By Design

Take the 20 minutes needed to watch this film, “Segregated by Design.”

Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, narrates the visuals designed and animated by Mark Lopez of Silkworm Studio.

It’s a good reminder that our current pres may be the face representing ugly truths about this country, but that the depth of prejudice and oppression against minorities, specifically African Americans, in the United States, has a long and powerful history of deliberate design.

Red zone property values, highways designed to interrupt African American neighborhoods, and other unconstitutional policies exploiting and targeting people and neighborhoods, preventing economic advancement.

You probably know about these policies already, but lest we forget – similar policies of systemic oppression are designed, delivered, and enforced, in current times. Watch – listen – learn – fight the power.

On behalf of our government, we must change to make things better.

Powered by Honda

The new Honda ad from Digitas UK is striking in its style and pace.

From the first frames, the ad plays like a Transformers sequence – 2D lines and bold swatches of color, racing quickly by the viewer. The ad showcases a variety of Honda vehicles (including planes + speedboats), and closes with real footage of racing vehicles.

It’s not the first Honda ad that has carried a unique style – this one by PES is still one of my favorites.

It’s All a Process

I’m at a point in my career – and life – where I’m trying to redefine the nature of my role. It’s all a process, and I can see the path behind me, what brought me here, all the times I started something new…and I enjoy the adventure of not quite knowing how the rest of it will be.

Henrique Barone’s recent post on Motionographer beautifully describes his own path, from TV animation to school in Canada, to years working with Giant Ant, and then with the birth of their daughter, how he and his wife had to adjust their “keystone”, their commitment to their professional life, with one more focused on flexibility for their child.

He writes “Having kids it’s the only real and unbreakable life long commitment someone will ever do. Everything else, every other commitment or agreement can be either undone or broken but, from now on, Fer is a mom and will forever be a mom; I’m a dad and will forever be a dad. This is our black and white spot in a grey and ever-changing world. A solid point on our liquid lives. That is our new, and stronger, keystone.”

I made the same choice when my son was born – leaving a job that was really fulfilling – to work freelance. And with the birth of my daughter three years later, I knew I needed to keep flexible hours to be there for all the infinite things of the early years. I have continued to work and experiment on my own work and as a freelancer, but in the last year I wish for a taller platform from which to share my work. Or a larger network – I’m not sure the right solution. More creative input, not just production skills. The older I become, the more certain I am that there is not one right answer. It’s all a process. One must revisit and revise. I have this quote from Antonio Machado in my sketchbook: “Traveler, there is no path…the path is made by walking.”

Images and animation

I have long loved and followed the amazing work of William Kentridge.

He is always experimenting with format and technique, while keeping a consistent and recognizable style and subject.

He creates films using his charcoal drawings – he is an animator, yet remains firmly rooted and thriving in the art world. Perhaps because I arrived to animation after art, and have worked for years in the commercial realm, keeping one eye, hand and foot* in the more creative and artistic world, I admire his ability to do so and try to steer and navigate to do the same.

His installation, “The Refusal of Time,”from 2012, is a work about time, space and the legacies of colonialism and industry. He references early cinema, the science of time and imagery.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with anamorphic drawings, like the projections for his film “What Will Come“, which initially motivated me to revisit his work. Always inspiring – time well-spent

*if I’m lucky and work hard to do so!

Artificial Creativity?

For those who fear that computers will replace us all, fear not…we are still more than a sum of huge data sets. The creativity and unpredictability in our world may be that which is our greatest asset.

Many are in favor of trying to develop creative streaks and problem-solving skills within AI networks. “New artificial intelligence systems are using adversarial networks to develop creativity and originality by more fluidly mixing and matching real-world information.” – Chris Baraniuk for Scientific American.

GANs are able to use the information and source material fed to it by humans to create a lot of new material, but guidelines are established to assist in the decision-making process. So the next step is to train the network on when to follow the rules and when to discard them and follow their own path. Exciting / scary? I think some of both.

Serious business

These recent ads by Anomaly London and Blink Ink (Alex Grigg x Joe Pelling) for Bulb (a renewable energy company in the U.K.) are lovely in their comedic timing and delivery, and the simplicity of line. It’s a serious business: making energy renewable, greener, cheaper…delivered in a form that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The fan made me laugh out loud:

The Replicator!

This is so cool – a new approach to 3D printing.

The Replicator works like a reverse CT scan, translating a 3D computer model into a full series (to describes the 360 degree rotation around the object) of 2D images that are projected into a container of resin – the areas of strongest light becomes solid. Article and video here! More flexible than layered 3D printing, and smoother results too. For medical applications this could be especially useful. Here’s to progress and always moving things forward.

Bias and artificial intelligence

A few months ago, I started following the amazing Janelle Shane who works with electrical engineering, optics, and neural networks (AI weirdness)…there are some spooky / hilarious GAN images (it can really go either way), absurd character names, recipes (for disaster?), knock-knock jokes, and so much good info to follow on how these networks are trained and refined…the brilliant solutions they come up with and the mistakes they make. Some of the best fails end up here.

GAN-generated birdhouse

Also, I read the news and I’ve been thinking about how deep biases and specifically racist tendencies can go in humans, and how that might show up in AI. If we can refine those algorithms and decision-making biases in the neural networks (which are, after all, loosely based on human brain connections), maybe we can redirect some human malfunction too.

Animation art

These quotes are from an article by Cassidy Curtis (of Oscar-nominated Age of Sail) about Spider Man: Into the Spider-verse makes me happy…here’s to all those who keep pushing things forward, through art or whatever your field…it’s so needed and so worth it:

I found myself looking through the screen, senses buzzing, at the amazing team of artists and technologists who made it, people who really get it: the idea that when you take the art seriously, when you use every step of the process to amplify that artistic voice instead of sanding off its rough edges, when you’re willing to break the pipeline and challenge “how it’s usually done”, that’s when you can make something special, unique, and meaningful. This movie is a triumph, and every single person involved in making it should be incredibly proud. I see what you did, I know exactly how hard it was to do it, and I see you.

Cassidy Curtis

I also hope this marks a turning point for the animation industry. Listen to your artists. Trust them. Let their work shine on the big screen the way they meant it to look. And don’t let anyone tell you what “can’t be done” with the look of your film. The non-photorealistic rendering community has been building the technology to do this, literally, for decades. Let’s use it!

Cassidy Curtis