Third Life

First you need to read this. It’s fun. The guy wanders around abandoned university campuses in Second Life, and quite rightly wonders who the hell keeps paying the rent? And given the hullabaloo about Second Life at the time, its rapid decline and the sums of money that washed away on it, how can Linden Labs think they can do a reboot? They are going to do a reboot. Lordy lordy. Everyone is going to climb aboard the 3D Shit Train one more time. Virtual ding ding!

Today's guest lecturer will speak on corporate taxation law.

Today’s guest lecturer will speak on corporate taxation law.

You have Facebook buying up Oculus VR, Autodesk releasing a new game engine… it’s like having a relative with a drinking problem coming home with a wine cask. About now the futuro/apologists are getting all pumped to be the first to announce the New Thing – look, Coursera Over Oculus Brought To You By Facebook powered by Autodesk.

I used to be one of them. On the TV even. But I’ve been sober for a decade or more. I look at these guys, pumping it out in the tech columns of your local newspaper and I wonder how long before they regret their ice habits and carnival tattoos?

Roll up! Roll up! Every student wins a Certificate of Completion!

Roll up! Roll up! Every student wins a Gamification Badge!

Because they always talk about that sweet sweet high, when the technology potential hits the back of your brain and slides down slowly like sex. They don’t talk about that copy of VRML FOR DUMMIES that’s propping up a chair leg.

C.O.O.B.T.Y.B.F.P.B.A. will be a lovely thing, gods, it’s a lovely thing and one that will fill many happy hours of knitting. I dearly want to be in the locomotive of this shit mobile, I really do, paid or not, but I am sure a lot of pay is going to change hands. Already I know all kinds of people using 3D goggles to navigate some vague pixel blob that’s supposed to be a psychic blockage or some twaddle. Soon the research councils will see the complete inane uselessness of it and the desperate ‘innovators’ will have to switch over to exactly the same virtual campuses that the guy was writing about. But with better graphics.


Pardon me sir, is that the Chattanooga MOOC MOOC?

We need to be honest. We need to say we have been here before, so many times. It fails because we think it is innovation, that the creative industries are creative, that disruption is progress. So long as this is your driving force you are trapped in a cycle of illusion. Innovation is a coil that is self defeating. Everyone who wants to build some new world should, like our journalist, spend some time in quiet reflection in one of the old worlds.

I have written 3 new pages about equipment crap.

Arturia Keylab. Roland System-1M. Roland TR-8.

Oops sorry I arted again.

I swear I’m done, beaten, bushed, worn out. Surely 2013 was productive enough to fill my research bingo card for at least a while? Please?

Last gig was to produce an animation to accompany Saturn from Holst’s The Planets. Nine and a half minutes, or 14,500 frames if I rendered every one and I very nearly did. At this moment the orchestra is grinding through the whole show over and over again, sobbing as they cope with the weird timings of the assembled animati of whom I am but one. I’ve never been told who else was working on this project. I hope it wasn’t anyone too good.

About Holst. He was a Theosophist of course. Every artist of the 20th Century seems to be one.

So there’s a bunch of clocks, which decide to assemble themselves into The King of Clocks. (A particle system which tracks a human form, animated by motion capture).

long walk above

He gets the red carpet treatment for a while and is enthroned. But obviously time passes and he gets a little bored of sitting around for ever. (Manually animated this bit).


And so he acts up and there’s a bit of a punch up. (Particle EXPLOSIONS!)

big bang3

Which gets way out of hand.


And everything gets destroyed. Our hero dies, and through heavy application of After Effects, becomes an island covered in plants that took an annoyingly long time to render. (Used Vue3d. Some of this bit took 24 hours per 20 seconds)static_1

Now a giant tree grows out of his navel. Everything so far makes perfect sense but I guess the giant tree is a bit of stretch. So in the tree there are perched… guess what? (To hell with this bit – had to take scenes from Vue and integrate them with Cinema 4D).


