Skateboarding skeleton, Japanese band update animation technique, Disney creates new rendering algorithm, Dr Who animated tribute, English language history animation, The Bear and the Hare

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Skateboarding skeleton lights up San Diego

Darren Pearson has taken light painting to another level with his latest 700-frame piece 'Light Goes On'. Featuring a skateboarding skeleton, this mesmerising stop-motion animation was shot in various night-time locations around San Diego. Quite simply, light painting involves a stills camera set for a very long exposure in very low lighting. A light source such as a torch or a glow-stick is then used to paint a picture across the background, not too dissimilar to the old 'writing you name with a sparkler' trick we all tried as kids. The video took a year to complete as each frame was individually painted, and Pearson also had to get the exposure and ambient light absolutely spot on. All stop-motion animation takes an enormous amount of time, patience and vision, but it definitely paid off for this brilliantly executed work of art.

Japanese band update old animation technique

Japanese band Sour has bought an age-old animation technique back to the table with their latest music video. 'Life is Music' uses phenakistoscopic patterns to create a dazzling array of psychedelic scenes. The technique of positioning a series of stills in various stages of animation around a spinning cylinder to create the illusion of movement has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century. But by interchanging the cylinder for CDs however, the animators have managed to create more complex moving images with a distinctly modern twist. A computer programme was used to transfer the images onto the CDs so that the animations would line up perfectly when the disks were spun, with some patterns even appearing to jump from one disk to the next. A total of 189 CDs were used in the making of the video, with the animations designed to move in perfect sync with the song's 105 bpm. The band finally came into the studio to perform with their instruments before being turned into spinning animations themselves. The climax of the video is a wall of CDs perfectly synched to spell out: "Life Is Music". Simple concept, clever update.

Disney might save us all some time in the studio

Although we don't usually like to give too many column inches to animation fat cats such as Disney, a new rendering technique developed by their research team could save us all a great deal of time and money in the studio. A major headache for animators is dealing with dust, fog, smoke, mist and water and how these elements react with the passage of light. These 'participating media', as they are known in the business, scatter light as it travels between the source and the camera. At the moment, most algorithms used to track light through participating media sample a random number of potential paths and average the result. However, as many of these paths will have no discernible effect on the finished scene, rendering them is a waste of the animator's time and the studio's cash. However, the team at Disney Research Zurich has come up with a new algorithm that is able to identify precisely which paths of light will be picked up by the camera and therefore which should be rendered for the final scene. Importance sampling is not new to big budget animation, but joint importance sampling, as Disney's new technique has become known, is different. Instead of independently analysing the light path from source to camera and back again, the technique is able to identify light paths with a mutual understanding of where the both the light source and the camera are positioned. Team leader Wojciech Jarosz claims that this method will reduce both rendering times and improve the quality of animated scenes. In a statement Jarosz said: "Faster renderings allow our artists to focus on the creative process instead of waiting on the computer to finish", adding: "This leaves them more time to create beautiful imagery that helps create an engaging story".

Dr Who turns 50 with spectacular animated tribute

Artist and filmmaker Richard Swarbrick has created a breathtaking animation in honour of Dr Who's 50th birthday. The film takes us through "50 Years in Time and Space" with all 11 doctors, from William Hartnell to Matt Smith, featured as superb and slightly surreal rotoscoped paintings. The piece is accompanied by the haunting music from the Doomsday episode and features fan favourites including the TARDIS, Rose, Davros, the Daleks and the Cybermen. All the Dr Who logos from the past five decades also make an appearance. Although this video is no doubt a bit of a wet dream for fans of the good doctor, you don't have to be a sci-fi geek to appreciate this beautifully drawn piece. It does probably help though!

Animation tells a hilarious history of the English language

The Open University has become the latest in a recently lengthening list to use animation as a tool for education. The institution's OpenLab has created a rather charming and totally hilarious animation to accompany its History of the English Language short. Voiced by Whose Line is it Anyway veteran Clive Anderson, the film employs simple but dense line drawings to illustrate how English has developed from the Anglo Saxons all the way to text speak. The style is speedy, funny and informative, with centuries of complex subject matter broken down into short chapters that make this 11-minute video much more easily digested then you might first imagine. Seriously, it's well worth watching the whole thing, if only to find out what UG2BK means.

John Lewis spare no expense on animated Christmas advert

Stop-motion and hand-drawn 2D animation have been combined to create the tale of The Bear and the Hare for John Lewis's soppiest Christmas advertising campaign yet. The film tells the story of a bear who's never experienced Christmas, with the heart-warming story given an extra dollop of festive slushiness thanks to Lilly Allen’s version of Keane's 'Somewhere Only We Know'. Directors Yves Geleyn and Elliot Dear teamed up to create something traditional yet unique - an animation that utilised as much real lighting and conventional film as possible. Combining the 2D and 3D worlds began at Blinkink Studios in London, where a pre-visualisation animatic was created of the film and all of the sets and animals built to scale in 3D. The woodland creatures were created by a team of animators under the supervision of Aaron Blaise, who previously worked on Disney classics including The Lion King, Mulan and Brother Bear. After each character had been fully animated, the individual frames were printed onto mounted paper, cut out with a laser and individually labelled before being shipped off to Clapham Road Studios. The set was created by production designer John Lee, whose credits include Fantastic Mr Fox, Aliens and Frankenweenie, and constructed by his team at Shepperton Studios. The stop-motion shoot involved nearly 4,000 frames and took a team of feature film animators six weeks to complete. John Lewis has clearly not been feeling the pinch of the recession then!

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