Goodbye Uncanny Valley

Alan Warburton: It’s 2017 and computer graphics have conquered the Uncanny Valley, that strange place where things are almost real… but not quite. After decades of innovation, we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software. The battle for photoreal CGI has been won, so the question is… what happens now?

Still File

…is a series of 4 photographs recreating computer renderings as physical scenes by Skrekkøgle, a product and digital design studio in Oslo.

Cube, sphere and cone geometry with material textures mahogany, clear glass and white marble. Placed on reflective checkers plane.

Floating colored cube without environment. Low greyscale resolution creates gradient banding in background.

Three white Utah teapots – scaled, rotated, intersected and distorted. Diffuse lighting, composed on matte yellow plane.

Patterned spheres with pink metallic texture. Panoramic photo of a beach added on cylindrical environment, mirrored in both the base plane and in the metal spheres.

See also: Other posts tagged ‘3D’ and ‘CGI’.

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Still File: Real recreations of computer renderings

The photos’ artifacts, surroundings, camera settings and lighting has been shaped intending to resemble 3d graphics of different types.

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Cosmo Wenman: The Times reports that artists Al-badri and Nelles used a modified Microsoft Kinect scanner hidden under clothing to gather the scan data of the bust. Following the Times story, there have been several independent and exhaustive descriptions of how their scan data simply cannot have been gathered in the way Al-badri and Nelles claim. […] They correctly point out that the Kinect scanner has fundamentally low resolution and accuracy, and that even under ideal conditions, it simply cannot acquire data as detailed as what the artists have made available. The artists’ account simply cannot be true.

All of this confusion stems from bad institutional practices regarding secrecy: The Neues Museum is hoarding 3D scans that by all rights it should share with the public, and The New York Times has allowed anonymous sources into the chain of custody of the facts of its story.


The Other Nefertiti — Artists release the 3D data of Nefertiti’s head

Nefertiti 3D print

Hyperallergic: Last October, two artists entered the Neues Museum in Berlin, where they clandestinely scanned the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the state museum’s prized gem. Three months later, they released the collected 3D dataset online as a torrent, providing completely free access under public domain to the one object in the museum’s collection off-limits to photographers.

Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles

Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles

“The head of Nefertiti represents all the other millions of stolen and looted artifacts all over the world currently happening, for example, in Syria, Iraq, and in Egypt,” Al-Badri said.

Updated March 9, 2016 with the news that this story is likely a hoax.

See also

  • The story of “Sweetie” — How a computer-generated 10-year old girl from the Philippines caught over 1,000 pedophiles in only two months.
  • The New Aesthetic and its PoliticsA photograph of Eric Schmidt wearing a flak jacket – as he does in his Twitter avatar – is a spur to investigate the circumstances of the photograph and the self-presentation of the corporation. It was taken on a visit to Iraq in 2009, when Google promised to digitise what remains of the National Museum’s collection, raising further questions about the digitisation and subsequent ownership of cultural patrimony, and of Google’s involvement in political activity and international diplomacy through its Google Ideas think-tank, which actively supports a programme of regime change in certain parts of the world.
Shape of things to come

Artists covertly scan bust of Nefertiti; release the 3D model for free online

“The Other Nefertiti” is an artistic intervention by the two German artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles. Al-Badri and Nelles scanned the head of Nefertiti clandestinely in the Neues Museum Berlin without permission of the Museum and they hereby announce the release of the 3D data of Nefertitis head under a Creative Commons Licence.

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ZERO-DAY by beeple

The next world war will not be invisible.

After the success of STUXNET, a virus written by the United States to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, the U.S. government could no longer deny it was developing cyber weapons meant to do physical damage. With US companies and agencies under constant attack from state-sponsored Chinese hackers, it is only a matter of time before tensions boil over and more sensitive infrastructure is targeted. As more or our devices (cars, homes, etc) become connected, we will become more and more vulnerable to the physical threat of cyber warfare.

More stills on Behance
Equally awesome process video after the jump →

Wire Cutters

A chance encounter proves fateful for 2 robots mining on a desolate planet.

It’s like a grittier Wall-E.

Boing Boing: On Reddit, filmmaker Jack Anderson explains that the making of his film involved a “$0 budget but thousands of hours of love and about a YEAR of rendering.”

See also: Wanderers, a vision of humanity’s expansion into the Solar System.