And you see this is how clocks get made. Or something. They fly out of tree and then … oh OK, yeah well it’s art. So.

So this gets performed next weekend here.

Then it goes on tour, and is shown on outside screens all around the world. I’ll announce where it goes next on twitter, because obviously it doesn’t need a whole blog for each showing.

So maybe now I get to sit around? Doing nothing? After work? Please?

OpenGL Then and Now

From the forthcoming festival show: the video for Memorial Discotheque, created using real time OpenGL tools in 2002 and 2012. Surprising to say – mostly the same tool, still working a decade later.

This is a patch in Visual Jockey, with titles added in AFX. The aspect ratio is DV, so it looks squashed horizontally here.

The same section generated in Element 3D, a near real time plug in for AFX. All the 3D was done with this.

Perhaps surprising – most of this scene was done with the same Visual Jockey tool as in 2002. Only the globe is from Element 3D. The same old tool on a hideously more powerful machine.

Again, same patch as 2002. There’s some motion blur added in AFX. Visual Jockey still runs fine on Windows 7, and obviously loves the display cards of ‘the future’.

Some bonus shots from Fold, from around the same time.

Both in Cinema 4D. But the latter escapes the green wash of the Matrix!

One problem with having more realistic joints is the arms wouldn’t bend as far. Had to refine some of the moves to be possible.

[H.H] Bloody hell, it’s actually happening.

I’m kind of embarrassed that it’s taken a stern deadline but… it’s happening. What? Well here is a sketch from 1999.

And here is a modelling test from 2012.

Click to biggen.

This guy is a Big Mouth Singer, and one of the musical instruments that feature in an installation code named Firelight. If you have suffered my company for very long you might think … it that the same project as he’s been wanking on about since 1999? And you would earn a gold star on the forehead!

The difference was in 1999 I simply could not achieve the results I wanted. VRML didn’t cut it and neither did MPEG-4 once that came and went.In 2003 you might remember these guys:

…that ran in AXEL (sorry I don’t have the work anymore). And then there was Anark and then I had to give up for a while.

In 2012 there are the tools, there is a budget and there is a deadline. Because of this it must be finished and because of this many ideas will have to be cut and the whole thing scaled back to a feasible size. But there’s 13 years of sketches and plot lines and discussions and many guest appearances of the things I’ve tried out (yes, including some airplanes). Mostly there will be many instruments for you to play, rooms full of them.

This guy:

also appeared in a 1999 sketch book and as a simple VRML toy that same year. He’s shaping up to be something a bit more exotic this year

I was once a cube!

He plays the drums. Loud.

Firelight will get updates throughout the year, so stay tuned for the real name and venue a.s.a.p!

Dreadful old 3D

Ow. ow ow ow ow. Good God, the Heart of the Party video.

3D animation was once a dog that walked on hind legs. Didn’t matter if it it was done well, just that it could be done at all. My first render – 1987 – was the infamous reflective sphere on a checker board. Fuck you, it was amazing to see that take shape over 6 hours or something.

Not mine. Somebody made this in 2010.

Heart of the Party 1994. Rendered on an Amiga running Imagine. Was it two Amigas? I think so. One went at 24MHz I recall, which makes the average current PC about 92 times faster – wait – with hyper threading about double that.

Oh look, reflective sphere. Pity you didn’t actually have a damn sky so half the thing is pitch black. So make a wedge shaped box and tile the artwork over it. Then roll the ball around. Brilliant. I think I had about a month before a show to do this… oh yeah that’s right – I played the passes onto SuperVHS and then we edited it on Mic Gruchy’s AVID system, which had a 2 Gigabyte hard drive or something. 64 colours on screen all at once. There are analogue tape drop outs all the way through this horror which adds injury to insult to mockery to satire.

Heart of the Party 2003. Somebody has bought a copy of Poser! Even the Poser guy looks crestfallen.

What is this ... skullcap?!

