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