Pixar in a Box
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Pixar in a box! Animation lessons from the masters

Well now, this is something!

Khan Academy: Pixar in a Box

A collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy. Sponsored by Disney.

Don’t let the kid-friendly intro video put you off exploring the content. It all seems very good and there’s loads of mathematics, as you would expect from Khan Academy. They cover modelling, animation, rendering and other fun subjects like crowd ‘combinatorics’. I didn’t spot anything on lighting though, outside of the context of rendering.

See also

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Animation Master Hayao Miyazaki’s Work Comes to Life in This Beautiful 3D Tribute

Made with Blender, Gimp, Octane and Natron, and lots of love for the films of Hayao Miyazaki.

Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki made with Blender 3D

Updated to include this making of video found via the Blender’s ‘User Stories’ blog

Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki – Making of

I found it especially interesting how he was able to edit the entire animation directly in Blender.

See also

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A tribute to Hayao Miyazaki in 3D

Miyazaki has come out of retirement (again) to make an animated short that will only play at the Studio Ghibli Museum that will be entirely computer generated.

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Renderman
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Pixar’s RenderMan is now free!

RenderMan is now free for all non-commercial purposes, including evaluations, education, research, and personal projects. The non-commercial version of RenderMan is fully functional without watermark or limitation.


In this video subsurface scattering is demonstrated using the skin shader from RenderMan For Maya on an Alien from Toy Story.

Currently there are only RenderMan plugins for Maya and KATANA, but Cinema 4D and Houdini support is on the way. Personally I’m hoping someone will get on Blender support ASAP.

RenderMan Plug-in Support 
  Supported Underway Potential
Maya      
KATANA      
Cinema4D      
Houdini      
3DS Max      
Modo      
Rhino      
Lightwave      
Blender      
Nuke Supported via AOVs, LPEs & Deep Textures

See also

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Craft and creativity

Obsidian: A typeface shaded by algorithms

Obsidian - collage

Nice as it looks, I honestly wasn’t that interested in the new typeface from Hoefler & Co., until I learned how it was made:

Obsidian is a decorative, three-dimensional font created in a virtual environment that can simulate light falling upon any 3-D character in the set.

The result is a convincing set of 3-D characters that harks back to the early days of type-making, but without all the flowery curlicues and animals that often accompanied 19th century letters.

An ornamental font like this could take over a year to get right. So [Jonathan] Hoefler and senior designer Andy Clymer solved for this by creating custom algorithms that could help. Obsidian is created in a virtual environment that can simulate light falling on any 3-D character in the set, thus eliminating the need to draw tens of thousands of shadows, one by one.

Obsidian – typography.com

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Resonant Chamber In this animation, it can be noted that there is only one dark sky with four windows and four different moons. One of them is the thick crescent moon, another is the full moon, third is the waning gibbous and the last one is the thin crescent moon. Inside the room, there are four lanterns already lit up.

Pipe Dreams This video is the second most famous Animusic animation, partially in thanks to an email hoax stating that the set was a real machine built at the University of Iowa using farm equipment. The hoax mail also said that it took 13,000 hours to make the performance (equivalent to about a year and a half), including building, calibrating, etc.

Fiber Bundles Towards the end of this piece’s commentary on the DVD, Wayne Lytle remarks that the music in the Ratchet & Clank series, written by David Bergeaud, may have had some influence over this piece.

More

  • Animusic HD videos on YouTube
  • Animusic on Wikipedia: “Unlike many other music visualizations, the music drives the animation. While other productions might animate figures or characters to the music, the animated models in Animusic are created first, and are then programmed to follow what the music “tells them” to. ‘Solo cams’ featured on the Animusic DVD shows how each instrument actually plays through a piece of music from beginning to end.”
  • Animusic.com
Craft and creativity

Animusic: Incredible computer animated music

Founded by Wayne Lytle, Animusic is an American company specialising in the 3D visualization of MIDI-based music.

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Wired: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar

Kip Thorne is an theoretical physicist who helped developed the concept for the movie Interstellar.

“The story is now essentially all Chris and Jonah’s,” Thorne says. “But the spirit of it, the goal of having a movie in which science is embedded in the fabric from the beginning—and it’s great science—that was preserved.”