I recall this had a hell of lot of work involved. The background, the lady, the gent and titles were all animated layers that had to be passed through a composite before being placed on the back plane. Oh yeah and those score wheels are all separate cylinders with modeled numbers. It’s not the amount of work it’s the lack of art direction. And really huge cocktail glasses.

Some attempt at a story line, which was a serious waste of time given it was for the Big Day Out. Anyway – nice to see Posette getting a cameo although they’re still using her in Scientific American today, so I’m not that crap.

Got to love the way the textured stars are bleeding down the front of the skirting. And that algorithmic wood grain. Woo-wee that’s a sweetie! By far the worst thing here is the single infinite light source, washing it all out. So OK, maybe multiple lights were computationally expensive, but surely I could have used two lights? And some shadows? Look there’s motion blur, that’s something. Again this is the impossible gig deadline at work, I can’t excuse but I can explain it might take 12 hours a scene.

This is the sort of thing you just walk away from and deny you ever did. Too bad that I have to make another one for this upcoming show.

Top half of Heart of the Party Will Not Die 2011 although this is not quite the finished version. This time I paid money for someone else’s basic model and found it was really horribly basic. I mean my pop bumpers were better in 1994. Spent about a week replacing almost everything or adding detail, laying out the decals and painting the wood. As you can see it’s got more than one light source. Now I have to set up the animated materials to make the lights flash.

It’s funny that there are now pinball games that look as good in real time, it’s just that I can’t freely animate the camera on those. Probably would end up taking just as long.

This is the tragedy of autodidacticism. When I were a lad, I went to university to learn computer art and they gave me punched cards. Art on computers was your own problem. Couple that with having to do it in public and I have a trail of very bad art that I will never live down. Now we have an art college filled with this stuff … but I wonder what some kid out there is now figuring out on their own?

Anyway just had a retrospective video showing confirmed – 8th of March in New York City. So many bad old videos to sort through to find the decent bits, while accepting that I have to show at least something from the 90’s! So get your bus tickets and get along! I better get back to finishing this bloody pinball machine.

Three Generations of Three Dimensions

Grandma Ellard’s Stereographoscope. According to ‘the internet’ there were many of these made, most are French and ‘of poor quality’. This one doesn’t seem to take the oldest kind of stereo card, but is quite happy with cards made in the 1960’s – I would think it was made around 1920.

Click for Big

The cards I have were included in cereal packets in the 60s – despite three boys eating through Rice Bubbles as fast as possible I don’t have a full set, but lots of duplicates.

Pa Ellard’s Viewmaster Model G made in Belgium and I suspect bought in Switzerland in 1968. Continuing the tradition of buying the cheap and cheerful. But it brought a lot of pleasure to my growing years.

Although the reel says ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ it’s actually scenes from the TV series UFO – episode 13 Close Up. Mainly effects shots but I recall that there were some actors on the other discs, so they must have shot at least some of the show as 3D stills. American disc made 1969.

Tom Ellard’s FinePix Real3D W3 bought in a discount bin in January 2011. The salesboy remarked how fast they were selling, which wasn’t the brightest pitch seeing as I’d been watching the pile of unsold cameras get cheaper for about a month. (The previous version was named The Worst Camera Ever Made and only sold in the hundreds. Cool!)

Main advantage of course is that it records stereoscopic images and video, so you can make your own ‘boring images with depth cues’ (ViewMaster had a still camera as well). The screen at the back is autostereoscopic and quite impressive once your brain slides into synch with the display. What I found more interesting is how after using the camera for a while I had dreams with exaggerated depth, which suggests that the perceptive work the brain was doing was being garbage collected along with all the other data of the day.

Still images are much easier to compose in 3D. Video seems unstable, at least the test shots I’ve done so far.

(Yeah it’s a student information day, I was bored.) This Anaglyph version created with MPO Toolbox. See also Stereo Photo Maker which does many things including making printed versions of images that’ll fit in Grandma Ellard’s Stereographoscope.

And thus nature balances itself.