Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

Philippine All-Stars 2008

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

My favorite dance styles, like locking, boogaloo, and gliding, appear to change physics and re-rig the human body on the fly — synchronization of movements can suggest impossible forces at work. When a group does this well, especially with acrobatics and sound effects worked in, you get some spooky goodness. Word.

Something I Learned Today

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Five isosceles tetrahedrons

Regular tetrahedrons are inherently sloppy.

Clone Wars

Friday, April 25th, 2008

So far, the new 3D Clone Wars tv series looks to be just as engaging and well-acted as the prequels. Too bad.

At least the character design is interesting…


Le Building

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Today on Gobelins Appreciation Week: “Le Building” for Annecy 2005.

“Le Building” in high-res on Stage6.

Excellent in every respect. They pulled off an extra-nifty trick here you don’t see done well very often.


A More Perfect Union

Tuesday, 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.

Wizard’s Duel

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

The classic Wizard’s Duel is a battle won by lateral thinking rather than brute force.

The earliest examples are shape-shifter battles, known from ancient times. Author Neil Gaiman calls it variously the Oldest Game and the Game of Forms.

(The soundtrack is unrelated to the video, I suggest muting it.)


Will Vinton, Laika, and the Knights

Friday, July 20th, 2007
California Raisin
Fish food

I live in Portland, Oregon. It’s known for rain, beer, and Nike HQ. Apart from its rather confused reputation as a haven for granola-munchin home-brewin Nike-wearin sporty types, it’s also turned into something of an animation town, if only because of Will Vinton. Vinton, with his handlebar moustache and Claymation posse, rode herd on the Portland animation scene for many years until his studio was eaten by a much larger fish: Nike’s Phil Knight, whose son worked for Vinton.

Vinton was forced out and is attempting to start over, as detailed in the Oregonian (“Will Vinton, reanimated,” 01/16/05); his studio was renamed Laika, and is expanding.

An article in this month’s Fast Company titled “The Knights’ Tale” presents a fairly sympathetic view of the Knights’ takeover and subsequent involvement.

Taking the two articles together, it seems fairly straightforward: Vinton tried to expand the company beyond its capacity, the business started to fail, and Knight stepped in to save his son’s job. Messy, but not Raymond Chandler messy; Vinton got away with his good looks, has started another studio, and is trying to stay in the game. Laika’s apparently working on some interesting stuff, not least Coraline, a stop-motion film to be watched with 3D glasses, based on a novella by Neil Gaiman. The movie is scheduled for a January 2009 release.

Two lessons from the whole story: money is a weapon, and always read the fine print.

Diagnosing Roto and Mocap

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Rotoscoping and motion capture are two methods of producing naturalistic animated motion. Rotoscoping is the process of tracing live-action footage; motion capture is 3D rotoscoping, with unwanted defects generated by computer instead of by hand.

Use of these methods is generally contraindicated. The range of effective dosage is very small, and overdose will make you Ralph.


Speaking of Rigs

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Daffy Duck
A bit too Daffy

In the world of 3D animation, “rigging” is the process wherein virtual control mechanisms are connected to a model to enable its manipulation. There are a few general techniques which may be employed, but the methods of their execution vary between 3D packages and must be adjusted for individual models, design goals, and motion styles.

The large number of controls necessary for basic manipulations — compounded by inevitable structural problems, application glitches, and the difficulty of applied kinesthetics — makes rigging even a stiff-looking biped a tricky proposition. Making a 3D rig that can move like Daffy Duck is downright Quixotic at best.


All Sorts of Legs

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

David Elsewhere breaks human kinesthetics and reassembles them — with his mind.

The song is “Expo 2000” by Kraftwerk.


Land of Lost Plots

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Recently, I’ve accidentally been watching a lot of Lost. I know I’m not alone here, but the catch is that I don’t really like it.

It’s nonsensical and arbitrary, and the characters aren’t very convincing. Taken as traditional narrative, it has all the grace and follow-through of a Rube Goldberg machine. But the plot of Lost doesn’t strictly follow conventional plot structures, to a degree I haven’t seen on prime time since Twin Peaks.

It relies on a kind of dream logic wherein, every so often, things happen not as the result of other events, but because they’re related thematically, or because it’s aesthetically pleasing for them to do so. Still, it doesn’t feel completely rudderless — there’s clearly some kind of plan, even if the writers don’t have it all worked out beforehand. The “truthiness” of this kind of narrative lies in its emotional resonance, and the show seems to understand that. Those kinds of plots are my favorite, but this one is dressed like “Survivor,” and is on ABC, which confuses me.

Regardless — I think it’s significant that the main characters in both Lost and Twin Peaks are openly depicted struggling with the conflict between rationality and intuition. If I were better-educated I’d stick something in here about the zeitgeist, and political climates.

Hello World

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

I see a tree!