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Technical Artistry

Experimental animation is an atypical open-ended expression. The theory of experimental is inviting, indicating non-conformity, yet the substantive approach and production are uncertain when rules do not apply. The treatment of experimental animation is continuously new and certainly lacks a recipe. The development taps into a unique approach for creating animation and constructs more occasions of interdisciplinary collaboration. Emerging fine art produced with conventional mediums carried into 3D software can generate unseen and intriguing techniques yielding compelling inspiration.

Example images below are frames from the process of my animated short, Apology to a Television Set. The practice began with a sketch that was imported into Autodesk Maya (3D software) and attached to the front camera. The front camera is an orthographic camera, a two-dimensional view displaying the X and Y-axes. 1

My method starts by recreating the original drawing with curves and then modeling polygonal tubes, which follow the curves shape. I select an edge from each polygonal tube and convert it to a NURBS curve. The resulting curve has added depth compared to the original curve and also carries a circular shape at both ends. The winding shape enhances the sketch style by spreading the later applied strokes on each end of the curve. The below image demonstrates the effect of a stroke applied to a curve with circular ends.2 Within Maya is a set of paintEfx “brushes”; every iteration is referred to as a “stroke.” Strokes are either two-dimensional textures or three-dimensional geometry. For my method, I am using strokes as a 3D unit within the entirety of paintEfx.

This sketch style has applied dynamics such as wind, gravity and other force fields. The second layer of animation is implemented on the extensive array of attributes within the brush strokes. Directing brush strokes to travel and grow in a definite direction or wrap around an object involves finessing the simulation. One process I implement in my work is modeling polygonal surfaces for stroke collision. The manipulation of simulation requires keyframing polygonal surfaces to control the movement of the brush strokes. The two images below demonstrate brush strokes pushed by gravitational force as well as attraction and collision. Below, the images side by side show letters which are formed by brush strokes. These strokes are attracted to transparent polygon models which are modeled as the letters. A transparent material is applied to the polygon models and are unseen in the final render. Workarounds and practices such as these shed light on new notions to promote a further exploration of the 3D software as a tool to create work that appears as an animated charcoal drawing.

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The below image is a simplified description of brush strokes attracted to and colliding with a polygonal sphere.

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Creating the particular look I want to achieve is a process of trial and error involving strokes and curves. The image below shows curves, blue, and strokes, black, white and gray. I apply several strokes to one curve for animating blending strokes.
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Curves allow for several forms of animation and can be quite intuitive. Editing control points, which make up the curve, can generate a predictable animation, which aids in manipulating simulation. I assign strokes to curves and animate both the curves and paintEfx strokes. The stroke follows and attaches itself to a curve, however, it is possible to animate the influence a curve has on the stroke resulting in interesting effects. The image below demonstrates curves deformed by a non-linear bend deformer. The left side of the image is what it looks like in Maya and the right side is the rendered image.

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The second experimental animation I applied my method titled Barker is using the same concept to animate what looks like a charcoal drawing. Below are example frames from the animation showing the lead in brush strokes scattered and then forming into a figure.

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My third animation which I am currently working on titled The Art of Restraint and Cool Excuses will implement the above method.

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Lauren Carr: Previously a Character TD in feature animation for 15 years, now is a 3D Animation  Assistant Professor at Montclair State University.

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