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.
“There was something rather silly, over the top and crazy about (the original GTA and GTAII) that made them a laugh to play… (GTA3 onwards) seemed to take the ‘immersion’ aspect further and I was never entirely sure that was what I wanted from the game.”
“I found Crackdown a lot more fun. Crackdown was an open city world with guns and driving too, albeit nowhere near as detailed or impressive as GTA, but the difference was that it was an absolute blast to mess around in, all the time. Forget realism – it was actually less fun when you started out as a ‘norm’, but as you powered up and got to do ever more ridiculous things (throwing cars, bounding from building to building) the game really became huge amounts of fun. Maybe I’m just bored with normality, but running about in a real city doing crime-related things in a pretty realistic way just wasn’t that exciting to me.”
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!
Antje wants to be a real drawing. Here’s an attempt to make her happy. Lots of work still… partucularly in the quality of the strokes. Despite the shortcomings, I’m happy with the potential shown here. Rendering is realtime at least in the terms of tweaking feedbacks. I’ll be adding more eye candy in the wiki gallery.
In the last Spiegel, Daniel Tammet praises the German language as “a clean room with perfect, 90 degree corners”, “orderly and straightforward” and ‘poetic, transparent and elegant”.
So many cliches! But… they fit the mold. I’m reminded of this every time I try to explain yet another irregular English something – German is wonderfully straightforward. Its refreshing how a rigid language like German and a quirly mish-mash of influences like English can both achieve poetry from fully different approaches. Interesting enough, Tammet is a savant with Asperger syndrom who is learning German in one week and will appear on television to discuss brain research and autism.
Just read that a Japanese in-betweener earns approximately ¥80,000 per month. That’s €642.78. Or $816.82. In other words, that’s horrendous. That makes things here in Germany appear in a warm, cuddly glow. Budgets here have only been halved over the last 10 years, while expectations for animation quality have increased ten-fold.
Where’s this heading? I can’t help wondering how much an efficiency-increasing tool that I hope to get out there into the hands of independent animators will be used to push margins even further. More minutes, more output, more something objectively measurable so that we can sell it. Shite on the content.
Link found at CartoonBrew.
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!