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A More Perfect Union

January 8th, 2008

A couple of animated pieces caught my eye recently, both relying on texture maps for a unique look.

Usavich” — Rabbity Odd Couple in a Russian prison, from Kanaban Graphics.

(via Motionographer.)

Jeep: “Ten Little Vehicles” — even toddlers recognize Jeep’s unique value proposition.

(via Cartoon Brew.)

Design-wise, Usavich is a tight little number. Every frame looks like an illustration from a children’s book; it’s tricky to tell which features are in the painted textures and which are shaders and lighting. Perfectly balanced.

It’s a little unfair to put the Jeep ad up against Usavich, as the Jeep ad’s “Outsider Art” look is intentional, but it goes to show what’s to be gained from a thoughtful and thorough integration of textures and lighting. The 3D-ness of the Jeep ad is exaggerated, and feels only a step up from “Money for Nothing.” Textures are the cheapest and simplest way to increase the complexity and subtlety of models and lighting, but the pedagogy for learning 3D doesn’t yet seem to include “how to paint.”

PC video games have extra trouble with the lighting/textures balance, as so much depends on customizable graphics settings and the capabilities of video cards. BioShock has a toggle in the graphics options called “High Quality Shaders” which apparently disables specular and bump maps, thirding the texture load. Pixar would plotz if their audience had such a toggle.

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