Saturday, September 08, 2007

Getting warmer (more cookin’)


Here’s a little something I’ve been messing with. The background painting is a screen grab from the film The Triplettes of Belleville (you can see the biker on the left and the old woman just down the hill). It doesn’t bear any meaning here other than I like the look of it and it has a nice little hill that lets me test integration, etc. This is a simple ‘proof of concept’ test rendered straight out of Maya, no post at all- I wanted to see if I could find a relatively straightforward method to achieving this look. Aside from solving technical issues and cementing a production methodology, one of the things that I am testing is my theory for the necessity of a non-realistic motion style when employing a non-realistic rendering style. Non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) has been an area of exploration and research in CG for the last 8 years or more. A lot of focus has been on what are commonly called “toon shaders”, but natural media representation of all manner has also been explored. While the rendering style has often been fairly convincing the examples of NPR I’ve seen in the past haven’t been entirely successful. This is because the animators have usually used ’standard’ CG motion style of polished smooth motion all animated on 1’s while rendering in NPR. Add to the mix the free camera movement available in CG, combined with the almost too perfect volume and shape accuracy of the models in turning and the result is a kind of visual dissonance where visual artifacts and attributes from seemingly disparate visual techniques don’t mesh well. (you can see what I mean in this video from Siggraph 2007. The technology looks intriguing, but the dissonance is clear in the motion examples) One may say that this impossible combination of disparate visual attributes represents a breakthrough, the ‘collage-like new ground’ that is only possible in CG. By strict interpretation this would be correct, however the question remains- Is it any good to look at? It’s like pouring great beef gravy on delicious strawberry ice cream. Both are great in their proper context. Put them together and you certainly have created a new type of food, but one that is likely nauseating. The result then has been that without proper thought given to the style of motion employed NPR often ends up looking like a gimmick.
So I’m of the mind that if the goal is to use a more visceral style of rendering (presumably because that visual rendering style speaks to us on a different emotional wave length than literalism does) then in order to be consistent a more non-literal style of motion is also necessary. It just helps everything tie together with greater cohesion. To my point of view it’s important that the visual style and the motion style are saying the same thing in the same way. Nobody can listen to two songs at the same time and perfectly follow both. So this is my little test to see if I can get all the visual elements singing the same tune in harmony. It’s not important that the visual rendering result be absolutely 100% convincing in emulating non-digital technique (pastels in this instance). In other words, I don’t care if somebody says “I can tell that’s a CG render”. Communicative cohesion while using a non-literal visual aesthetic is the goal.
Why am I heading down this particular path right now? Let’s just say I have some unfinished business that I’d like to take care of.

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