The film put so much effort into the appearance of the black holes that they actually made some legitimate scientific findings…

Black Hole

“We found that warping space around the black hole also warps the accretion disk,” [Double Negative senior supervisor, Paul] Franklin says. “So rather than looking like Saturn’s rings around a black sphere, the light creates this extraordinary halo.” That’s what led Thorne to his “why, of course” moment when he first saw the final effect. The Double Negative team thought it must be a bug in the renderer. But Thorne realized that they had correctly modeled a phenomenon inherent in the math he’d supplied.

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Building a black hole

‘Some individual frames took up to 100 hours to render, the computation overtaxed by the bendy bits of distortion caused by an Einsteinian effect called gravitational lensing. In the end the movie brushed up against 800 terabytes of data. “I thought we might cross the petabyte threshold on this one,” [CG supervisor at Double Negative, Eugénie] von Tunzelmann says.’ — Wired

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Other Places is a series celebrating beautiful video game worlds.

A tour of the space station Sevastopol from the new Alien: Isolation…

(There’s also one of the USCSS Nostromo.)

The wild wests of Red Dead Redemption…

The bleak City 17 from Half-Life 2…

The fantastical province of Skyrim

The vast Aperture Science labs from Portal 2…

The post-apocalyptic Mojave Wasteland from Fallout: New Vegas…

And of course, San Andreas from Grand Theft Auto V…

Plus many more.

While these videos are quite wonderful, it’s apparent how much of the character of these places is lost without the sound design. The worlds seem much more hollow without the NPC background chatter in Skyrim, the strange animal noises in Red Dead Redemption, the constant propaganda broadcasts of City 17 and so on. GTAV’s San Andreas seems particularly lifeless compared to the game.

Follow @other_places_

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Other Places

A series celebrating beautiful video game worlds

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Expiration Date is 15 minute animation from Valve featuring the Team Fortress characters.

Engineer and Medic make an unsettling new discovery while experimenting with the teleporter. Meanwhile, Scout stops insulting Spy long enough to ask him an embarrassing favor; the Administrator’s clerical assistant/cleaner/murder expert Miss Pauling races to bury some incriminating bodies; and Soldier makes a new metal friend.

via The Verge:

Valve has a flair for animated films; the series of brief Team Fortress character introductions like “Meet the Pyro” and “Meet the Medic” for Team Fortress has had more than 85 million views on YouTube and was widely hailed as a genius marketing campaign.

IXS Enterprise

Of course, it’s called the IXS Enterprise. And the Star Trek connection doesn’t end there: Mike Okuda designed the ship’s insignia.

The IXS Enterprise is a theory fitting concept for a Faster Than Light ship. It’s designed for/with NASA scientist Dr. Harold White and used in his presentations as an extra.

Excellent renderings by Mark Rademaker who has put in excess of 1600 hours into the project.

Continue reading

Shape of things to come

NASA’s design for a warp drive ship!

NASA physicist Dr. Harold White collaborated with CGI artist Mark Rademaker to create a new, more realistic design of what a faster-than-light ship ship might actually look like.

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A respectful homage to Shirow Masamune’s manga and Mamoru Oshii’s seminal film “Ghost in the Shell”

For a film that was a comment on the uber-connected society of the future, Project 2501 ended up being itself an example of how this collaborative group of creatives are so connected ourselves. Many of us never met beyond the communications provided by the vast and infinite net, but still came together to make the ultimate tribute to “Ghost in the Shell”

gits2501.com (via DN)

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Project 2501: A homage to ‘Ghost in the Shell’

This is a modernised direction that still tries to stays true to the original creator’s vision. What started as a photo tribute directed by Ash Thorp and Tim Tadder (photography), soon became a worldwide collaboration of more than 20 artists from around the world, with each and every one coming together to help breathe life into the project.

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Sweetie
Shape of things to come

The story of “Sweetie”

How a 10-year old girl from the Philippines caught over 1,000 pedophiles in only two months:

At any given moment, the United Nations (UN) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimate that 750,000 pedophiles are online. An international federation called Terre des Hommes, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is breaking new ground in the investigation of online sexual predation. It developed a computer model of a 10-year old girl, named her “Sweetie” and put her out in chat rooms on the web. Almost instantaneously, Sweetie was bombarded by requests from men around the world to “chat”… and do more via webcam.

youtube.com/sweetie

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Lambda
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The Cabal: Valve’s design process for creating Half-Life

By Ken Birdwell for Gamasutra, back in 1999:

By late September 1997, nearing the end of our original schedule, a whole lot of work had been done, but there was one major problem — the game wasn’t any fun. At this point we had to make a very painful decision — we decided to start over and rework every stage of the game.

