Pass on the link. Watch it again. And then start reading. I’ve been a fan of David’s films since back when I wasn’t sure if they were good or not… the xyz rgb series. They were such a driven exploration of… yeah, of what? …that I didn’t mind them not being successful films. That ambiguity has long since been replaced by pure admiration… for his films and for his humor. I don’t want to have his baby, but I sure do want to see more of his work! And I’m pleased beyond measure that the Berlinale jurors had the courage to honor “Please say something”.
That ‘what‘ that I think he was exploring has a lot to do with cg materiality, btw. Things like medial transmission and compression artifacts. Go David, go!
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
Dotan Goldwasser, student of animation in Jerusalem:
“Only with this technique (animation) can dream and reality be described in the same language, only with this technique can you make a film in which you can accentuate exactly those elements in a character which he should represent.”
“Nur mit dieser Technik kannst du Traum und Realität in der gleichen Sprache beschreiben, nur mit dieser Technik kannst du Filme machen, in denen du bei einer Figur genau das betonst, wofür sie stehen soll.”
“For me, animation is more honest and truer than any image that a camera can create.”
“Für mich ist Animation ehrlicher und wahrer, als das Bild, das eine Kamera produziert”.
(There’s likely a direct English interview somewhere, forgive me for errors in translation.)
Is it just me or is the economic slow-down revealing ingrained schizophrenic tendencies? The last few years, the media and politics have been inundated us with environmental doom and gloom scenarios; health organizations, activists and grandmas the world over have been racking their brains over how we can all be brought to drive less and walk more – to save our health insurance companies some cash and our consciousness some peace of mind… maybe even to help the environment.
Hardly a year later, and polar bear-loving fitness activists who’ve infiltrated the world’s banking system (liberal interpretation by yours truly) have managed just this; a 23% drop in cars sales! WooT! Instead of praising them for this previously inimaginable feat, we lambaste them for being a bit greedy. Sheesh.
Question: Is an animator’s goal to achieve a perfect simulation of “real life”?
Pixar always strives for believability instead of realism. When you make humans a little more stylized, like we tried for in The Incredibles, the audience can accept them as human being–type creatures, stop comparing them to the real thing, and instead just enjoy the story. However, there are definitely some things where we strive for more realism, like smoke, fire, explosions, and waterfalls. All of these things tend to look very fake if they don’t have some of the proper physics behind them. If one thing goes out of whack, the whole thing can look phony and pull the audience out of the story.
This is a re-post of parts of a talk I held at fmx/07 , together with Oliver Deussen from the University of Konstanz.
There is much frustration at the term “non-photorealism”. Something which defines itself as the negative of another thing is side-stepping an identification, of course – but more difficulty arises from the presumed assumption that we know what photorealism is. A director requesting “photorealism” as a visual style from a cameraman would rightly be scoffed at, yet cg artists are often confronted with exactly this definition of a desired style.
Photorealism isn’t a style.
The photo is a projected image captured when light falls on a light-sensitive surface. Initially, this process took place chemically, such as in the heliograph above – taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce. It could be considered the first photograph, certainly its the first permanent photograph. Earlier images had been created using photographic processes but they vanished after a short time.
The photoreal takes its reference from the physical properties of light as it finds its way through a focusing lens or pinhole and onto the flat plane of a photographic surface. As the image above shows, photoreal doesn’t necessarily refer to a crisp, focused representation of an existent scene… it includes all effects and artifacts arising from the physical properties of light and the chemical processes involved, as guided and manipulated by the photographer. Computer graphics has pursued rendering the photoreal within the limits of computational power and understanding of the processes.
In contrast, the non-photoreal takes as its reference the interaction between artist and material. At first glimpse, that says pretty much nothing. But its a solid point of departure to better define what it is that NPR research strives to achieve.
The intention of the photographer or the cameraman is to ‘capture’ existing objects – of course, both these objects and the photographic toolkit are both manipulated to achieve the desired visual and emotional impact. He/she is concerned with subject matter, composition, lighting and the camera’s position and viewing angle, focus, etc.
The artist is also interested in these things, but – to a much greater degree than the photographer – the artist is concerned with technique - the interplay of tool and material at the hand of the artist. Tools and materials are expected to influence or even guide the creation of an artwork.
materiality; the photographer looks, the artist listens
The grain of a tree stem suggests form to the sculptor, the grain of a woodcarving leaves its signature in ink as it is pressed against paper. It is a sign of authenticity that the artist listens to materials. As the sculptures below illustrate, one material can suggest endless possible forms and techniques, and the work lives from the tension between this material and its development.
two eyes are more than one
I see a further distinction in the multiplicity of perspective: looking through the camera means reducing one’s vision to one point in space. Artists can also pursue this singular perspective, but more often than not, they are in some form juggling multiple perspective. The extreme can be seen in cubism.
temporal concerns: it’s about time
A last distinction: only seldom does photography span longer frames of time… such as cameras set to capture sprinters as they cross the goal line. Most often, the photographer – even the cameraman – is intent on a fraction of time measured in f-stops. Even time-lapse photography consists of consistent segments of time. The artist is constantly confronted with temporal incongruities, for the simple fact that the process of formulating an image spans a longer period of time.
More about these distinctions in future posts…
next: NPR _ materials in the void
The Stanford bunny, scanned by Greg Turk. I’m preparing comparison tests with the original mesh and a displacement map created in modo. Vector displacement failed miserably. The ear reveals which is which.
I once did a ‘thought’ log – I think it was in 1998. Basically, I jotted down my thoughts for one full year. In 2000 I decided to repeat this process using my (then) brand-new palm pilot. Click on a date to jump to a certain day, the arrows to progress one day fore or backward, and drag the months to get to the second half of the year.
I re-stumbled over the work of Peter Callesen. I find these paper-cut sculptures wonderful illustrations of the idea of the reveal I touched upon in my Sita post. These works depict two ideas that overlap in one and the same space – a cut-out paper silhouette is at the same time a sculpted form. Negative and positive space intertwine and constrew a feeling that magic has been done.
As in non-realistic animation: a line simultaneously communicates both its construction at the hands of an artist and its existing as a livingthing, a splash on the surface of a pond or a fleeing character.