EPFC | January 29th, 2018

The Month’s Theme: Intersections of 3D and Reality

#5 • S’ghetti Plane • Zach Jones • 2015

In an amusing and sad short, S’ghetti Plane, our sincere, misguided protagonist dreams of becoming a commercial pilot but works as an airport spaghetti vendor. He encounters a successful douchebag school friend who invites him to a motivational conference.

This short feels like it was probably created in Google SketchUp—a consumer 3D program that was, at least at some point, free and available to all. I have the feeling the creator knows what he’s doing and could make something high production value if he wanted, but still, it shows how with the right angle and motivation, the simplest computer tool can be an amazing storytelling device. This is more compelling than a lot of garbage Netflix series I’ve watched lately. In fact, you should pitch it, Zach.

Don’t know how to make mouthes move? No problem! Just add some sound effects, smart editing, and compelling camera moves, and you don’t even notice it. Though far from reality, I deeply enjoy how corrupt and varied the faces are in this program. It’s taking that original cardboard South Park aesthetic to another level.

The fun titles, and canned music in the beginning reminds us how midi changed the world by allowing simulated full-orchestra dreams to be realized, and we see in this short how a free 3D tool can do the same for cinema dreams. Maybe our protagonist can use a flight simulator?

Flesh Nest

EPFC | January 23rd, 2018

The Month’s Theme: Intersections of 3D and Reality

#4•Flesh Nest, 1982

This recent video from Andrew Thomas Huang is stunning. It does something rare in media—it combines a vast variety of production values (we saw this a bit recently with Twin Peaks: The Return). The title, Flesh Nest, is written in tweaked out photoshop default brush, the artifice is entirely revealed to us in the opening moments of each ‘level’ as we see the greenscreen set. We can even see the software behind the 3D overlay at work when the tracking points—points in the footage that the program uses to determine the depth and location of objects—are revealed. Yet, when the all of the elements are fully layered we are in another universe, despite being immediately aware of its falseness.

The sound design is playfully jarring, and I haven’t seen 3D tracking points aestheticized so well before. It’s another way of showing the latticework behind a 3D layer, without just revealing the polygonal mesh. The way these armies of destructive robots envelope the practical mounds and tubes lining the scene is alarming.


EPFC | January 11th, 2018

Guest Curator: Will Rahilly
The Month’s Theme: Intersections of 3D and Reality

#2 • Quest, 1985 and The Little Death, 1989

A double feature. Each only a few minutes.

Quest, 1985, 3 min

The artists behind Quest must be proud of themselves considering the credits constitute 1/3 of the entire runtime—and they should be. I can’t image the quest they went on to put something like this together in the mid eighties. The escape of the multi-disk being from the flat tron-world into the googie-and-Memphis inspired paradise is an age old tale. In this one, the allegory is essentially the reality, as another dimension is *literally* added to the graphics. Yet, the multi-disk’s flatness is a benefit still, and then it becomes a true 3D rainbow person (perhaps this is about sexual freedom as well?) It’s pleasant, and lacks the uncanny creepiness inherent in so much 3D attempting to replicate real life. Why not eschew it all and do what the medium does best?

For the second selection, The Little Death, bring on the creepiness!

The Little Death, 1989, 2 min

You wonder if the subject matter of vague ancient culture in many early 3D animation comes entirely from the fact that the culture’s architectural shapes (a pyramid, for instance) are so easy to make. They are even technically ‘primitives’ in CG jargon. Though pioneering at the time, the animation and infatuations themselves appear primitive now. Who gets the last laugh? The Mayans. We see this easy-CG trend continuing today as modern artist use canned fabric dynamics and 3D scans—Vaporwave itself owes its aesthetic to the ease of texture mapping stone statues, columns and grids.

It’s always curious to see a medium at its inception. One could compare the graphics to the first films by the Lumiere brothers—the jittery movements of the black and white frame aflame with dust as the camera attempts a clean motionlessness. Only the problems with early 3D are the opposite: garish colors assault us from every pixel as the camera flies about in unpracticed space gymnastics—yet the pivots remain robotically sharp. For those of us in the animation biz, there is no ‘easing.’ Think of easing as the plane slowing down before stopping, not just pausing mid-air.

These days, it’s too easy to be smooth given the resolve of software to default to such an unrealistic vision. Compare it to a photo shoot: we strive to have everything in the frame look so ideal that it’s computer generated, only it’s generated by make up artists, lighting technicians, and photoshop artists. With 3D computer generated imagery, we strive to have everything look ‘realistic’ and so they are sprinkled with noise and distressed with digital mallets. Will the two meet in the middle, or will they pass over one another such that the CG characters will be sickly and disintegrated while our phones capture a reality composed strictly of seamless plastic?

When I look out at the waterfront of the East River here in New York, I can’t help but see architectural renderings, simply printed out. Command-P-ing on our views. With an artificially jittery camera on 3D work as today’s standard, I hope the next generation of buildings won’t be blue glass, but crumbling stone.

*actually literally

Une Mission Ephemere

EPFC | January 5th, 2018

Guest Curator: Will Rahilly
The Month’s Theme: Intersections of 3D and Reality

#1 • Piotr Kamler • Une Mission Ephemere

Where are we? In the clouds, towards the end of a red-eye, looking out of the window of our plane—and then, the most primitive of spheres, surely a friendly one, appears and promptly sheds itself into our morning coffee cup.

It seems our handle-less saucer is filled with a dense array of sugar cubes. They flip and toil into a blank Rubik’s Cube—always intricate, always solved—then, a momentary wall of 60s stock photography from seemingly nowhere (an advertisement for the ideal breakfast) precedes the emergence of a smooth, droid-like character. We zoom/enhance into the granular detail. The cascading! The flipping of limbs! His wand divining new shapes that rear and plunge like breaching whales. Intricate, multi-dimensional pendulums clack in his face to keep the time, a metronome that keeps us alert for our lack of caffeine. Seconds pass.

What is our mission exactly? It doesn’t matter. It’s only a moment, or in this case, about 8 minutes of moments neatly stacked into a rhythmic vision. Why do we breath? It doesn’t matter. Concentrate on the film. We are watching some stunning, bespoke three-dimensional renderings. How are they made?

I have no idea how Piotr Kamler, born in 1936, made such an out-of-time masterpiece in 1993—as Groundhog Day lurked around the corner, plastering the walls of cities with its dopey clock poster. Is it partially digital? The specular shine on the text looks notably mathematical, though filtered through film. Still, I like to instead imagine that the author had seen these ‘3D’ graphics and, in an attempt to make remake them—much like cargo cults mimicking western machinery—etched them through ceaseless manic labor.

The droid summons an entire fortress of cubes that ruptures and settles. The sphere moves back out of our line of vision. The skies are clear. I can get on with my day. Though, I would welcome this clockwork each and every morning until I can see it as clearly as the artist did and finally move on.