Ivan the Space Biker

The first incarnation of the game’s main character, now known affectionately as “Ivan the Space Biker”

Fortunately, the game had some things in it we liked. We set up a small group of people to take every silly idea, every cool trick, everything interesting that existed in any kind of working state somewhere in the game and put them into a single prototype level. When the level started to get fun, they added more variations of the fun things. If an idea wasn’t fun, they cut it.

When they were done, we all played it. It was great. It was Die Hard meets Evil Dead. It was the vision. It was going to be our game.

The second step in the pre-cabal process was to analyze what was fun about our prototype level. The first theory we came up with was the theory of “experiential density” — the amount of “things” that happen to and are done by the player per unit of time and area of a map. Our goal was that, once active, the player never had to wait too long before the next stimulus, be it monster, special effect, plot point, action sequence, and so on.

The second theory we came up with is the theory of player acknowledgment. This means that the game world must acknowledge players every time they perform an action. Our basic theory was that if the world ignores the player, the player won’t care about the world.

A final theory was that the players should always blame themselves for failure. If the game kills them off with no warning, then players blame the game and start to dislike it.

Valve then created a “Cabal” to tackle the game design. The goal of this group was to create a complete document that detailed all the levels and described major monster interactions, special effects, plot devices, and design standards. Cabal meetings were semi-structured brainstorming sessions usually dedicated to a specific area of the game.

During Cabal sessions, everyone contributed but we found that not everyone contributed everyday. The meetings were grueling, and we came to almost expect that about half of the group would find themselves sitting through two or three meetings with no ideas at all, then suddenly see a direction that no one else saw and be the main contributor for the remainder of the week. Why this happened was unclear, but it became important to have at least five or six people in each meeting so that the meetings wouldn’t stall out from lack of input.

Mistakes were made

Letting players see other characters make mistakes that they’ll need to avoid is an effective way to explain your puzzles and add tension and entertainment value.

We also ended up assigning one person to follow the entire story line and to maintain the entire document. With a design as large as a 30-hour movie, we ended up creating more detail than could be dealt with on a casual or part-time basis. We found that having a professional writer on staff was key to this process. Besides being able to add personality to all our characters, his ability to keep track of thematic structures, plot twists, pacing, and consistency was invaluable.

Practically speaking, not everyone is suited for the kind of group design activity we performed in the Cabal, at least not initially. People with strong personalities, people with poor verbal skills, or people who just don’t like creating in a group setting shouldn’t be forced into it.

Tips for a successful cabal →

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Montreal-based artist Benoit Paillé has created the art project “Crossroad of Realities” where he took photos of gorgeous landscapes within the video game Grand Theft Auto V and then overlaid these images with photographs of real people holding real cameras and other devices so that it appears as if they are taking the landscape photos themselves. The purpose of this was to blend the virtual reality with material reality in such a way as to question the boundaries of each.

(via Laughing Squid)

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Crossroad of Realities

“During the project I ask myself a lots of question about the possible disappearance of the photographic medium as we know it. Our environment tends to be more and more dematerialized, workspaces are now to be found in the Cloud, relationships and social exchanges take place increasingly in virtual networks , while gamers compete on online networks.” — Benoit Paillé

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Lammily
Humans and other animals

Lammily: a realistically proportioned Barbie

The Creators Project: “Alternative Barbie” Comes To Life

When Nickolay Lamm released images of a 3D-printed “real Barbie,” he fully expected them to go viral. Lamm specializes in creating visuals that highlight overlooked societal flaws; the strange proportions of Barbie dolls are one such glaring mistake. So, Lamm created a new version of the fashion doll using the Center for Disease Control’s average measurements for a 19-year-old girl. His message was, “Average is Beautiful.” As the story made its rounds, Lamm received a rush of requests: People wanted to know where they could buy a doll like the one he created.

Enter Lammily: a doll that will be manufactured according to Lamm’s model.

More images: Style and beauty.

Rather than waiting for toy companies to change their designs, let’s change them ourselves by creating a fashion doll that promotes realistic beauty standards.
Lammily: Average is Beautiful

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The subversive blockbuster

Playfully subversive and countercultural, the Lego Movie satirises surveillance culture and our modern-day neoliberal struggles, says Ben Walters.

