result of lacking materiality.
It is interesting to note that – to a degree – the expected behavior does not exist and has never been seen. No watercolor animation has been made that incorporates the act of the pigment dispersing and drying. But computer simulations will make this movement possible. The npr artist must invent the temporal look to coincide with the expectations aroused by the represented materials.
Monika Bress (using ArtRage)
To come: the programmer-artist arising from the void