Lego Bad Cop

The film’s exuberant, kid-friendly larks – Wild West! Robot pirates! Unicorn kittens! Batman! – are laced with satirical digs at surveillance culture, built-in obsolescence and police brutality, as well as inane positive thinking. Its opening sequences show a world in which a pliant, consumerist populace, mollified by overpriced coffee and dumb TV shows, is exploited by cynical leadership; political and corporate power are conflated in the villainous figure of “President Business”.

Our screens have been filled with images of urban collapse and apocalyptic destruction, dystopian wastelands and zombie hordes. But, like Washington and Westminster, Hollywood has been better at scaring us with the threat of calamity than inspiring hope for the new.

The Lego Movie – a toy story every adult needs to see – The Guardian

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Designing the end titles for Star Trek Into Darkness

Andrew Kramer created this complex sequence using After Effects and Element 3D, his own $150 AE plugin!

If you’re interested in learning After Effects, Kramer’s tutorials on Video Copilot are essential, and very entertaining.

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The Pixar Theory

Jon Negroni thinks that every Pixar movie is connected. I’m unconvinced, but it makes for a fun theory!

In Brave, Merida discovers that there is “magic” that can solve her problems but inadvertently turns her mother into a bear. We find out that this magic comes from an odd witch seemingly connected to the mysterious will-of-the-wisps. Not only do we see animals behaving like humans, but we also see brooms (inanimate objects) behaving like people in the witch’s shop.
The Pixar Theory

And so begins a timeline that sees animals (Finding Nemo, Up, Ratatouille) and artificial beings (Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up) become more and more sentient and more in conflict with the humans, who are later forced to leave Earth on the Axiom (ref. Wall-E).

In their absence the era of the Cars begins. But they throw the balance off even more, wiping out animal life on Earth.

Then comes the events of Wall-E, then A Bug’s Life (which is placed here in the timeline for interesting reasons), and then – even further in the future – Monsters Inc.

In a final twist Negroni connects the Monsters Inc. time to the distant past of Brave in a very interesting way that I won’t spoil here.

Pixar

Like I say, I’m far from convinced. I just don’t think movies are written this way. For example, I know that the plot of Ratatouille was rewritten very late into production. These kinds of story considerations come before grand ideas that most people will never notice. Most of the other references (BnL batteries in Toy Story 3 for example) are nothing more than in-jokes for the fans to spot.

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Elizabeth
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Bioshock Infinite: Creating Elizabeth

I’ve been watching a playthrough of Bioshock Infinite on YouTube because I want to experience the story without having to grind through all the looting and shooting myself. So far I can’t really see why the game got such glowing reviews – the design of the world is exceptional, but the story is no better than an average episode of Fringe. And there’s a lot of shooting.

One standout feature seems to be the companion character, Elizabeth. Of the several hours of gameplay I’ve watched, she hasn’t gotten in the way of the player once. Instead she stays well out of the line of fire and generally helps rather than hinders the player, unlike NPC companions in many other games like this.

“There’s no component of escort mission, at all. You never have to protect her, you never have to watch her health. She functions autonomously, and she’s there to help you.”
Ken Levine, Bioshock Infinite creative director

Irrational Games made a fun feature about the women who bought Elizabeth to life:

The YouTube pro-gamer →

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Bioshock Infinite art screenshot

Art dealers Cook & Decker have teamed up with Irrational Games to sell some very large and very expensive prints, each displaying art from BioShock Infinite.
Interestingly, the art isn’t taken from the game’s wonderful concept works. They’re screenshots, though the word does them a slight disservice. These are prints based on the super hi-res and rendered environments normally used for magazine screenshots, meaning you’re getting something that’ll actually stand up to closer inspection.
Art Dealer Is Selling The World’s Most Expensive Screenshots

Craft and creativity

Screenshots as art

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David O'Reilly's Adventure Time
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“A Glitch Is A Glitch”

“A Glitch Is A Glitch” falls on the far end of the weird spectrum, which is saying something with a show as odd as Adventure Time. Using one of his preexisting videos of a girl eating her own hair as a jumping off point, O’Reilly creates a fascinating episode that evolves into a bizarre Adventure Time creation myth.
A.V. Club

The External World →

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